Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jeffrey K. Speaks

... at the BFI London Film Festival.

... “The fact I was somehow able to convince these two geniuses [Spielberg/Geffen] that one third of me was worth as much as one third of Steven Spielberg and one third of David Geffen is one of the great hustles in humanity.” ... “It was only eight days after I’d been fired (from Disney). I was too happy and too stupid to know how hard it was going to be.” ...

“We had 17 hits out of 17 films [at DreamWorks Animation] over half a dozen years. It was unprecedented. ... Two out of the last four films have lost money but they didn’t put the company at risk. The company is strong and profitable. It will be around for a long time.” ....

I agree with Jeffrey that DWA will survive. I think their diversification into television and amusement parks will aid the company's corporate health and longevity. But a few correctives:

Jeffrey's feat isn't unprecedented. DreamWorks Animation had some commercial clunkers back in its hand-drawn days, and certainly Bee Movie wasn't a high flyer. As to the "17 hits in a row" thingie, Darryl Zanuck had 20 hits out of 21 releases with Twentieth Century Pictures in the early/mid 1930s. (Twentieth became the dominant partner when it merged with gargantuan Fox Film Corporation, because Darryl turned out blockbusters and Fox did the opposite.)

So DreamWorks Animation's run of hot movies isn't unique. Pixar has had fourteen out of fourteen profitable features with higher overall grosses than DreamWorks' projects. And I'll bet that Pixar's sale price will outstrip DWA's when Jeffrey's company is finally sold to a deep-pockets bidder.

Which is not to diminish Jeffrey's achievement. Counting his time at Disney, he's got more high-grossing animated features under his belt than anyone in the business, including John Lasseter. Mr. Katzenberg might be an inheritor of Walt's cartoon legacy, but he's carved his own lucrative path.


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