Monday, May 19, 2008

Mr. K.'s Baptism

One of the refreshing things about Jeffrey Katzenberg is he's honest about his beginnings in 'toon land:

"I knew nothing about animation. Nothing whatsoever," Katzenberg told The Associated Press at the Cannes Film Festival ...

Katzenberg said his indoctrination into animation came on his first day at Disney, which he joined in 1984 as head of the film division after his boss at Paramount Pictures, Michael Eisner, became Disney chief executive. In preparation for a meeting with Eisner, Katzenberg made a list of 10 critical things he needed to do at their new outfit.

"Nowhere on that list was there any mention of animation," Katzenberg said. "When the meeting was about to come to an end, Michael stopped and he said, 'Oh, by the way, do you see that building over there?' And he pointed out the window of his office ... 'That's where they make animated films.'"

"I went, 'Oh, really?' He said, 'Yes, and it's your problem.'

Happily, Jeffrey turned his 1984 "problem" into a very lucrative franchise and living, and the world's the richer for it.

But he's right, he was kind of ignorant about animation in the beginning. Back then, he went through the whole department, looking at projects, deciding what stayed on track and what would be jettisoned.

And he quickly realized that The Black Cauldron, then 80% complete, had ... ah ... issues. Jeffrey, naturally enough, looked around for ways to improve those issues. Coming from a live-action background, he asked to look at "all the outtakes."

He was told: "We don't have any. There aren't any outtakes in animation."

This was one of Mr. Katzenberg's early lessons in cartoon making. But Mr. Katzenberg was a quick study, and didn't have to be taught twice. Which is why he's running a successful animation studio today.


Anonymous said...

I'm certain that Eisner said that.

Anonymous said...

Katzenberg also allegedly put out a proposal to eliminate the layout department, since he didn't understand why they were necessary.

Anonymous said...

He's admitted he didn't know anything about animation. He was a quick learner, though. I don't agree with everything he did, but he deserves his share of credit for the Second Golden Age at Disney. If you look at the quality and story direction of the films after he left, I think it's clear he had an impact. Not that it was his alone, but he does share part of the success.

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