“[There is] something lifeless about it,” he said in reference to motion-capture, the technique behind such movies as “The Polar Express.” “An interesting technique, but not successful.”

The man responsible for bringing Roger Rabbit, Simba and Shrek to the big screen spoke about his work with animated blockbusters yesterday afternoon in Kresge Auditorium. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the current CEO of DreamWorks Animation SKG, spoke to an audience including computer science, pre-business and film-focused students in “A Conversation with Jeffrey Katzenberg,” an event sponsored by the Film and Media Studies Program.

Jeffrey Katzenberg signs a poster for DreamWorks’ upcoming Bee Movie outside Kresge yesterday. The animation CEO showed a clip from the film and discussed the future of both computer and traditional animation. Art and Art History Prof. Scott Bukatman, the moderator of the event, introduced Katzenberg as a figure responsible for “revitalizing the whole history of animation.”

Katzenberg first served as CEO of The Walt Disney Company before founding DreamWorks in 1994 with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. Since then, Katzenberg has directed the company’s animation division, creating movies including The Prince of Egypt and Madagascar.

In the conversation, Katzenberg highlighted “Bee Movie,” a November release starring “some guy named Jerry Seinfeld,” according to Bukatman.

Katzenberg recalled the difficulties of convincing the comedian to sign on to an animated project.

“He always said no,” Katzenberg said. “I had to try new tactics.”

Though he continued to refuse, Katzenberg won him over in the end.

“I don’t believe in the word ‘no,’” the DreamWorks CEO said later in the event when giving advice about his business tactics. “The best I’ll accept is ‘not yet.’”

Katzenberg played a lengthy sequence from the film, depicting the start of a trial where the film’s Seinfeld-voiced bee protagonist sues humanity for widespread honey theft.

“It’s the first time where an established force has come into animation like this,” he said of Seinfeld’s decision to do the film. “In every respect, it’s his movie.”

In the latter half of the event, Katzenberg focused on the future of animation and the theatre experience.

“[There is] something lifeless about it,” he said in reference to motion-capture, the technique behind such movies as “The Polar Express.” “An interesting technique, but not successful.”

Katzenberg was enthusiastic, however, about pursuing the full potential of a technology that he and other Hollywood figures believe could revolutionize films.

“Black and white to color is the last truly big innovation, and that was 60 to 70 years ago,” he said. “A quality 3-D experience; that’s the next frontier. It’s closer to the fidelity of what we actually see. What we’re doing is the first big step.”

Despite talk of the future, Katzenberg commented that “2-D is not a dead art form.” For the moment, though, he remains content with keeping his focus on computer animation.

“We’re telling the stories we want to tell,” he added.

Katzenberg made room for humor in his discussion, saying only the words “Jack Black” and “Kung Fu Panda” as hype for another upcoming DreamWorks animation project.

“Anywhere I say that, it works,” he said as laughter died down.

Art and Art History Prof. Kristine Samuelson organized the event as part of an ongoing series of film-related speakers that has included Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director of “Amelie,” and Sigourney Weaver.

Whether discussing the traditional or computer-generated films, Katzenberg was clear about the example that he follows.

“Walt Disney dropped bread crumbs the size of Volkswagens,” he said. “I just retraced the template.”



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