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How It Influenced 3D Animation For Years to Come


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The animated movie has come a good distance since 1937, which noticed the discharge of the primary feature-length animated film, Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. From experimental and quick movies to sequence for kids and adults, animation has repeatedly advanced over the many years to change into one of the dominant mediums throughout the leisure spectrum. The most important shift occurred within the final 30 years, when computer-generated, 3D animation overtook conventional, hand-drawn, 2D animation as probably the most profitable format. The early years of this shift revolved round a number of inventive and enterprise figures, together with one Jeffrey Katzenberg. His reluctant embrace of the medium — within the type of 2001’s perennial traditional Shrek — helped place DreamWorks as Pixar’s solely early rival, and cleared the way in which for 3D to dominate {the marketplace} to at the present time.

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Jeffrey Katzenberg

Katzenberg was a co-founder of what was initially referred to as DreamWorks SKG, earlier than turning into CEO of DreamWorks Animation LLC, the spin-off firm shaped in 2004. His legacy as one of many few moguls with ties to Hollywood’s Nineteen Seventies Golden Age has been considerably tarnished by the high-profile failure of short-form content material platform Quibi, which Katzenberg launched in 2018 alongside former eBay CEO (and failed California gubernatorial candidate) Meg Whitman.

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Katzenberg was a hard-charging film government who swept by means of Disney within the Nineteen Eighties and upended, streamlined, and renewed each their live-action Touchstone wing and their once-dominant animation division. As recounted in Nicole LaPorte’s The Males Who Would Be King: An Nearly Epic Story of Moguls, Films, and a Firm Known as DreamWorksbelow Katzenberg’s tyrannical course, a staid, lax technology of animators had been proven the door. He introduced in live-action screenwriters (like Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio) to script animated options, foresaw the rise of animated musicals, and successfully started the development of hiring main stars to voice characters just like the genie in Aladdin (Robin Williams). Katzenberg oversaw the Disney Renaissance: The Little Mermaid, Magnificence and the Beast, Aladdinand mega-hit The Lion King all originated below his watch.

As soon as Katzenberg jumped ship to hitch Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in creating DreamWorks, he predicted (presumptuously) that their 2D animated movies would rival Disney. Paradoxically, his devotion to the fading traditionally-animated characteristic movie would result in his embrace of 3D animation, and assist reshape the medium.

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Pixar & ‘The Prince of Egypt’


As Disney reached the zenith of its industrial and inventive animated accomplishments with the 1994 launch of The Lion KingPixar had but to launch a long-promised characteristic movie composed solely of computer-generated animation. Having been purchased from unique proprietor Lucasfilm by Steve JobsPixar had decreased its workers and was on the point of one other sale earlier than the groundbreaking Toy Story debuted in 1995.

Katzenberg and Pixar co-founder John Lasseter had been on pleasant phrases early on throughout the DreamWorks years, however this relationship would ultimately bitter. Whereas Pixar spent the center chunk of the last decade constantly advancing the artwork of 3D animation, Katzenberg’s bitter, acrimonious break up from Disney fueled his ambition to not simply match his achievements on the Mouse Home, however surpass it. His meant instrument for this doubtful aim? An animated biblical epic, The Prince of Egypt.

The studio’s first animated characteristic originated from the identical place as many different questionable concepts DreamWorks would try: considered one of Steven Spielberg’s whims. Envisioned as a “critical” retelling of the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, the challenge grew to become one thing of an obsession for Katzenberg. The story of how Moses led his individuals out of Egypt and into the promised land paralleled neatly with Katzenberg’s exodus from Disney following an epic falling out with Michael Eisner after the demise of Disney president Frank Wells.

Wells was the No. 2 man at Disney, a chilled affect on each Eisner and Katzenberg, two males whose fiery ambitions usually resulted in a conflict of personalities. Katzenberg — who counted David Geffen as a good friend and mentor lengthy earlier than the creation of DreamWorks — had been pushing for a promotion. He noticed himself because the logical option to fill Wells’ place, and felt betrayed when Eisner introduced he’d be taking up these duties himself. Their relationship deteriorated rapidly after that, till lastly Katzenberg left. (Learn all the fascinating saga on this detailed piece from 2014 by Kim Masters.) The Prince of Egypt can be Katzenberg’s first huge assault on the studio that had been his residence and made his profession.

RELATED: Watch Each ‘Shrek’ Film in Order (Chronologically or by Launch Date)

Bugs & Antz


The post-Katzenberg Disney animated releases definitely lacked the sort of luster of The Lion King‘s $1.06 billion worldwide field workplace haul (to not point out merchandising, direct-to-video sequels, and the Broadway stage present, which might go on to make the studio one other billion {dollars}). Releases like Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Herculesand Mulan could have their devoted followers and definitely made cash, however none may match The Lion King’s once-in-a-lifetime cultural impression. Sadly for Katzenberg, neither may the traditionally-animated options from DreamWorks.

Katzenberg threw himself into the event and manufacturing of The Prince of Egypthowever for all of the technical prowess of the inventive workforce (that includes many artists and animators lured away from Disney), the movie opened to a lackluster $14 million, topping out at $101 million domestically. This was hardly the earth-shaking animated debut Katzenberg had promised.

Whereas Katzenberg remained stubbornly dedicated to the medium that had made him, he had additionally partnered with the Redwood Metropolis, California firm Pacific Knowledge Photos. PDI had contributed to the visible results of high-profile blockbusters like Terminator 2 and Batman Endlesslyand primarily grew to become the pc animation wing of DreamWorks earlier than merging with the studio altogether.

DreamWorks’ first 3D animated characteristic, Antzwas launched a number of months earlier than Pixar’s A Bug’s Lifeand the dueling insect premises grew to become a supply of controversy. (“Jeffrey stole my thought,” Steve Jobswho owned Pixar on the time, would say in interviews.) Antz was pretty well-received on the time, however its $81 million home field workplace take (on a $90 million funds) was blown away by the $363 million worldwide haul of A Bug’s Life.

In the meantime, a challenge Katzenberg thought of to be a low-level near-experiment would ultimately emerge as DreamWorks Animation’s first main franchise.


Picture by way of DreamWorks Animation

William Steig‘s 1990 kids’s e-book may be very totally different from the Shrek film we all know and love. The 30-page e-book depicts an unpleasant creature who spits hearth and terrifies the countryside. The plot roughly resembles the film’s, as Shrek makes use of his flame breath to rescue a princess, who seems to be as ugly as him. The 2 get married, residing “horribly ever after, scaring the socks off all who fell afoul of them.”

Shrek began as a small aspect challenge after Katzenberg agreed to amass the rights to the e-book. For years, a revolving door of writers — similar to Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Joe Stillman (Beavis & Butthead Do America) and administrators like Henry Selick (The Nightmare Earlier than Christmas) would come and go, with none of them capable of crack Katzenberg’s desired tone of “irreverent.” Shrek grew to become often called “the Gulag,” a spot they despatched you while you had been perceived as unable to hack it on The Prince of Egypt. Enter Andrew Adamsona special-effects director at PDI, and storyboard artist Vicky Jensen.

Adamson proved able to pushing again in opposition to Katzenberg’s intense, typically overbearing scrutiny. Veterans of the challenge credit score Adamson with trusting the inventive ingenuity of his storyboard artists and animators. Following the tragic demise of Shrek‘s unique voice actor Chris Farleyfellow Saturday Night time Reside alum Mike Myers stepped into the function. Over time, the massive inexperienced ogre misplaced the misshapen look and mean-spirited power of earlier whacks on the materials. Eddie Murphy was introduced on board to play Shrek’s sidekick Donkey, and his good comedian instincts formed the movie even additional, with the animators setting up scenes round Murphy’s improvisations. Donkey grew to become a scene-stealer, capturing that “irreverence” Katzenberg had needed.

Shrek premiered on the Cannes Movie Pageant in 2001, in competitors for the distinguished fest’s highest honor, the Palm d’Or. Shrek received over the stuffy crowd, and went on to make over $484 million on the worldwide field workplace, to not point out profitable the primary Greatest Animated Function Academy Award. (There have been vital inside disagreements over who ought to settle for it earlier than Katzenberg reluctantly agreed to have Adamson step up.) Shrek‘s enduring recognition is simple, and its affect on the twenty years of computer-generated animated movies since has manifested in a broad tonal method that may be felt in every thing from the Ice Age sequence to the despicable me/Minions franchise.

The Actual Highway to El Dorado

The Road to El Dorado

Regardless of Shrek‘s success — which looking back resembles the impression of Disney Renaissance classics like The Lion King and Aladdin — Katzenberg remained stubbornly dedicated to conventional, 2D animation. The Highway to El Doradolaunched the yr earlier than Shrekwas envisioned as a light-hearted romp within the custom of a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby buddy highway film. After years of meticulous, hands-on growth by Katzenberg appeared to lead to a confused mish-mash of types and tones. That movie topped out at $76 million worldwide, far lower than its estimated $95 million funds. 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron fared a bit higher, however its anemic reception by critics — mirrored by that of 2003’s Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas — signaled a change out there for animated movies.

After SinbadKatzenberg turned his again on the medium that launched him to a brand new degree of energy and affect. Simply as Shrek‘s reference-happy perspective spawned inferior “fractured fairy story” ripoffs like Hoodwinked! and Fortunately N’Ever Afterit additionally created a path and template for Pixar’s opponents. Few would argue {that a} kiddie-crowd-pleaser like Boss Child is on the identical degree as Soul or Inside Outhowever DreamWorks’ greatest animated releases — Prepare Your Dragon, Madagascarthe primary two Shrek motion pictures — sought a decent method to artistry and viewers enchantment. This method is mirrored in a few of the greatest non-Pixar animated movies lately: Allurethe Sing motion pictures, this yr’s The Mitchells vs. the Machines.

It was an extended and bumpy highway for Katzenberg: from Disney to DreamWorks (his fallout with Eisner over an unpaid bonus yielded a nasty public courtroom battle), from The Prince of Egypt to Shrek and past. The standard of DreamWorks’ animated sequels could inevitably dip over time (Shrek the Thirdanybody?), however the state of contemporary 3D, CGI animation wouldn’t be the identical with out his devotion to and nostalgia for the standard animated type.

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