DreamWorks CEO discusses mentors, animation before participating in forum
Jeffrey Katzenberg is the CEO, co-founder and director of DreamWorks Animation SKG. The Daily Orange sat down with Katzenberg to talk about the business of animation, the company itself and his mentors.
The Daily Orange: How do the dynamics of the animation business at the start of DreamWorks Animation differ from how the industry is today?
Katzenberg: Well, it’s all the same and it’s all completely different. I think it’s the same in that at the foundation of everything that we do is just to tell a great story. It all comes back to just telling a really compelling story that takes people onto some magical journey into some part of our imagination. The tools for making animated movies have gone through multiple revolutions, not evolutions. Revolutions in, I guess, close to the 30 years I’ve been working in animation, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
The D.O.: How does the company balance that goal to create exceptional content while also making sure that the company is profitable and being represented within the industry as a leader?
JK: I think that’s always one of the more interesting and inexplicable things people say: “Well, how do you choose the movies that you make?” We’ve made 17 movies now and every single one of them has been a success. I’m often asked and often asking myself, “Well, why, why is that?” I think it’s a combination of two things. One, which is starting with a good idea, and two is just the technique, the way in which we go about making our movies is that we actually don’t make them; we remake them until they’re great, and then we animate them.
The D.O.: You will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the upcoming Oscars. What has been your motivation for the work that you have done?
JK: I’ve had some very good mentors. It started with my father, and then two very great mentors in the movie industry — Kirk Douglas and Lew Wasserman, who each one of them taught me the value of being able to help others and the reward of being able to help others. Kirk Douglas said to me years ago a phrase that, the moment he said it, it just sort of resonated and has always sort of been a guiding force for me. He says, “You haven’t learned how to live until you learn how to give,” and I thought, “Wow. Spartacus just said that to me.” (Laughs) Spartacus says something to you, you listen.
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