Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Trending On Empire
Vote Now: Jameson Empire Awards 2015
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
The 2014 Christmas Gift Guide
Get 12 Issues For Only £25 Today
The perfect gift this Christmas
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue

More Interviews

Shrek Forever After (2010)
Empire Star Rating
More new cinemas releases
DVD & Blu-ray releases

Jeffrey Katzenberg
The DreamWorks Animation boss talks Shrek, Dragons and the future

submit to reddit

Jeffrey Katzenberg is Hollywood’s makeover king. In his earliest days at Paramount, he was in charge of turning some old TV series into a film franchise – and the result was the enormous successes of the Star Trek series. Then he went to Disney Animation and dragged it out of the 1980s doldrums into the start of the animation renaissance. Since leaving the Mouse House, he’s created and headed up DreamWorks Animation – and with Shrek Forever After, reportedly the last in the series and about to hit DVD on December 6, Megamind hitting cinemas and How To Train Your Dragon emerging as one of this year’s best films, we sat down with the big boss to get his thoughts on the studio’s future…

Jeffrey Katzenberg

You’ve said in the past that the story of Shrek is the story of Dreamworks, that it was only with the first film that you found your voice as a studio.
Yeah. I think that in addition to being a great success and coming not a moment to soon, ‘cause we were sort of struggling there a little bit, it ended up in a way being our Holy Grail. It really shined a light on a path that we have very ambitiously pursued for the last ten years, in that it really defined what a Dreamworks movie could and should be. It’s quite different from our competition. It doesn’t look like, sound like, talk like, act like the traditional animated movies that were being made elsewhere, and in particular at Disney and Pixar. So I think its success had many, many values for us, much of which was actually beyond the box office, or dollars and cents or DVDs. I think it’s the foundation on which, in a greater sense, the company’s been built creatively.

I guess it’s a fine old tradition for animation companies to be almost on their last legs before something incredible happens; I think Disney went through it about 6 times.

You’ve said that this is the last Shrek; is that definite?
We feel that Shrek is on a journey, and it’s a journey that I think many of us share a lot in common with it, which is why people have connected so much to it over the years. But it seemed to us as though it was not an unlimited journey, and what our movies and our franchises also share in common with Shrek is that they have a beginning, a middle and an end; they’re not open-ended. Each of the films is a chapter of a story and in every instance we knew what that journey was or could be before we even started. So today I can tell you pretty succinctly where Madagascar goes. Ultimately they will come back to New York, and they will come to terms with that, which they will do in this next chapter. Because of the way that movie concludes there’s probably one more for them…

So a fourth [after the currently-in-production Madagascar 3]?
Yeah, there’s probably a fourth there. Kung Fu Panda actually has 6 chapters to it, and we’ve mapped that out over the years. How To Train Your Dragon is at least three: maybe more, but we know there are a least three chapters to that story. There are actually 8 books.

Jeffrey Katzenberg

But they’re very different from the film.
Yes. But there are elements of them that actually… As you know, there are many islands in the world of Berk, and different things there, so we’ll see. But right now, today, we know that there are three for sure that we want to tell and there may be more. We haven’t thought, you know, how do we continue beyond that.

What is the process at Dreamworks in terms of making movies? You hear a lot about the plussing and the Pixar Brain Trust over there. Do you have a similar kind of set up at Dreamworks?
I don’t know, I haven’t been to Disney in 16 years and I‘ve never been to Pixar, so I can’t answer the specifics of that. We have an amazing creative community inside our company; it is truly the best place in the world to be able to go to work every day. I actually feel as though when I drive through the gates to go to work I’m sort of walking in paradise, and you have to experience it to know that. I will say as an interesting, just sort of a little fact on the side, that in America the most prestigious business magazine is Fortune, does each year a survey of the best companies in America to work for. No entertainment company has ever come in the top 50. We were number 6 last year. And what that is a reflection of is how people at Dreamworks feel about their company.

As an executive my point of view is, if they love their work they will do great work. So whatever those things are, however we go about making our movies, I’m sure that 95%, 98% of what we do is similar to what others do, and that extra 2-5% is probably what differentiates us. Sometimes we’re more successful at it than they are, sometimes they’re more successful at it than we are. Sometimes we get awards, sometimes they get awards, sometimes we get reviews; sometimes they get reviews. It’s all very healthy and very important. If we didn’t have genuine competition we wouldn’t be as driven to keep doing better work. Competition is really imperative. It’s not healthy, it’s imperative.

Obviously this was the first 3D Shrek, but you’ve been a huge proponent for 3D for ages. Do you think it’s going to take a long time for that to get mass adoption at home?
Yes, because a whole eco system has to grow for it to become as ubiquitous in the home as it is now becoming in the movie theatre. It’s the hardware, television sets that are affordable on a mass level, it’s the tools for broadcasting on a mass level, and it’s the tools for actually shooting and capturing 3D on a mass level. All those things are coming, but it’ll take years for it to make its way there. But there’s no going back. It will be no different in my opinion than when black and white gave way to colour. It took 30 years for colour to become ubiquitous through all media, and it may take us 30 years for this to do it, but it’s here to stay.

How about the future? You’ve got a really varied slate of things in development, things like Alma and Truckers. Are you continually trying to reinvent the studio?
Yeah, because we make 3 movies a year now, or 2 next year, 3 the following year. We feel a high degree of ambition to have diversity in those ideas, so we actually think a lot about making sure that these things are different enough and unique enough from one another and from other things being done, so that going to these movies is still a treat and is still an event. The world we live in today, there are 6 or 7 of these animated films – and when I say 6 or 7, I mean the big, high end films that we do, that Pixar does, that Blue Sky does, Despicable Me, you know – a year. There used to be two. So if we want people to still consider these things events, then we have to make sure they’re special.

Interview by Helen O'Hara


6 issues for £20 plus free Gourmet Society Membership worth £69.95!
Get 6 months of Empire for just £20 and not only receive the world's greatest movie magazine and exclusive subscriber covers but you'll also receive up to 50% off restaurants nationwide and more with a free Gourmet Society Membership worth £64.99!Click here to find the perfect offer for you

Empire's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 Spoiler Podcast
Featuring the director, Francis Lawrence

Empire's Jurassic World Trailer Tour
Updated: Director Colin Trevorrow guides us through the first trailer

Vote Now: The Jameson Empire Awards 2015
Tell us your favourite films and stars of the year

The Gift Guide 2014: 50 Must-Have Items This Christmas
Box sets, hardware, clothing, books and stocking fillers to buy

Empire's Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies Covers
Five armies. Five covers. The eagles, dwarves, elves, men and orcs prepare for battle in our Peter Jackon guest-edited issue

Josh Hutcherson On The Hunger Games Phenomenon
'I've done my fair share of young adult material now'

What Is A Squidward? A Beginner's Guide To SpongeBob SquarePants
If you aren’t already a massive fan, prepare to become one

Subscribe to Empire magazine
6 issues for £20 plus free Gourmet Society Membership worth £69.95!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)