Animation Elite 2012: Jeffrey Katzenberg

Jeffrey Katzenberg is a throwback.

21st century studio toppers tend to be bland “suits” who shun the limelight. But Katzenberg is not only the driving force and mastermind behind DreamWorks Animation, he’s its public face and chief pitchman as well. He is relentless, persuasive, sometimes volcanic, always passionate. He is a showman.

Katzenberg knew little of animation when he arrived at Disney more than 20 years ago as Michael Eisner’s chief lieutenant, but he immersed himself in the Disney archives and gave himself an education any CalArts grad would envy. He’s known as a hands-on leader, and DWA has had a discernable story style, yet he’s allowed his directors enough freedom for the DWA’s releases to evolve considerable diversity.

On the business side, 2012 saw Katzenberg secure a new distributor for DWA’s pics, 20th Century Fox. He has also pushed exhibs and producers alike to improve the theater experience for auds, first championing 3D and then attacking cyncial, low-quality exploitation of the format. Recently he’s embraced Barco’s advanced Auro-3D sound format and begun to pitch that as well.

Bottom line: Katzenberg loves the cinema experience, loves animation, and has helped transform them both.

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