A surprised but moved Jeffrey Katzenberg received the Annecy Festival’s first Golden Ticket Award on Wednesday in recognition of his services to animation. The honor had been kept secret from Katzenberg, who is at Annecy to support a strong DreamWorks Animation presence.
A lifelong supporter of Annecy, Katzenberg’s Golden Ticket now gives him a lifelong pass to the Festival. The surprise presentation took place at the end of a keynote masterclass by Guillermo del Toro, who spent much of its second part talking with Katzenberg about DreamWorks Animation’s upcoming family series “Trollhunters” before a standing-room-only audience in Annecy’s central theater, the 1,000-seat Grande Salle Bonnie.
“This is a set-up,” Katzenberg joked, as Annecy Fest artistic director Marcel Jean came on stage to ask what his career highlights had been so far and as a show-reel featuring DreamWorks and Disney animated films and talking heads such as Steven Spielberg began to play on a big screen.
After a standing ovation, Katzenberg recounted how, in 1984, on his first day at Disney as head of Walt Disney Studios, he had a meeting with CEO Michael Eisner in the office once occupied by Walt Disney. At its end, Eisner motioned him over to the window and pointed to a building across the street. “That’s where they make the animated movies. It’s also your problem,” Katzenberg recalled Eisner telling him.
Despite being neither a student nor fan of animated films at the time, Katzenberg said, animation became “my passion and love,” yielding “30-something years of incredible happiness and joy.”
“Not only has Jeffrey been a longtime collaborator and supporter of all of us here in Annecy, his track-record in animation is nothing short of legendary,” Jean said in a statement.
He added: “From reviving the industry with such critically acclaimed films like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Lion King,’ to launching DreamWorks Animation and giving us such memorable characters in films like ‘Shrek,’ ‘Madagascar,’ ‘Kung Fu Panda’ and ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ there is no one more deserving of lifetime pass to our festival.”
The award comes less than two months after Comcast’s NBCUniversal confirmed its purchase of DreamWorks Animation, the company that Katzenberg launched in 1994 and that’s now often mentioned in the same breath as Disney or Pixar.
Under the Comcast purchase terms, Katzenberg will now segue from his position as head of DreamWorks Animation to head up a newly created division, DreamWorks New Media, made up of Awesomeness TV and Nova.
But it remains to be seen whether Katzenberg will ever sever completely his connections with the animation world.