They’re play­ing our ’ toon

Smart, funny and so­phis­ti­cated . . . an­i­mated movies have re­ally come of age, writes Elise Scott

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies -

ONCE upon a time par­ents made ex­cuses to avoid tak­ing their kids to the lat­est an­i­mated flick. Now their chil­dren are their ex­cuse to go.

DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion’s CEO and co-founder Jef­frey Katzen­berg says an­i­mated films are no longer viewed or pro­duced as ‘‘ chil­dren’s films’’.

‘‘ We re­ally don’t think of them as kids’ films,’’ he says. ‘‘ That’s not re­ally what they are.’’

An­i­ma­tion mas­ter­mind Katzen­berg ( pic­tured) be­lieves the chil­dren’s tag, once used to de­scribe these types of an­i­mated mo­tion pic­tures, has no place in the cur­rent in­dus­try.

‘‘ If you look at movies last year, take the 10 big­gest movies in the world [ and] five of them are what you’re re­fer­ring to as kids’ films,’’ Katzen­berg says, while pro­mot­ing his stu­dio’s lat­est an­i­mated ad­ven­ture, Kung Fu Panda 2.

‘‘ I think they’ve ac­tu­ally be­come gen­eral au­di­ence movies and cer­tainly they do ap­peal to kids but these are smart, so­phis­ti­cated, beau­ti­fully made sto­ries that work for ev­ery­one.’’

The five chil­dren’s movies Katzen­berg refers to are Toy Story 3, Shrek For­ever Af­ter, Tan­gled, De­spi­ca­ble Me, and How to Train Your Dragon.

Toy Story 3, which grossed the high­est to­tal world­wide for 2010, made more than $ US1 bil­lion ($ A950.84 mil­lion) at the box of­fice, out­rank­ing other big films that year in­clud­ing Alice in Won­der­land, Harry Pot­ter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1, and In­cep­tion.

DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion pro­duced three an­i­mated fea­tures in 2010, with two of those land­ing in the top 10 box of­fice list.

The an­i­ma­tion com­pany is be­hind the hugely suc­cess­ful Shrek and Mada­gas­car fran­chises, which starred sev­eral Hol­ly­wood ac­tors in­clud­ing Mike My­ers, Ed­die Mur­phy, Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller.

But de­spite an­i­mated films pulling big-name tal­ent and em­ploy­ing ad­vanced an­i­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, Katzen­berg main­tains the se­cret to a suc­cess­ful an­i­mated fea­ture is the sto­ry­line.

‘‘ It’s the sto­ry­telling. It al­ways comes down to the story. A great story is go­ing to cap­ti­vate an au­di­ence and take them on a magic ride some place,’’ he says.

‘‘ If it makes you laugh, makes you cry, some­thing about it grabs you and sort of sus­pends your dis­be­lief, that’s what great sto­ry­telling re­ally is all about.’’

And those sto­ries have be­come more and more ap­peal­ing to adults, with film com­pany mar­ket­ing strate­gies shift­ing from a fo­cus on chil­dren to a fo­cus on a wider au­di­ence de­mo­graphic.

Katzen­berg has had his fair share of ex­pe­ri­ence in an­i­mated films over his ca­reer, over­see­ing pro­duc­tion of 1990’ s an­i­ma­tions Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King.

He be­gan his pro­fes­sional life at Para­mount Pic­tures be­fore start­ing a 10-year ca­reer at Walt Dis­ney that ended with a law­suit for money he felt he was owed and an out-of-court set­tle­ment.

He now heads the spin-off an­i­ma­tion arm of DreamWorks SKG, the com­pany he founded with Steven Spiel­berg and David Gef­fen. But de­spite his an­i­ma­tion ge­nius, ded­i­ca­tion to great sto­ry­telling and his com­pany’s abil­ity to ap­peal to a wide au­di­ence, DreamWorks is still search­ing for a point of dif­fer­ence.

Katzen­berg be­lieves the stu­dio’s fu­ture lies in 3D, and he’s pre­vi­ously said that all fu­ture DreamWorks fea­tures will be pro­duced in 3D.

‘‘ It is [ the way for­ward] for us. It al­lows us to cre­ate a re­ally ex­cep­tional pre­mium ex­pe­ri­ence for our au­di­ence,’’ he says. A large pro­por­tion of the film mar­ket is in the US, where con­sumers are still do­ing it tough af­ter the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, and Katzen­berg has iden­ti­fied a need for DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion to up the ante to per­suade au­di­ences to keep buy­ing tick­ets.

‘‘ We’re try­ing to of­fer to movie­go­ers a pre­mium ex­pe­ri­ence, a rea­son to leave the home, to come out and see some­thing ex­cep­tional,’’ he says.

Kung Fu Panda 2 is pre­mier­ing around the globe and Katzen­berg says the film has been noted by crit­ics world­wide for its 3D an­i­ma­tion.

‘‘ We have de­vel­oped an in­cred­i­bly rich set of cre­ative tools that al­low our film­mak­ers to do some­thing ex­cep­tional,’’ he says.

But whether it be in 3D or 2D, par­ents no longer have to dread the re­lease date of new an­i­mated films – se­cure in the knowl­edge that they too will be en­ter­tained.

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