They’re playing our ’ toon
Smart, funny and sophisticated . . . animated movies have really come of age, writes Elise Scott
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.