Mitch Wat­son

Animation Magazine - - Anniversary Spotlight -

Emmy-win­ning writer of All Hail King Julien and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on Kung Fu Panda:the Paws Of Des­tiny Best Mem­o­ries: The year we won the stu­dio’s first Emmy for Best An­i­mated Se­ries ( All Hail King Julien). Ev­ery­one was there — Margie, Peter, Kelly, Mark — and no one re­ally ex­pected us to win be­cause the stu­dio hadn’t even been in ex­is­tence for two years at that point. It was the first show that had made it to air un­der the new Net­flix deal. It had been such a crazy year and a half to get to that point that to win the Emmy re­ally was amaz­ing. Se­crets of Suc­cess: The bar was set very high from the start by both Margie Cohn and by Jeffrey Katzen­berg. We had to be as good as

Dreamworks fea­tures. That was a high bar. There was a real em­pha­sis put on the writ­ing that it had to not only ap­peal to kids, but it had to be smart enough to pull in adults as well. Dreamworks An­i­ma­tion Tele­vi­sion needed to be an ex­ten­sion off of Dreamworks Fea­tures, not a wa­tered-down ver­sion of it. I also think the pipe­line that Mark Tay­lor set up was key. With­out it the qual­ity just wouldn’t have been there in the an­i­ma­tion and that wouldn’t have hap­pened with­out Mark’s ex­per­tise and the fan­tas­tic pro­duc­tion staff he brought in. Defin­ing the Brand: To me, the brand has al­ways been about cre­at­ing con­tent that a fam­ily will want to watch to­gether. Not just shows for kids, but shows that will also ap­peal to adults and make them want to watch them with their kids. As a par­ent, I can tell you from ex­pe­ri­ence that if the choice is be­tween a show only my kids want to watch, and an an­i­mated show I also en­joy, that is the show we will watch. Wildest Story: My fa­vorite story hap­pened be­fore I even started at the stu­dio. Dreamworks TV wasn’t even a month old and I was pitch­ing ideas for an­other se­ries and Peter Gal walked into the of­fice white as a sheet. He looked like he’d just been in a hor­ri­ble car ac­ci­dent. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that they had just closed the Net­flix deal for 300 hours of pro­gram­ming and shows needed to start air­ing in just over a year. At that point I don’t be­lieve any­thing was in ac­tual pro­duc­tion. My re­sponse was to laugh and tell him he was in trou­ble. He agreed, but said it was the kind of trou­ble he and Margie wanted. I think I was hired about a month later to work on All Hail King Julien. Most Re­ward­ing/chal­leng­ing Parts of the Job: Most re­ward­ing is help­ing peo­ple new to the in­dus­try get their foot in the door. On Julien we pro­moted three writer’s as­sis­tants — two women and one man — to full-time writ­ing po­si­tions. These were re­ally tal­ented writ­ers who just couldn’t get a break at other stu­dios, and they ended up be­ing fan­tas­tic and are now mak­ing their liv­ings do­ing what they love. Most chal­leng­ing is try­ing to re­ally make some­thing that will stand out and push the en­ve­lope un­der the con­straints of the sched­ule and bud­gets we have. I will say that al­though this is al­ways a chal­lenge, what we come up with to make it work in the end makes the process in­cred­i­bly sat­is­fy­ing. In­spi­ra­tion: An­i­ma­tion is very col­lab­o­ra­tive. If I ever feel tapped out, all I do is sit down with the other writ­ers or artists and start toss­ing around ideas, no mat­ter how stupid. In­evitably some­one will throw out some­thing great, and that is re­ally the only spark need to get the creative fire go­ing again. Fu­ture Trends: I have been through two an­i­ma­tion waves in my time in the in­dus­try. The first was back when The Simp­sons took off, which sparked a real re­nais­sance. The sec­ond hap­pened with the ad­vent of stream­ing and the need for lots of new con­tent. I think this will ta­per off in the next five years, but I also think the in­no­va­tion that has come out of it will al­low us to bridge the qual­ity gap be­tween TV and fea­tures. I also think that the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket will open up wider, and I wouldn’t be sur­prised if that sparks yet an­other wave of con­tent and in­no­va­tion. So ba­si­cally, I be­lieve the next five years looks pretty good.

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