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.