Katzenberg Gets Journalistic Spanking By LA Times

By | February 12, 2009 2:56 am PDT

Jeffrey Katzenberg may be the Moses trying to lead the industry to the Promised 3D Digital Land, but judging by this article from the LA Times (Jeffrey Katzenberg in 3-D: Hollywood is rolling its eyes), his leadership may be in question.  Patrick Goldstein, the articles author, takes Katzenberg to task for a number of recent events, ranging from the DreamWorks-Disney deal to the issue surrounding the closure of the the hospital and long-term care facility at its Woodland Hills retirement home, for which Katzenberg was the chief fundraiser.

But the article hangs the biggest question mark over the DreamWorks Animation’s head honcho’s strategy when it comes to Digital 3D and the studio’s imminent release:

Katzenberg’s biggest P.T. Barnum stunt of all — spending a reported $9 million to wow Super Bowl viewers with a 3-D ad for DreamWorks’ upcoming “Monsters vs. Aliens” 3-D film — was a fiasco, creating a backlash against Katzenberg’s own very public 3-D crusade. The blogosphere was full of mockery of the stunt. As SpoutBlog put it in a recent post: “Katzenberg may have done irreversible damage” by attempting to advertise “Monsters vs. Aliens” “by way of an anaglyphic 3D Super Bowl commercial necessitating outdated red/blue glasses.” To say that the ad missed its target audience would be an understatement. When Cinematical did a poll asking for reaction to the ad, the biggest segment of voters — 41% — checked the box saying: “I never picked up the glasses to begin with.”

The reaction was so bad that the chief executive of RealD Cinema, the company that does the projection technology used on a number of 3-D films, including “Monsters vs. Aliens,” had to issue a statement distancing his company from the Super Bowl ad, saying: “It’s important to recognize that today’s RealD in theaters is a quantum leap better than what they saw on TV.”

Those who have seen Katzenberg’s messianic zeal in person at numerous trade shows, conferences, awards and events might be tempted to agree with Goldstein (huffed that Big K didn’t return his phone calls):

What really strikes me as strange is that Katzenberg is unable to resist the urge to engage in hyperbole, even when it seems to undercut a quieter, more logical argument. Bragging to the New York Times about DreamWorks’ recent box-office successes, he boasted: “This company is a flower that is just begining to blossom,” prompting the reporter to add, “Cut to Hollywood rolling its eyes.” When Katzenberg was in tandem with Spielberg and David Geffen, he had to check his most outlandish impulses, for fear of embarrassing his older and wealthier partners. But now Katzenberg seems a prisoner to his own worst instincts, unable to stop himself from overselling 3-D or sniping at Pixar, the company that has cornered the market on the artistic validation that Katzenberg so desperately seeks for DreamWorks.

Ouch, ouch! But ultimately Monsters vs. Aliens will be a hit film and 3D will enhance it, not because Katzenberg has hyped it up, but because it is good entertainment.  Kids will most likely flock to it and parents will find enough grown up entertainment in it to accompany their offspring to the multiplex.

The bigger question is who will assume the 3D evangelist mantle (crown? relay baton?) once the “Monsters vs. Aliens” is released and Katzenberg doesn’t have to worry about another 3D film until next year? Step up John Lasseter and Pixar, whose Up and Toy Story 3D (and 1 & 2 re-rendered for stereoscopics) will offer a very different approach to 3D.  And then there is Mr Cameron’s little art-house film at the end of the year.  Stereoscopics is a faith of many prophets.

Patrick von Sychowski
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Patrick von Sychowski

Patrick was a Senior Analyst at Screen Digest, went on to launch the digital cinema operations of Unique and Deluxe Europe, then digitised Bollywood at Adlabs/RMW, and now writes, consults and appears on panels about cinema all over the world.
Patrick von Sychowski
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