Jeffrey Katzenberg has always had been on the forefront of cutting edge technology and ground-breaking ideas. When he got a chance to experience Robert Zemeckis’ The Polar Express, he saw the chance to change and enhance the moviegoing experience as we now know it.
“I saw it in IMAX 3-D”, Katzenberg excitedly told ComingSoon.net. “It literally was like a light bulb off. I went, ‘Wow!’ This is an opportunity for filmmaking, filmgoing that was beyond anything that I’d experienced or imagined before. I came back here and said to our team, ‘I think this is a real game changer for us.'”
While 3-D movies have been around for quite some time, Katzenberg thinks the innovative films will dominate the theaters and his team is actively going to ensure that happens.
“Just to put into context for you how big I think it is for us and for the business as a whole, I think to date there have been two great revolutions in movies. When we went to silent films to talkies and the second is when we went from black and white to color. I actually think this is as big and I think it will be as prevalent and as impactful. In some short period of time, meaning while we’re all still around, movies will be in 3-D. Not some movies, movie theater experience will be a 3-D experience,” he said.
The DreamWorks Animation CEO told us the studio has made an alliance with Intel and will capitalize on their industry-leading products to roll out Ultimate 3-D (animated films in 3-D from start to finish) features with Monsters vs. Aliens being their first project to hit theatres on March 27.
ComingSoon.net was invited to DreamWorks Animation in Glendale, California where saw about 10 minutes of footage from the upcoming film and then talked to Katzenberg for a few minutes.
The scene we were shown begins when Stephen Colbert, who plays the President of the United States, is pondering what to do about when an alien robot lands on Earth. He is being briefed by his team when he clumsily walks over to push a giant red button which will pour him coffee. However, he starts to press the one which will launch nuclear weapons and everyone screams at him to stop.
General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) then reveals that for the last 50 years, monsters have been secretly captured and have been living in a government compound. He suggests the best way to fight the aliens is to let the monsters out to handle the situation. The President has no idea this was happening and is shown pictures of the monsters, which include: Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon), who turned into a giant after she was exposed to a meteorite from outer space; Dr. Cockroach Ph.D (Hugh Laurie), who is now a human sized cockroach because an experiment he conducted went terribly wrong; The Missing Link (Will Arnett), a macho half-ape, half-fish; the gelatinous and indestructible B.O.B. (Seth Rogen); and a 350-foot grub called Insectosaurus.
Katzenberg is very pleased about DreamWorks Animation making every movie in 3-D and explained why he thinks audiences will be excited too.
“What is it about it today that is different from where we’ve been in the past are a couple of things. One it was never about the art. It was a gimmick. The glasses changed pretty dramatically and even working with the largest eyeglass company in the world on basically what would be transitionally lenses. Your sunglasses will be your movie glasses. In the short order here, you think about it, if you’re going to go outside you need sunglasses. If you’re going to play tennis, you’re going to have a tennis racquet. If you’re going to go to the beach, you’re going to have a bathing suit. If you’re going to the movie – you’ve got glasses. So it’s a cultural change, but one I think one will happen very quickly. Obviously the kids will adapt in masses. In short order, people will have their own glasses.”
He then answered a few questions for us and talked to us about how every studio will eventually transition into 3-D films.
Q: You said you have four films in development here.
Jeffrey Katzenberg: They’re not in development. They’re actually in production.
Q: Can you announce what the four are?
Katzenberg: Yes, It’s “Monsters vs. Aliens,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” Shrek Goes Fourth” and “MasterMind.” Those are the four films that are in production. After Labor Day we’ll announce our slate for 2011 – maybe 2012.
Q: Are all the studios on board for pushing 3-D?
Katzenberg: Some studios are a little slower, but everybody’s doing it. Everybody has product in the works doing it – some are much more aggressive about it. Disney, Fox and us are the ones who are sort of the furthest out. We’re actually making stuff and have committed fairly significant slates to it so you have next year “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Ice Age 3” will be in 3-D and “Avatar.” So the two biggest releases from Fox next year. Disney has got three or four movies that they’re going to do. All of their CG work starting with “Toy Story 3” will be authored in 3-D. They’re doing the same thing, but there just about a year behind us.
Q: How do you sell this to audiences or do you think the idea will sell itself?
Katzenberg: Yeah I think so. We’re making it – I’m not worried about selling it.
Q: What about 3-D IMAX?
Katzenberg: All of our movies go out in IMAX and they’ve obviously been very aggressive about 3-D. They’ve been very good partners.
Q: The four movies that you named earlier that are in the works will they all be in 3-D?
Katzenberg: Everything we’re making is in 3-D. We’re finishing “Madagascar” literally in the next three weeks and then everything after that is 3-D.
Q: What happens when this movie comes out on DVD?
Katzenberg: The rate it changes is pretty fast here. It’ll come out in a 2-D version just like there was a 2-D theatrical version of it because many places in the world won’t be 3-D capable for “Monsters vs. Aliens.” But for that to have real meaning penetrations – probably a decade away.
Q: Do you think 3-D is appropriate for all subject matter? For instance, do you think “The Departed” should be in 3-D?
Katzenberg: I really genuinely do. I guess I would say rhetorically way which is if you could roll the clock back here and we were in movie theatres 85-90 years ago, there were silent films and then they became talkies, there was tremendous debate if you go back and I’ve actually done a fair amount of research and reading about it, old transitions… the last two revolutions that I spoke of were highly debated both in a business model and by the creative community. A lot of people talked about color just being a gimmick and a fad and that it would come and go. Five years later, no movies were made in black and white. A little presumptuous? Maybe, but my instinct says to me this is how we see. You are watching right now. Our eyes are in 3-D. It’s how we take in emotions. All these things are about emotion. The device of telling a narrative of a storytelling a filmmaker uses, his tools are sight and sound. We have five senses [and] the ones that they use to make you feel something which is what they’re doing… raise your spirits up and down or jump in the seat or give you anxiety, the things that affect you emotionally are sight and sound. Think about how sound has completely revolutionized – not in your lifetime, but in mine I’ve now gone from vinyl to an 8 track to a CD to a digital delivery. Today we can actually capture, store and replay sound with near perfect fidelity for our ears. It’s that beautiful. For a storyteller, I don’t know how you go backwards. I don’t know whether it takes two years, four years, six years, eight years to actually roll into it, but I think it’s in that time frame or less that “The Queen” is in 3-D.
Q: But do you think that retro-fitting films that were shot in 2-D is a good idea?
Katzenberg: We’ll have to see. The technology of retro-fitting a black and white movie to color has not gotten to a place where I would feel comfortable do that and representing that as a quality experience. The tools are still being created and perfected for 2-D translation to 3-D and it’s too early to say. Up until now, I haven’t been that excited about the quality of it, but the guys across the street are doing it on “Toy Story” 1 and 2 which are crowned jewels and they’re quality guys. I know they’ve been working hard on these and that’s where they’ve put a lot of focus on it.
Q: Are the tools for 3-D changing that drastically in a rapid time period?
Katzenberg: For sure. Look at “Kung Fu Panda.” We just put it out six weeks ago and I go, “God, the stuff that we have today and what we’re doing on ‘Madagascar.’ If we had that crowd system for that movie it would have been that much better. The answer is yes, absolutely. We are a technology company and I never thought of it that way before, but the last two or three years I can’t help it. We are a technology company. We’re storytellers, but right alongside with our storytelling is technology. This new deal we made with Intel, I can’t tell you how valuable it is. The partnership with Hewlett-Packard. We’ve got these two big brothers out here that really have given us resources that we would have never been able to achieve on our own.
Q: People are still apprehensive to wear the 3-D glasses. Do you think there will be 3-D without glasses one day?
Katzenberg: Well, that’s called auto stereo and the answer is yes. We can do auto stereo today in sort of the most simplistic way.