People I Respect: Jeffrey Katzenberg

This is the first in a series of posts in which I explain why I respect certain people in the animation industry and why you should do the same.

Via: Talking Movies (click through for a great interview by Fergal Casey)

Love him or hate him, you cannot deny the fact that even thinking about American, theatrical, animation from the last 30 years will bring his name to mind.

While it can be said that Jeffrey Katzenberg is a bit of a bully, such a description could also be used for Walt Disney. Both men are/were not afraid to provoke strong emotions from their staff if he thought it would get the best from them.

Katzenberg’s influence over the Disney animation unit from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s is stupendous. The period, colloquially called the ‘Waking Sleeping Beauty’ period saw a resurgence of the theatrical animated film after hitting rock bottom in the 1970s.

Why do I respect him? He’s focused, he knows what he wants and he is good at getting people to create his vision. Too often we see a film that was created with a vision in the mind of the director but who clearly could not communicate that to his crew.

Katzenberg can pick out good stories not just ideas. Look at the Disney renaissance films, no two are alike. They shoot off in all directions and hit a bullseye every time. John Lasseter and the guys at Pixar were clearly paying attention as they followed a similar path until the late-2000s.

Since leaving Disney, he has moulded DreamWorks Animation into a formidable competitor to Pixar. While the films are slightly less polished compared to the Apple guys in Emeryville, they are undoubtedly successful and last year’s How To Train Your Dragon was a sure sign that Katzenberg is narrowing the gap with the industry leader.

For his track record, his ability to inspire and his ability to manage artists on a par with Walt Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg is someone I respect in the animation industry. His placing in the list reflects his penchant for [multiple] sequels.