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CANNES — Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg won over the crowd in the ballroom of Cannes’ Carlton hotel while accepting MIPCOM’s Personality of the Year award by admitting that he is not known for being the most personable guy in the room — or any room.
After a tribute film with the studio’s biggest stars — including Ben Stiller, Steven Spielberg, Alec Baldwin, Angelina Jolie, Eddie Murphy, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Black and Jerry Seinfeld — both chiding and complimenting the all-business businessman, Katzenberg reflected on his own reputation.
“I have to admit that when I was told I would be receiving this award, I had to do a bit of a double-take, because I’m actually not used to being recognized or honored for my personality,” he joked, before recounting some of the less-than-positive adjectives that have been used to describe him throughout his career at Paramount, Disney and now Dreamworks.
“A few things that I’ve been called: impatient, abrasive, aggressive, obsessive, grandiose, pushy, relentless, egotistical, brash, maniacal — and that’s just a few,” he acknowledged and then read from a magazine profile that branded him a “hyper-controlling, part hopeless dilettante and part Napoleonic bully.”
“Part Napoleonic bully — that must be the part you related to,” he quipped.
The crowd included international executives, from 20th Century Fox TV distribution president Marion Edwards to Armoza Formats founder Avi Armoza to Sony international television distribution president Keith LeGoy.
“After years of getting press coverage like this, I hope you understand that of all the things that one might conceivably find to honor me, I just never figured personality would be the one,” Katzenberg said and remarked that he now “has hope” for his personality.
Perhaps prewritten but still delivered brilliantly, Katzenberg’s address brought down the house and got the audience up for a standing ovation. He also expressed his hopes for the future of programming, touching on themes addressed in a keynote speech earlier in the afternoon.
“What hasn’t made the headlines is that our commitment is really unwavering to the traditional pay-to-TV business. That’s what drove our decision last October to join MIPCOM as the first studio in more than two decades,” he said to a ceremony guest. “Linear television and digital programming will explode globally within the next decade. Everywhere we look there’s nothing but opportunity.”
Many guests — who were obsessively checking for texts from their tentative air carriers to update them on flight cancellations — were thankful for the untraditional early start time. It was listed on the invitation as “7 p.m. sharp,” leaving LeGoy to joke: “At least they didn’t have a champagne controllers strike.”
The fete, which has hosted impromptu conga lines in the past, wrapped as the guest made an early exit to get his “wheels up” before the French skies are shut down.
While flight paths out of nearby Nice were still open for a few more hours, Katzenberg was not. When told by Brian Robbins, head of Dreamworks’ recently acquired Awesomeness TV, that his delivery was “perfect” and asked if he’d missed his calling for a career in the comedic arts, Katzenberg responded with a brusque, “I don’t think so,” without so much as a glance up from his Blackberry.
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