Studio Legends: DreamWorks Animation

58 FEA Jeffrey Katzenberg
Brigitte Sire

Jeffrey Katzenberg | Photographed by Brigitte Sire on Dec. 9 on the DreamWorks Animation campus in Glendale

You can have all the plans in the world, and then things happen,” Jeffrey Katzenberg, 59, says of the path that led to his role as CEO of DreamWorks Animation. Following Michael Eisner from Paramount to Disney in 1984, he was introduced to that studio’s rich animation tradition, becoming enamored with the artistic — and commercial — possibilities of such movies as The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. Katzenberg was running Disney’s film division but aspired to a bigger role; when Eisner refused, he left and soon launched a new studio, DreamWorks, with pals David Geffen and Steven Spielberg. There, his focus turned to animation just as computers were opening a whole new world, and he cast his lot with DWA in 2004 when it was spun off as a separate company. The hard-driving Katzenberg — he has been a major proponent of 3D — now finds himself on a bucolic campus he created in Glendale. The four Shrek movies have grossed nearly $3 billion — the first one earned the inaugural best animation feature Oscar. His Madagascar-bred penguins have invaded TV. And How to Train Your Dragon has set new artistic standards. “It’s not something I ever imagined would happen when I started in the movie business as a 23-year-old kid working as Barry Diller’s assistant,” Katzenberg says.