Legacy Content

Rhett Wickham: 2 Bee or Not 3-D? That is the Question!
Page 1 of 1

by Rhett Wickham (archives)
July 24, 2007
Rhett Wickham analyzes a recent statement by Jeffrey Katzenberg regarding his view of the future of film ... 3D.

Rhett Wickham Ponders the Future of
Jeffrey Katzenberg Pondering the Future of Film

He means it, so don’t laugh. He is completely serious, and he swears that he has spoken to every single head of every studio in the industry and advised them to jump on the bandwagon while the jumping is good. Leap, don’t look, get ready for what Jeffrey Katzenberg has termed “the future of movies.? A recent Times of London article quotes Katzenberg as saying “I can honestly say to you with every ounce of conviction in my being: I have seen the future of movies, and this is it.? “It? being films in 3D.

With great courage and that famous Katzenberg conviction, he has announced that effective 2009 all animated films that DreamWorks produces will be made in 3D. Oh, and start saving now for the designer 3D glasses ground exclusively for you in a frame of your choosing by your local optician, from trendy eyeglass frame vendors, only for use at theatres. They’ll be here sometime between now and the end of the decade if they follow Mr. Katzenberg’s cue. He thinks they will be the first to catch on, and we all know what a good market indicator Lens Crafters has proven to be!

Upon finishing the Times article I immediately stepped outside to make sure that there wasn’t a DeSoto in my driveway, a television antenna on my roof, milk in bottles on my doorstep or a bomb shelter in my back yard. Nope, it’s still the 21st century. Well, as Hazel might say “Mr. K has it all figured out, ya’ know!? Indeed he does.

Katzenberg knows that even after theatres have invested in retrofitting their facilities with new projection systems – and raised prices in order to recoup the cost – some people will not want to pay the premium to see the film in 3D. Why I haven’t called him to handle my investments is beyond me. Katzenberg predicts that these poor (or possibly just cheap) saps will still get to see the film in a 2D format in the theatre next door, which one can only presume is going to be smaller, more cramped, and have walls thin enough to hear the cheers from the other half, living it up next door. At least their experience will come with Sticky-o-Rama for that “I’m really at a theatre, and not in my living room!? feel beneath your feet.

So, after decades of preaching about how film makers have lost sight of what matters, and countless vacations in which, so he swears, he re-reads Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston’s “The Illusion of Life?, Jeffrey Katzenberg is not worried about story, story, story. He’s not even worried about character, character, character. No, not JK; he’s put his chips on the table and stacked them squarely where the future lies – in a gimmick.

I hate to admit this, but he’s probably right, in so much as film makers and theatre owners the world over will be won over by his battle cry, and likely a significant number of movie goers, as well. And it won’t take until 2009, either. We will have seen countless offerings in the 3D format long before then, including a few coming our way over the next year from Academy Award® winning directors James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. Katzenberg’s pronouncement from the stage of the Cine-Expo in Amsterdam was made not only as a rallying cry for the future of an industry with sagging profits, but as a line being drawn in the sand between Hollywood and pirates. The supposition is that bootleggers and their recorders will get nothing of any use when illegally taping a 3D screening. They’ll end up with something useless, whether knocked off onto thousands of illegal DVDs or streamed over the web.

Well, d’oh! Of course this will stop piracy, because, for one thing, it will be easier to catch the little snots sitting conspicuously amongst the handful of sorry nits stuck in the 50-seat 2-D screening room down the hall at the megaplex. Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the possibility that nobody will want to buy films that have no plot, no character development, or nothing of any interest worth watching regardless of the format. But just in case piracy isn’t as deeply wounded by this salvo being fired across their bow (Duck! Wow, that looked so real!) Hollywood might want to consider putting its money where its mouth is and addressing the moral and ethical questions of thievery and lack of respect for an artist’s work. Perhaps, then children and adults alike might not confuse “A Bug’s Life? with “Antz?. Based solely on which one made it to the theatres first it should be obvious as to who copied whom. Shame on you John Lasseter!

Alas, studio executives are going to be too busy to address original intent and intellectual property laws because they’ll be following Katzenberg into the fray, backed up by exhibitors and audiences alike who will eagerly sign up for this new vision in numbers significant enough to throw out the baby with the bathwater once again. (Anyone wanting to adopt a good story need only don a bathing suit and stand with open arms beneath the windows of studio executives the world over.) That is going to be one badly bruised kid, let me tell you. By the time the novelty of Julia Roberts’ dental dazzle in sharp relief against a seaside backdrop that you could swear you could swim in has worn off, so will audiences faith in Hollywood’s ability to be a good parent. There will be enough gravel to pick out of the poor film industry’s soggy diaper to fill the chasm between moguls like Mr. Katzenberg and a public that really just wants to stay home and watch Turner Classic Movies while cradling the craft of film making gently in their arms and rocking it, whispering “Don’t worry, I have an apple lap top and a high-def video camera, I’ll take good care of you.? Somewhere, in some small town, a kid with a dream is getting ready to apply to film school and take the industry by storm, armed with little more than an outrageous idea of telling fascinating stories with complicated and interesting characters. Period. Good luck kid…you’ll need it.

Young men and women who are waiting in the wings to entertain us are going to be up against the genius and influence of men like Jeffrey Katzenberg, an innovator who has always pushed ideas on a resistant Hollywood and an eager audience. Katzenberg, the champion of animation back when Disney was in need of someone who believed in cartoons (and apparently wasn’t able to hear Roy Disney, the guy who got Jeffrey hired and who taught him about animation…) and Katzenberg the visionary who made CG animation popular (because Pixar and “Toy Story? were, after all, so terribly ignored by audiences the world over.) Right? Okay, sorry, even I’m choking on my own sarcasm at this stage.

*Sigh* Men like Jeffrey Katzenberg have been betting on gimmicks for a long, long time. Too long. Me, I’m going to see the Simpsons movie this weekend, and waiting patiently for “The Princess and the Frog? in all it’s glorious graphic flatness. Both of which I feel certain…no, wait, allow me to take a page from Mr. Katzenberg’s book and say to you with every ounce of conviction in my being: I have seen the future of movies and it is…good storytelling that doesn’t require anything more than some popcorn and the same prescription I’m wearing right now.

Discuss It

-- Posted July 24, 2007
--Text by Rhett Wickham