I had the most surreal moment in Hollywood earlier this week, and I haven’t even mentioned it yet. I think it took some time to process, and now I’m ready to share in a more thoughtful way (rather than an OHMYGOSHYOUGUYSICANTBELIEVEIT way).
As part of the blogging event I attended at DreamWorks, we were given a tour of their Animation Campus and led through several presentations on the animation and movie-making process. Accompanying us for nearly the whole day were Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco, the writers and directors of The Croods.
Both men sport huge Hollywood resumes. Chris Sanders helped to develop the story and art for such films as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, and Mulan; he created the original story (and voiced the part of Stitch!) for Lilo & Stitch. After leaving Disney, he came to DreamWorks and helped write the screenplay for and directed How To Train Your Dragon. Kirk DeMicco wrote the screenplay for Quest for Camelot (an older movie my kids still enjoy) and was involved with making Racing Stripes, Space Chimps, and now The Croods.
Both men were incredibly gracious throughout the day. Funny, warm, and so nice. They spoke with us directly, answered all of our questions, and seemed to genuinely have as much fun as we did.
One of the presentations we attended was all about the visual effects and lighting in animation, led by DreamWorks VFX Supervisor Markus Manninen. Chris and Kirk sat by to oversee the presentation, but during the question and answer session, the mood noticeably shifted as someone new entered the room. It was Jeffrey Katzenberg (or, as the voices in my head were screaming at the time, IT’S JEFFREY-FREAKING-KATZENBERG!!!!!!).
I totally understand if you don’t know who he is. Jeffrey Katzenberg has made his living making power plays behind the scenes, and even if his name might ring a bell, I’m not sure he’s easily recognizable by face. He is basically Hollywood Royalty, having been in the business for nearly 40 years – first with Paramount Pictures, then as the Chairman of Walt Disney Studios from 1984-1994 before founding DreamWorks SKG with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in 1994. Since 2004 he has been the CEO of the child company DreamWorks Animation.
Entertainment junkie I am, I knew who he was right away, and since I was at the end of the row near the door, he was only standing about THREE FEET AWAY from me. I kept myself together enough to ask a question of our presenter, but then almost lost it when Jeffrey Katzenberg piped up and said, “I’d like to answer that if I could” (the question was related to the use of 3D in The Croods). He then proceeded to LOOK ME IN THE EYE and SPEAK DIRECTLY TO ME. Did I say he was only about three feet away? Because he was. And there was not a thing in between us as I sat and he stood and SPOKE DIRECTLY TO ME.
The moment was so unexpected, so surreal, so fabulous.
After a few more questions, he politely excused himself and thanked us for coming (thanked US for coming!), and as he left, I finally exhaled.
The presentation quickly segued into another, and as I gathered my wits, I realized the directors were giving us a pop quiz, and that Chris Sanders was handing out prizes! He explained that he likes to buy grab bags of vintage Cracker Jack prizes from eBay and make necklaces of them. He was handing out just 9 to our group of 25+, and I was eager to win one. Sure enough, I jumped up with the answer to one of the questions, and won myself a necklace. FROM CHRIS SANDERS. He HANDED IT TO ME HIMSELF. Something he had purchased, put on a string, and had very thoughtfully brought to give to some of us.
It’s a curious little piece, but a treasure to me. Me, who spends 90% of my time thinking about, spending time in, or taking care of my home, and yet I got to spend one glorious afternoon talking with (and winning prizes from!) Hollywood high-rollers. Even better, I feel like I held my own, felt comfortable in my own skin, and fully enjoyed the moment. My own little Cracker Jack moment, complete with prize.