By Suzy Hansen
Many years ago, when DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg had hair and ran Disney, he decided to honor his then-studio's latest animation feat—"The Lion King"—by appearing onstage with a real, live lion named Pancho. The enormous animal gently head-nudged the trainer on his left, but when Katzenberg moved in close for some love, too, Pancho tried to embrace him, maul him, suffocate, perhaps rip off his leg. Whatever it was Pancho was trying to do, Katzenberg learned his lesson about lions.
"It is true that lion drool doesn't come out of a suit," he said Tuesday at the HP Discover conference in Frankfurt, Germany.
Katzenberg capped off his funny and sweet speech about DreamWorks' history and its relationship with Hewlett-Packard by revisiting both his fears and his insanity. This time, though, the lion who came onstage was just some dude in a lion suit. Safe and sound, Katzenberg smiled with his lion, and then was joined by HP CEO Meg Whitman, who smiled, too. Katzenberg appeared at the plenary sessions during the first day of the conference and gave Whitman, who has overseen a tumultuous year at HP, a boost.
"HP has had to deal with a couple of, let's say, Pancho-pouncing, lionlike moments themselves in the past couple of years," he said. "But I'm here to tell you that throughout our 12-year association with them, whether they have been experiencing smooth sailing or speed bumps, we could not have asked for a better, smarter, more helpful or dependable partner. From servers to software to networks to display, HP has masterfully maintained the technology line and kept it powerfully working for us. Looking ahead, thanks to Meg and the incredible leadership here at HP, I couldn't be more confident about the company's future.
"And ... I think I want to say that one more time: I couldn't be more confident about the company's future," Katzenberg said.
Katzenberg has known Whitman since 1989, when they both worked at a "little startup called The Walt Disney Co."
"Her qualities as an executive and a leader and an entrepreneur had already set her apart from everyone else," he said, adding that those qualities led Whitman to be one of the first people invited to join the DreamWorks board when the company went public. "I have seen her at work up close and personal. From my experience with her, I know she is the rare leader who can not only see the big idea, but bring it into being.
"But I know what you are thinking: Why should we be listening to this cartoon guy?" he joked.
Katzenberg then presented a short film about the history of animation and DreamWorks' role in it, and the ways in which HP helped DreamWorks become the largest animation company in the world.
"Until now our artists have had to work at the speed of technology," he said. "Soon they will actually be able to work at the speed of their imagination. This is probably the biggest technology R&D project ever undertaken by an entertainment company, and it will revolutionize and fundamentally change and forever change our business. Every business wants to be able to make things faster, better and cheaper. But up until now, you could never have all three of those. For the first time, thanks to the solutions provided by HP and Intel, and scalable multicore processing, you can achieve all three."
Katzenberg took the opportunity to introduce the trailer for his latest animated feature to the thousands of people watching the keynote. "The Croods" stars an odd-looking, possibly too-bizarre cave family who one day get blown out of their cave and into a sort of "Avatar"-like glow world. The film, which features the voices of Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds, opens next year. Last weekend, Katzenberg was awarded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
"Thanks to Meg's leadership," he said, "we believe [our artists] have just scratched the surface of what can be achieved for the two of us going forward."