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DreamWorks marks 20 years

by JAKE COYLE Associated Press

CANNES, France - Sitting on the terrace of the Carlton Hotel on the Cannes coastline, Jeffery Katzenberg gazes out at the teeming Croisette. It's familiar territory.

"We roll big here," he says. "We've been doing this a long time."

Katzenberg has been a Cannes Film Festival regular for two decades. He's frequently premiered DreamWorks' summer releases here, held stunts to capture the attention of the international media, and preached the gospel of 3-D ahead of its resurgence to the gathered movie industry. He has felt the adulation and the sting of Cannes' passionate audiences.

"I have had both," says Katzenberg with a smile. "I've never had an animation film booed. I've had live-action."

On Friday, the Cannes Film Festival celebrated the 20th anniversary of DreamWorks Animation with the premiere of "How to Train Your Dragon 2," the upcoming 3-D sequel to the 2010 original about a Viking boy (Jay Baruchel) and his pet dragon, Toothless.

In an interview, Katzenberg reflected less on where DreamWorks has been, than where it's going.

"It feels pretty surreal because I don't feel like it's 20 years," says Katzenberg. "We're so much a work-in-progress it doesn't feel like a milestone, in a way. If anything, it feels like the end of act one in a three-act play. We right now, more than any time, have so much opportunity ahead of us."

It hasn't been easy going of late for DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., which Katzenberg co-founded with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in 1994. All of the major studios now have robust cartoon franchises, taking up more of the family audience pie. Three of DreamWorks' last four releases have flopped: the recent time-traveling "Peabody & Sherman," the holiday release "Rise of the Guardians" and 2013's snail tale "Turbo."

In "Dragon 2," Katzenberg hopes he has a better chance after the Oscar-nominated original grossed nearly $500 million worldwide. The sequel, Katzenberg believes, benefits from what he calls "a game-changer for animation" - a new, more intuitive animation tool dubbed Apollo that allows artists to digitally render in greater detail.

DreamWorks has looked to expand into other media realms. Last year it acquired the YouTube network AwesomenessTV and signed a pact with Netflix to supply 300 hours of exclusive programming based on DreamWorks Animation characters. Earlier this month, it launched DreamWorksTV, a YouTube channel for kids. DreamWorks is also developing theme parks and pushing aggressively into China.

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