Jeffrey Katzenberg is “The ogre achiever”

I know, I know; I swore I was going to stop talking about Shrek. It’s bad enough that having a hit movie franchise seems to be license to plaster the characters anywhere and everywhere in the name of savvy advertising. As much as I liked the first two movies, I do feel like I’m reaching… how shall I say this?… Shrek saturation.

In fact, my kids came home from a trip to McDonald’s yesterday with cups of Shrek Sludge. I’m pretty sure they were just green milkshakes, but I was a little afraid to check. And stuck into those cups of sludge? Ogre green straws.

Anyway, in light of the brash consumerism oozing from the Shrek empire, I thought now would be a good time to point out this interview with Jeffrey Katzenberg. For a multi-millionaire heading up a marketing machine, Katzenberg is remarkably grounded.

Katzenberg would rather celebrate his own good luck than gloat. “They (the Shrek films) defined us as a company in terms of what a DreamWorks Animated movie is and can be and should be, so they really helped us find ourselves. That first Shrek saved the company financially. We’re here today because of it. It’s been a great blessing. I refer to it as the gift that keeps on giving.”

It’s an interesting read in terms of Katzenberg’s career path and philosophy. The only time I snickered at all was at the mention of how there will “only” be five Shrek films because the story is finite. Five? Granted, that is technically still finite, but most good stories don’t require five separate movies to tell it. I’m just sayin’.

Regardless, the interview is worth a read. Just try not to think about the ogre sludge while you’re reading it.

Third time may not be the charm

being a huge Shrek fan, but now the moment of truth has arrived and… I’m nervous. The reviews for Shrek the Third aren’t looking too good. It’s not a huge surprise, I guess, but I’d still hoped for better.

There’s no disguising the fact that Shrek the Third has come down with a bad case of sequelitis. You know the symptoms: Lots of razzle-dazzle to distract from the hole at the center of the story. You know, the place where fresh ideas should be.
Peter Travers
ROLLING STONE

Ouch. It, um, gets worse from there. Even the positive reviews basically warn that it’s more of the same, except less so.

All of which is pretty unfortunate, and greatly decreases my desire to shell out the bucks for a theater viewing. I don’t know; I may have to resort to actual parenting to get my kids to behave this weekend. Hmph.

Now if I could only get the kids to stop watching this, I’d be able to put this entire thing behind me.

We’ll call it a round-up

Every now and then I come across a few things that I think are worth posting about, but none of them are really meaty enough in and of themselves to warrant a full post. Then I end up doing a post like this, where I squash together a bunch of stuff and pretend I totally meant for it to be that way. Just play along.

Item the first: Shrek is trying, people.

Remember how people were getting angry at Shrek for hawking candy and then being a fitness campaign spokesman (spokesogre)? Well, he’s really trying to live a more virtuous life. Honest. Just ask McDonald’s! They’ve got Shrek touting their healthier options:

McDonald’s will use Shrek to feature its salads, milk, apple slices and other products introduced in the last 3 years as the No. 1 restaurant company faced mounting criticism its food was not only unhealthy, but also contributing to the increase in overweight kids in the United States.

A Happy Meal with Apple Dippers, all-white-meat chicken McNuggets, and low-fat milk will be featured in television commercials and on posters in McDonald’s restaurants. Shrek will also appear on packaging for the milk and apples.

Good job, Shrek. I guess there aren’t many campaigns suggesting people just cook their kids a healthy dinner, so, um, way to push the apples.

Item the second: Nickelodeon video game proliferation.

I guess it wasn’t enough that I was going to try to keep my son from finding out about the new Ben 10 video game. Nope, it turns out that there’s going to be a whole slew of upcoming video games based on popular Nick shows. Great. Titles will include games based on cartoon favorites such as Spongebob Squarepants and Avatar, as well as games based on shows like Zoey 101 and Drake & Josh. Whomever has the most teen angst wins! Well, maybe that’s not exactly how it’ll be, but whatever.

Item the third: I hope you didn’t miss it.

Did you make it out for Free Comic Book Day? I hope you did. Even if you didn’t, you have to check out the Talking Shop piece about it over at Newsarama. This thing’s practically got a cult following, and their write-up is superb. An excerpt:

Patrick Brower, general manager of Graham Crackers Comics in downtown Chicago, said there were far more people this year than last. The store had Robert Kirkman signing for a few hours early in the day, particularly his Astounding Wolf-Man title that was offered among the free titles, but Brower said crowds continued after the creator left. “It wound up being our highest grossing Saturday in recent memory, possibly ever, and directly contributed the best single week of sales we’ve ever recorded,” he said.

There you have it. Three unrelated things you didn’t even know you wanted to know. No need to thank me.

Movie news, current and upcoming

What could be better on a Monday morning than an assortment of movie news? Well, yes, I suppose coffee and a donut might improve things, but you’ll have to take care of that on your own. Must I do everything around here? Is it not enough that I show up here every weekday? Hmph. Some people.

(Okay, it’s possible that I need another cup of coffee before I’m fit to interact with others. Hang on. Ahhhh. Much better.)

First up: Spider-Man 3. Hotly anticipated, it opened this weekend to the delight of Spidey fans everywhere. And the verdict is…? A new box office record. Apparently Peter Parker can climb up walls, shoot webs out of his wrists, and earn 148 million dollars on opening weekend. Not too shabby.

Next: Do you like that picture, up there? Aren’t those Shreklings (Shreklets?) adorable? There’s something that makes me giggle about People Magazine doing a spread on ogre babies, but I’ll take it. I suppose we should’ve been able to guess that Shrek the Third was likely to bring triplets to our favorite green couple. (I know I’ve been talking about Shrek a lot, lately. We’ve got less than two weeks before the new movie opens, and then I’ll probably stop.)

One more Shrek tidbit: There’s talk of a Puss in Boots movie. No, really. [Hat tip to Animated News for both of these bits of Shrek news.]

And finally: The Incredible Hulk movie has been underway for a while, now, with the announcement that Edward Norton will play the Hulk now old news. It’s been newly announced, though, that Liv Tyler will play his love interest. Hmmm. I wonder how the real Hulk feels about all of this? Thanks to the miracle of the internet, I probably won’t have to wonder for long. It turns out that the Hulk has a blog. Of course.

Happy Monday!

Shrek under fire for mixed messages

Oh, Shrek. You know I love you. I do. I was just singing your praises a couple of days ago. I appreciate a good flatulence joke. I like to think we understand each other. You continue to make me giggle, and I continue to go see your movies and buy them when they come out on DVD. I try to reserve judgment when it comes to seeing your mug adorning half the foodstuffs at the supermarket, you know, because I understand that you have to make a living. And not everyone can do that just by blogging about cartoons. You’re entitled to do what you need to do.

But now you may have gone too far, Shrek.

It seems that Shrek is slated to be the spokesogre for an ad campaign designed to target childhood obesity. And not everyone is happy about it:

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says the soon-to-open “Shrek the Third” has too many promotional ties with unhealthy foods to justify using Shrek as a health advocate.

“There is an inherent conflict of interest between marketing junk food and promoting public health,” Susan Linn, the group’s director, wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt.

“Surely Health and Human Services can find a better spokesperson for healthy living than a character who is a walking advertisement for McDonald’s, sugary cereals, cookies and candy,” said Linn, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

The article lists the multiple product tie-ins for the upcoming Shrek the Third, and highlights what seems a reasonable query:

“Why would young children follow Shrek’s advice about healthy living and ignore his entreaties to eat Happy Meals and Pop-Tarts?” Linn wrote. “If government agencies are serious about combating childhood obesity, they should stop cozying up to industry and start taking real steps to end the barrage of junk food marketing aimed at children.”

The idealist in me agrees and wishes that my children could have that sort of commercial-free childhood for which the advocates are working. I don’t particularly enjoy food decorated with or—even worse—pressed into the shapes of popular characters.

But the smart-aleck in me would like to point out that Shrek’s love of pop-tarts doesn’t make him an unsuitable voice for a fitness campaign. The fact that he’s got a gigantic beer belly makes him an unsuitable voice for a fitness campaign.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to clear that up for everyone. Carry on.