Jeffrey Katzenberg talks Quibi, his greatest inspirations, and the future of storytelling
Jeffrey Katzenberg sees Quibi as nothing less than the evolution of storytelling. Short for "quick bites," the platform (set to launch Monday, April 6) is a streaming service like no other, available only on mobile devices and stocked with content in installments of 10 minutes or less, all for $4.99 per month with ads or $7.99 without them.
"The ambition here is to bring great storytelling to this new video platform," says Katzenberg, 69. "We've had two places, up until a few years ago, that we watched great film narrative… the movie theater and the TV set. Why can't we now have original content that is conceived specifically for on-the-go viewing on your phone?"
That content will take three forms: Movies in Chapters (exactly what it sounds like); short unscripted series and documentaries; and Daily Essentials, news and lifestyle programming in quick-bite form. EW's own late-night recap show, Last Night's Late Night with host Heather Gardner, will run every weekday morning on Quibi starting April 6. (For more on Quibi's slate of programming, check out our list of everything in the works for the streaming service.)
Of course, Quibi is just the latest chapter in a storied career for Katzenberg, who got his start as an assistant at Paramount and went on to oversee Disney's resurgence in the late '80s and early '90s, before cofounding DreamWorks SKG with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in 1994. Below, Katzenberg reveals some of his greatest inspirations throughout his life and career.
Pinocchio is one of the first movies Katzenberg remembers seeing, and he looked to the animation legend for inspiration while helping to run the mogul's eponymous company. "It's incredible how someone I never met could be such a presence in my life," he says. "His words and his work opened up my world to a level of pure creativity I never imagined."
Lawrence of Arabia
David Lean's "ultimate big-screen epic," released when the New York native was 12, showed him "what limitless ambition in great film narrative can achieve."
Katzenberg became Diller's assistant in the 1970s, and he cites the former Paramount chairman as one of his most important mentors. "He created a unique environment in which risk-taking was encouraged and failure wasn't fatal," Katzenberg says.
Paramount released Francis Ford Coppola's iconic gangster opus a few years before Katzenberg started at the studio, and it remains a favorite of his. "It's an epic story about family, and the mix of relationships, strained bonds, conflict and caring, love and loss, that all families actually share in common," he notes. "So you have both a dazzling epic and yet a deeply emotional experience in one, [which] really makes it one of the greats of all time."
"My travels to Africa, China, and Norway directly resulted in movies about lions, panthers, and dragons." Katzenberg says. "I first went to Africa in my very young 20s, and I saw a place that one day became Pride Rock, and met two people named Pumbaa and Timon who became movie stars."
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Robert Zemeckis' 1988 film, which Katzenberg oversaw at Disney, helped spark the studio's 1990s renaissance. As Katzenberg notes, "It reminded the world that animation isn't just for kids." It also partnered him with Spielberg, who executive produced Roger Rabbit, for the first time.
Directed by Spielberg, the 1993 Holocaust drama remains "seared" in Katzenberg's memory, "because it deals with a moment in one's life when you have to make a choice and take responsibility for your actions."
"I have been partnered with the greatest friend and love of my life, my wife, for 50 years. And I can't imagine there's anything I do or make in which she hasn't been an influence on me," Katzenberg says with a chuckle. "I know this sounds incredibly old-fashioned, but in my case it happens to be true."
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