What about "Rise of the Guardians?" That seems to be something that people assume was the first DreamWorks Animated feature you had a huge hand in.
Listen, "Puss-in-Boots" I had a huge hand in, to a certain degree, in my capacity as creative consultant, so did I in "Kung Fu Panda 2." What happens with 'Guardians' was I was able to be there from the start. And I am very happy with the results. We didn't get a great reaction from the audience, we got massive testing results and a great CinemaScore but for some reason that I will ponder for the rest of my life, the opening weekend they didn't show up. We held fantastically but not enough to remedy the fact that we had a weak opening weekend.
How is your gig at DreamWorks Animation?
I love it. I love working with Jeffrey [Katzenberg]. It's like a second home for me.
I'm so curious as what your [now-defunct] shingle at Disney was going to be like.
Well, I wanted to make scary movies for kids. The irony is that "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" was sort of the first one… and then we got an R-rating, which was a huge blow because that was a movie that was done specifically thinking that this could be enjoyed by kids. So when you see that movie and you get an R-rating... I felt very puzzled.
And it fell apart because you were stuck in New Zealand?
Basically. They picked up [his production shingle] Disney Double Dare You and we were going to launch it and then when I went to New Zealand to do "The Hobbit," they got tired of waiting. Let's put it that way.
Are you interested in returning to smaller films?
Yeah, but it's not like I have two screenplays under my bed. I successfully reached page 25 for "Saturn and the End of Days" and on another [script] I have successfully reached page 45. Those things take years to write. "Devil's Backbone" was like 15 years it took me to make. "Pan's Labyrinth" it took me two or three years to solve the screenplay. I work on them but they are trickier propositions. As soon as I finish the screenplay to one of them, I'll leave everything I have to go make it.
You're in the very early stages of a "Pacific Rim" sequel. If you do that would you shoot it in native 3D?
Yes. Provided, at that point, that the technology is becoming easier and easier…
Initially you didn't want it to be converted…
Even then they were super respectful. By then we were already getting ILM shots. I was realizing that out of 100 shots, maybe 10% of the shots were risky. They said, "If we go 2D on those shots, we can do it." Then I gave them my list of conditions. They spent twice of what they normally spend on [this process], because they gave me the chance to pay ILM to do every single shot in native 3D. They aren't being converted. So all the big 3D effects shots are being done by ILM from the get go. Normally they give a movie a 14 to 16 week conversion time [for 3D]. I started the conversion back in September. So it's six months for conversion. It's very classy.
And you're used to that at DreamWorks Animation?
Oh, at DreamWorks 3D is a religion.
You famously attach yourself to all of these things...
That is actually 50% not true because 50% of the stuff that gets announced never happens because the studio never pursues it and a lot of the stuff never happens. It's enough of a rumor. It's like 'He's doing "Malificent" with Angelina Jolie," nope, never attached, never went to a meeting. For some reason it takes any tiny movement to get an announcement because the blogs are trying to scoop one another. But most of this stuff, I'm lucky if it actually goes into screenplay phase.
"Mama" opens in theaters this weekend, Friday, January 18,