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NAPLES —Bill Damaschke loves actors. That’s a good thing too, because he’s in the business of keeping them employed. Damaschke, the Chief Creative Officer for Dreamworks Animation and Theatricals, talked to the Daily News before the arrival of “Shrek the Musical” in Fort Myers on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
Damaschke, who joined Dreamworks in 1995, has been integrally involved in every one of the studio’s animated offerings from “Shrek” in 2001 to the just-arrived-in-theatres “Puss in Boots.”
At Dreamworks, it all starts with a story, hopefully a great one.
“There are certain things you look for,” Damaschke muses, “great characters and a great story and taking the audience to a world they haven’t been to.”
Even as he reels off the components of a great animated, film, he adds “There’s no one thing. if there was one thing, everybody would do what we did and everybody would be able to make movies.”
Damaschke believes that the very first “Shrek” film – which riffed on fairy tales and hit theaters more than a decade ago in May 2001 – helped define the company’s image.
“It was incredibly irreverent and very funny,” he said. “The movie was seen as being for adults and for kids and for playing on both levels.”
“Shrek,” along with its sequels and films such as “Kung Fu Panda,” “Madagascar,” Monsters vs. Aliens” and “How to Train your Dragon” cemented the studio’s reputation as “irreverent with a lot of heart.”
“Our brand really is incredibly entertaining,” Damaschke said, “its ‘for me as an adult’ and ‘for me as a kid’ and there’s a little bit of sass in there.”
“Shrek” also jumped from movie theaters to Broadway – and lands in Fort Myers this week for an eight-show run at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.
“Shrek” hasn’t been the only DreamWorks property to make the leap from screen to stage. both “Kung Fu Panda” and the critically adored “How to Train your Dragon” are being adapted for arena shows.
“Not all of our titles really are Broadway musicals,” Damaschke said, “but we love entertaining audiences both in a movie theater and in a live space. we thought there was a big opportunity to take the world of ‘Kung Fu Panda’ and the world ‘How to Train your Dragon’ and translate it into something quite unique in the theatrical sense.”
For “How to Train your Dragon,” the company sought out the folks behind the “Walking with Dinosaurs” arena show to bring the world of Viking villages, flying dragons and everything else to life.
You can hear the excitement in Damaschke’s voice as he describes what is being created for “Dragon,” currently in being put together in Australia.
“‘Dragon’ is large-scale, giant, fire-breathing dragons flying and acrobatics and projections,” he said.
DreamWorks is partnering with Cirque du Soleil director Franco Dragone for “Kung Fu Panda Live” – which will be a rolling, tumbling, acrobatic, martial arts themed show.
“People love these characters and love these worlds,” Damaschke said. “On those two in particular, we thought there were great opportunities to work with incredibly creative partners … to bring something new to the live entertainment space.”
While Damaschke loves traditional animation, he says that hand-drawn films appear to have fallen out of favor with audiences.
“Kids, now, grow up staring at iPads, iPods and computers. Their world is very dimensionalized,” he said. “I think they are used to seeing 3D characters from when they are babies.”
Damaschke voice grows animated as he describes one project on the DreamWorks slate, a 2013 project titled “Me and my Shadow.” The project explores what happens when one person’s shadow gets tired of living life in … well … the shadows.
In the film, a shadow who longs for a more exciting life – but who has a boring owner – decides to take over and disobey the Shadow World’s cardinal rule of “They Lead and we Follow.”
“What would happen if one day your shadow that’s been following you around, doing exactly what you do your whole life got up and took over and said I’m not following the rule anymore,” Damaschke asked.
The project would be the first full-length feature film to combine CGI and hand-drawn animation together on screen.
For right now though, Damaschke just wants to keep telling great stories – on stage, on movie screens, in arenas – and keep folks entertained and in love with the Dreamworks brand.
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