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DreamWorks Animation celebrates 20th anniversary in style at Hollywood Bowl

Dreamworks Animation in Concert - Celebrating 20 Years at the Hollywood Bowl. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging
DreamWorks Animation in Concert – Celebrating 20 Years at the Hollywood Bowl. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

DreamWorks Animation began its two-night 20th anniversary celebration in style Friday night at the Hollywood Bowl, featuring live performances of memorable scores from some of the studio’s biggest hits, accompanied by visually stunning film clips on the Bowl’s big screens.

The program, which repeats tonight, was hosted by actor Jack Black who brought plenty of energy, laughs, and comedic segues between each film segment.

But before Black came on stage, the evening began with a montage of DreamWorks films before Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conductor Thomas Wilkins welcomed the audience.

“The word that seems to be running through my mind, and really through my heart these past few weeks, has been the word relationship,” Wilkins said. “You see it in the characters in the films, it appears in the relationship between the music and what you see in the film, which is a very special relationship by the way, because the composers have to write music that doesn’t get in the way, but is compelling enough to make us feel a certain way about what we are watching.”

Jack Black
Actor Jack Black was host of both evenings. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

After a few more remarks, Wilkins then introduced Black, who walked onto the stage while letting out a loud “Wassupppp!”

“Now that montage was pretty awesome,” Black said. “Can you believe 29 movies in 20 years, 12 Golden Globe nominations, 15 Academy Award nominations, three Academy Award wins – and that aint too shabby.”

Black said it felt amazing to be on the same stage where The Beatles had once played.

“The Beatles were on this stage, rocking these boards,” he said. “But I’m not here to talk about the fab four. This evening wouldn’t been possible without the fab three – that would be those lads called Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen – the SKG of DreamWorks.”

The crowd erupted into laughter after Black asked Katzenberg to stand up in his seat, which was in the back row of the first level of garden boxes.

“Brother, that’s where they put you?” Black said. “Talk to me – I’ll hook you up with some front row seats. I know a guy who can hook you up. I know the guy behind the guy.”

Conductor Thomas Wilkins leads the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging
Conductor Thomas Wilkins leads the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

After the laughs died down, Black spoke about how he’d been part of the DreamWorks Animation family for more than 10 years.

He said he was honored to celebrate these movies at the Bowl, saying “isn’t this an awesome joint?”

“It combines my two favorite things – music and eating,” Black said. “Just like one of my scenes from the original Kung Fu Panda that takes place in ancient China where a giant panda – that’s me – is trained by an aging kung fu master – that’s Dustin Hoffman – in order to battle a fierce and possibility unstoppable opponent. Composers Hans Zimmer and John Powell gave us the sound of the far east in their music, augmenting the traditional orchestra with authentic Chinese instruments.”

Both composers were welcomed to the stage before the Orchestra played their original score for Kung Fu Panda.

After the clip, Black joked it took him six months to master the perfect kung fu grunt.

“I think it shows in the work, don’t you?” he said. “Professional grunting isn’t my only talent – some of you might know I’m in a band, Tenacious D.”

He tried breaking into a song before Wilkins cut him off.

Jack Black embraces Hans Zimmer. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging
Jack Black embraces Hans Zimmer. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

“Thomas, what? Time? I was just getting to the good part,” Black pleaded. “If there’s no time for me to sing, then there’s definitely no time to list all the awards that Hans Zimmer has won in his illustrious career.”

As Black welcomed back Zimmer to the stage (calling it the long walk of embarrassment while he talked about how “awesome” Zimmer was), Black told the audience that Zimmer had been a part of the DreamWorks Animation family since its inception and had scored 10 films for the studio. Zimmer spoke briefly about The Prince of Egypt and the dream Jeffrey Katzenberg shared with him 20 years ago.

“I was there in the beginning,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t have paper clips — we didn’t have anything. Part of his dream was to make this incredible movie called The Prince of Egypt. He invited Stephen Schwartz to come in and the two of us wrestled with this daunting subject – but it was always the three of us as Jeffrey was always there. The thing started as a dream, sometimes it was work, but it was a dream that worked out.”

Singer Judith Hill. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging
Singer Judith Hill. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

Singer Judith Hill then walked on stage to join the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra to perform “When You Believe,” by Stephen Schwartz, while scenes from The Prince of Egypt were shown on the Bowl’s big screens.

After the clip, Black joked The Prince of Egypt was an epic tale based on the exodus in which the Jews tried to find their way home.

“It was so successful that DreamWorks would later make another film about another Jew trying to get home, Alex the Lion, voiced by Ben Stiller in Madagascar,” Black said. “Alex and his friends from Central Park Zoo find themselves marooned on an island, and in the sequels Africa and Europe. Once again DreamWorks turned to Hans Zimmer to supply a boisterous score, so please enjoy Hans’ Madagascar suite – set to a montage of scenes from all three Madagascar films.”

After the clip, Black playfully engaged with Wilkins.

“Tom-ass? Can I call you Tom-ass?” Black wisecracked.

“No,” Wilkins responded bluntly.

“Tom-ass… I feel like we’re a little ahead, are we running ahead on time? Do I need to vamp? I could sing maybe ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in its entirety?” Black asked.

“Do it Sunday,” Wilkins responded. “This time Sunday would be perfect.”

“Thomas, if it was called ‘Bohemian Catsody’ and it was a new DreamWorks film I bet we would find the time,” Black said. “Wait a second, Jeffrey, that’s a good idea. ‘Bohemian Catsody,’ a free spirited tabby and an uptight purebred put a band together… Come on, a lot of great movies are about unlikely friendships. No? Not interested? You’ve already got a cat movie? I knew it.”

Black segued into introducing the next clip of the night from Puss in Boots.

“Composer Henry Jackman’s guitars and trumpets flourish to help transport us to the mystical San Ricardo, and especially to the cantina where an all kitty band plays for our hero and his mysterious nemesis through a memorial dance fight,” Black said.

A clip from 'How to Train Your Dragon' on the big screen. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging
A clip from ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ on the big screen. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

After the clip from Puss in Boots, Wilkins spoke to the audience about back-to-back clips from How to Train Your Dragon and its sequel that were next up as part of the evening.

“We meet the young Hiccup and the dragon Toothless,” Wilkins said. “We see them twice – first in the beginning of this very sweet relationship from How to Train Your Dragon and then we jump over to the end of How to Train Your Dragon 2, as we see that speaking of relationships how the manifestation of that beautiful relationship results in them combining forces to sort of defeat the forces of evil with their forces of good. You can probably imagine the music will therefore be a very integral part of telling the story, and the folks at DreamWorks turned again to John Powell who was honored with an Academy Award nomination for the original Dragon film. With the music from Dragon 2, it deepens the story of the relationship between these two characters.”

After intermission, Wilkins walked to center stage and began to clean furiously while joking three guest conductors who were “more famous” than him were about to come on stage.

'The Croods.' Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging
‘The Croods.’ Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

First up was Alan Silvestri who conducted the theme from the film The Croods, which he scored.

A montage of some of the original artwork was show, followed by the film’s opening chase scene.

After the clip, the USC marching band entered the stage, including Jack Black dressed in a USC uniform.

The banter between Black and Wilkins continued, with Black mentioning the band had played on Fleetwood Mac’s classic album Tusk, and that it was only fitting that he sing a song from the album, but before he could, Wilkins cut him off.

Black launched in another of his amusing segues to the next film.

“Thomas – I was just getting started, party pooper,” Black said. “I even had my college drum major uniform dry cleaned for the occasion – it still fits by the way. Some people may need a time machine to fit in their old clothes. Ahhhhh time. Does time exist? Is it truly linear or is it more programmed to think of as a relativistic time continuum – that’s some deep sauce. Perhaps best pondered not by me, but by a genius dog named Mr. Peabody and the boy he adopted, Sherman. These beloved characters from the classic Rocky and Bullwinkle series in the 1960s returned earlier this year in an adventure that was even greater than the usual challenge for the composer, as their time traveling antics required music appropriate to ancient Egypt, the Italian renaissance, and the Trojan war.”

Black asked Mr. Peabody and Sherman composer Danny Elfman to stand in the audience to be acknowledged before the clip got under way.

Alexandre Desplat. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging
Alexandre Desplat. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

For the next part of the evening, Wilkins welcomed the second legendary composer, Alexandre Desplat, who traveled from Paris to be part of the DreamWorks celebration.

Desplat conducted music from Rise of the Guardians.

“How do you say fantastic in French? Fantastishhh?” Black said after Desplat finished conducting music to a clip of the film.

“Marvelous,” Desplat responded before leaving the stage.

Black then told the audience that he had been saving the “biggest and greenest to last.”

“In 2001, DreamWorks Animation released Shrek, which went on to win the first Academy Award for best animated feature film,” Black said. “For more than a decade, we have followed the adventures of this kind-hearted Ogre, his princess Fiona, their annoying pal Donkey, and their ever extended family. It’s a fairy tale with endless twists, and a very modern sensibility as well as demanding music to properly convey the magic, the romance, and the thrill of the chase. Please welcome the Ogre with one name, and to conduct a new suite from his music from all four Shrek films, the composer with three names: Harry Gregson-Williams.”

A montage of clips from 'Shrek' concluded the evening. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging
A montage of clips from ‘Shrek’ was a highlight of the evening. Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

After the entertaining Shrek montage, Black welcomed to the stage all the composers whose music was played during the event including Hans Zimmer, John Powell, Alan Silvestri, Alexandre Desplat, Harry Gregson-Williams, Danny Elfman, Stephen Schwartz, and others.

Hill returned to the stage for the finale to sing “Hallelujah” and then “I’m A Believer” with Black, all while fireworks lit up the sky above the Bowl.

DreamWorks Animation in Concert – Celebrating 20 Years is a continuation of the Hollywood Bowl’s tradition of partnering with neighboring film studios and organizations to produce unique events. In recent years, this has included a Paramount Pictures 100th anniversary show, an 85th anniversary concert for Warner Bros and a 75th anniversary concert for Twentieth Century Fox.

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