Jeffrey Katzenberg Uses Shrek to Rip His Old Boss
Shrek is about as harmless as movies get -- it's 90 minutes of pop culture references that were already dated in 2001, with jokes just bawdy enough to make the 13-year-olds in the audience think they were being subversive. You wouldn't assume the whole thing was the culmination of a petty feud between rich Hollywood power brokers, but ...
Disney hits like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid warm otherwise stone-cold hearts to this day. Disney chairmen Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg were behind these blockbuster titles, but while they enjoyed success together, they didn't enjoy being together. That sounds like the premise for a Disney sitcom, but sadly, the reality is uglier. When Disney's second-in-command died in a helicopter crash (rich people die differently than we do), Katzenberg seemed the obvious choice to take his place. Instead, Eisner fired him. Katzenberg left Disney in 1994, humiliated and litigious guns a-blazing. He brought a nasty suit against Eisner and Disney, claiming they owed him over $382 million in bonus payments (rich people also sue differently than we do).
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But he looks so chill in this picture! Wait, never mind, he's on the right.
In court, Eisner had to admit that he once said of Katzenberg, "I hate the little midget," while his lawyers argued that Katzenberg was a terrible executive who didn't know his ass from his Mickey ears. Katzenberg's lawyers argued the money was withheld because Eisner hated their client, and Katzenberg openly called Eisner a psycho. All in all, it was less of the serious legal matter you'd expect from rich people, and more like a lost episode of Judge Judy.
The suit was settled privately, but Katz didn't twiddle his thumbs and wait for wheelbarrows of cash to show up on his doorstep. He was busy founding DreamWorks, and he poached Disney artists to do it. DreamWorks and Disney went head to head several times, but Katzenberg and his studio scored one huge hit over Eisner with Shrek, which doubled as a giant groin-grab from Katzenberg to Eisner.
It was also the last known sighting of Eddie Murphy's sense of humor.