Los Angeles Times
Sunday, May 9, 1999 Home Edition Section: Opinion Piece Page: M-3
The Jaundiced Eye;
Judgment at Katzenberg;
By: Rick Moranis and Howard Kaminsky Rick Moranis is a writer and actor who starred in Walt Disney's "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." Howard Kaminsky is a novelist, coauthor of "The Twelve," which will be out this fall
The trial of Jeffrey Katzenberg versus the Walt Disney Co. has attracted enormous attention, partly because it is being held in open court. Katzenberg contends that the Disney Co. owes him at least $250 million based on a promise of a 2% profit in films that were produced while he was studio head. The following are excerpts from pretrial depositions. Louis Meisinger (lawyer for Disney): Could you state your address, please? Mickey Mouse: I live at 2738 Annette Funicello Drive. You want the zip?
Meisinger: Do you know Mr. Jeffrey Katzenberg?
Mickey: You bet! He calls me every day. He gave me my own PalmPilot! Yippee!!!
Meisinger: Did Mr. Katzenberg ever tell you about an agreement he had with Mr. Eisner about profit participation?
Mickey: Oh, Uncle Mike wouldn't give away money. Besides, he's already made all of us soooo rich! Sure, the stock price is a little low lately, but Uncle Mike's not the only one who didn't see the Internet coming. Hey, let's have a parade!
Bertram Fields (lawyer for Katzenberg): Don't be nervous.
Porky Pig: Who sass-says I-I-I'm n-n-n-n-n-nervous?
Fields: Did Jeffrey Katzenberg ever tell you he was a participant in the revenues of Disney's movies?
Porky: Ah y-y-y, ah y-y-y-y, ah YES!
Porky: On ah at ah at th-th-th- ah the ah the rr-r-r-r-retreat. The retreat!
Fields: A Disney retreat? Aren't you a Warner character?
Porky: Ah it it-it-it's c-c-c-c-called ah ah ah T-T-T-T-Time-Warner now!
Fields: Mr. Pig. If I may: Did you attend a retreat at the home of Herbert Allen Jr. in 1993 with Mr. Katzenberg and several other prominent entertainment executives including Mr. Barry Diller and Mr. David Geffen, at which time you and several other Warner, sorry, Time-Warner characters began negotiating with Mr. Katzenberg for the possibility of moving your deals over to Disney with the expressed purpose of sharing in the gross revenues of future projects?
Porky: C-c-c-can I tt-tt-take the uh fi-fi-fi-fi- the uh fifth?
Meisinger: So even you had only a net position?
Goofy: Everybody's got his or her own situation. The only thing that's favored nations is video. We haven't been able to crack that. There was a rumor that Mulan had a different definition of distribution costs, but it doesn't matter now. She blew her brains out on legal fees, for what? The picture tanked. She lost her office, her development deal, her sequel . . . . They gave her parking spot to Dopey. God, it's a brutal business.
Meisinger: To your knowledge, did Mr. Katzenberg have a piece of the profits?
Goofy: Look, I love Jeffrey. And I wish him well at DreamWorks. I hope someday to direct, you know. And if there's anyone in this town that would give me a shot, it's Jeffrey. He respects new directors, you know. Not to mention that I would benefit from having Steven look at my dailies and David help with my soundtrack. This town is about relationships. I don't want to hurt Jeffrey and Marilyn. They're dear friends. Besides, there are more important issues now. There's an election coming, you know. Besides, he wants 250 for 10 years of getting here at 5 in the morning for chrissakes. Ovitz got $100 mil for what? A week and a half?
Meisinger: Tell me about your relationship with Jeffrey.
Minnie Mouse: I'd been alone for so long. Mickey was a studio thing. Walt was worried about all the rumors, so he arranged to have us marry. Mickey and I were divorced right after "Fantasia," but we kept it quiet for Walt. My name isn't even Minnie. It just sounded better with Mickey. My real name is Ivana.
Meisinger: What did Jeffrey tell you?
Minnie: That I should have had a prenup. And . . . that . . . he would always look after me. He drove me around in that cute car with those big glasses.
Meisinger: Did he ever talk about profit participation?
Minnie: He said he wanted to do for me what he did for Bette. You know, bottom fishing, he called it. He said he'd take me to Broadway. "Minnie's Boys," or something. Oh, it's so hard for women in this town. When I think of the lies . . . all the time I spent with Warren--and then Madonna got that part. Oh, I wish I could have the years back.
Fields: So you're saying it's just not done.
Simba: Never. No way. C'mon Bert, you know that. You represented me on that deal. They just don't do it. Not Cruise, not Hanks, not even Dumbo can get a clean piece of the gross, and he's huge!
Fields: What about outside the standard contract.
Fields: Aren't there occasions where an overriding agreement will be covered in a side letter, or secondary contract?
Simba: Bert, don't do this.
Fields: Are you, yourself, not in negotiations with Disney right now, to develop several film and television projects under your own Lion King banner? What about "Jungle Golf" for ESPN? Are you saying you have no ownership in that series?
Simba: You're fired!
Fields: Are you not about to settle your own suit over the "Tarzan" remake in which you contend . . . .
Meisinger: Mr. Duck, do you believe that Mr. Katzenberg is entitled to a percentage of the profits?
Donald Duck: Cfkgvnwoc akfodma slvms elfjx d skjmcslprjndfs jv se!
Interpreter for Mr. Duck: Do the names "Swing Kids" and "Newsies" mean anything?
Clerk: And do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Pinocchio: Um . . . yes?
Fields: Describe your relationship to Mr. Katzenberg.
Chip: Dale and I are very fond of Katz 'n' Berg.
Fields: Were you aware at any time that Mr. Katz 'n' Berg had a participation agreement with Mr. Eisner?
Chip: Frankly, Bert, I can't believe we've allowed it to get to this. Jeffrey should be given the keys to the Magic Kingdom as far as I'm concerned. This is about egos, not profits. You see this damn costume. It's 160 degrees in here. I'm not complaining. You know why? 'Cause it's better than being in a factory in Bangladesh sewing polyester Dalmatians for a buck a week, that's why. Jack said it best, Bert: You can't handle the truth! None of you can! Sure we thought things might change after the Buchwald case, but who were we kidding? You know what Dale said last night just before we went to sleep, Bert? He said . . . or wait . . . she said . . . oh it doesn't matter. Dale said, "May God bless Garry Shandling."*