Steve Hickner
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Steve Hickner

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The best kept secret in music

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"Steve Hickner: Beeing There"

Conard Grad Found His Dream Job On Dreamworks Staff
October 28, 2007|By RON DICKER; Special to The Courant
Wherever you are, Mr. Myers from Conard High School in West Hartford, Steve Hickner would like to thank you. Without your counsel, Hickner might not have been co-director of "Bee Movie," the animated comedy opening Friday. He might not have had the chance to trade jokes with the film's creator, Jerry Seinfeld. He wouldn't be interviewed by his hometown paper, either.

Hickner recalls by phone that in his junior year, he did a paper for Mr. Myers, an English and film studies teacher, about cartoons. Says Hickner, "Mr. Myers wrote, 'See me' at the top of a piece of paper, and I flipped out, thinking I'm in trouble. And the next day he said, 'You know what? You might be interested in trying animation.' "


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With the determination of Elmer Fudd hunting Bugs Bunny, Hickner pursued his passion. He graduated from New York University (with a stopover at Florida State) and moved to Los Angeles in 1979. That's when he got his first big break, a job at Filmation. He then moved up the ladder in one of the industry's more intimate niches, working as a production coordinator on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988). Within 10 years, he was at the helm of "The Prince of Egypt" (1998), the first tent pole under Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks regime.

In 2004, Seinfeld came calling. An idea the comedian offered up as a lark to Steven Spielberg over lunch gained traction: a movie about a bee called "Bee Movie." Dreamworks Animation head Katzenberg bit immediately, introducing Seinfeld to several candidates for director. Seinfeld chose Hickner and Simon J. Smith. (Animated features often have a directing team.)

"Steve is totally dedicated to what he's working on," Seinfeld says. "I hate these kinds of writers or directors that never have an idea until you sit down and say, 'We need an idea.' Steven would come in like, 'You know, I was thinking about the movie in the shower, thinking about the movie in the car.' He was just so focused on it."

Hickner, a spritely 50-year-old with ringlets of brown hair, called the three-year collaboration "winning the lottery."

Seinfeld, the writer and lead voice of Barry B. Benson, knew as much about animation as George Costanza knew about tact, so he leaned on Hickner. The sitcom giant received a tutorial in computer story-boarding and other technical matters. But Seinfeld still directed the actors and was the final arbiter of what was funny. Hey, he's Jerry Seinfeld, and it's his baby and his premise: An enlightened bee sues humans for eating the bees' honey.

Hickner recalls that when he offered a line that didn't pass muster, Seinfeld would crack that he had already dropped his popcorn and was walking out of the theater. Hickner might not be a standup comic and pop-culture icon, but he held his own. Seinfeld credits the director with infusing many of the funny bits. Hickner says Seinfeld didn't care where the good ideas came from, as long as they came.

"Steve has an incredible ability to analyze a story problem and really explain it very succinctly," says Smith, the co-director.

There were moments when the duo had to inform Seinfeld that some of his gags weren't getting laughs, which is like telling Roger Federer that his forehand could use a little work. But Hickner and Smith managed it with diplomacy, barking, "You're Jerry Seinfeld, and that's the best line you can come up with? Well, that's up to you. It's your movie."


Hickner recently completed a nationwide press tour with Seinfeld that focused mostly on the creator (lowercase "c," though in show business, one never knows). This is Hickner's moment.

"He's very high up on our list of graduates and their achievements," says Conard Principal Tom Moore, who mentioned actor James Naughton among the school's other show-business alums.

There is one part of the job that Hickner avoids. "I'm colorblind, so I delegated all my color decisions to Simon," he says.

As for his Connecticut roots, he keeps in contact with his many cousins who live in the Hartford area. His father died a long time ago, and his mother moved to North Carolina. The director and his wife call L.A. home.

Hickner built his rOsumO on the West Coast with producing credits on "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West" (1991), "We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story" (1993) and "Joseph: King of Dreams" (2000). He has been in DreamWorks' stable since the beginning. Hickner keeps a photo of the original 35 employees. That number has grow - Hartford Courant


"Steve Hickner: Beeing There"

Conard Grad Found His Dream Job On Dreamworks Staff
October 28, 2007|By RON DICKER; Special to The Courant
Wherever you are, Mr. Myers from Conard High School in West Hartford, Steve Hickner would like to thank you. Without your counsel, Hickner might not have been co-director of "Bee Movie," the animated comedy opening Friday. He might not have had the chance to trade jokes with the film's creator, Jerry Seinfeld. He wouldn't be interviewed by his hometown paper, either.

Hickner recalls by phone that in his junior year, he did a paper for Mr. Myers, an English and film studies teacher, about cartoons. Says Hickner, "Mr. Myers wrote, 'See me' at the top of a piece of paper, and I flipped out, thinking I'm in trouble. And the next day he said, 'You know what? You might be interested in trying animation.' "


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All New Adobe Presenter 9
Create Self-Running, Rich Media Presentations. Try It Free Now!
www.Adobe.com/Presenter

With the determination of Elmer Fudd hunting Bugs Bunny, Hickner pursued his passion. He graduated from New York University (with a stopover at Florida State) and moved to Los Angeles in 1979. That's when he got his first big break, a job at Filmation. He then moved up the ladder in one of the industry's more intimate niches, working as a production coordinator on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988). Within 10 years, he was at the helm of "The Prince of Egypt" (1998), the first tent pole under Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks regime.

In 2004, Seinfeld came calling. An idea the comedian offered up as a lark to Steven Spielberg over lunch gained traction: a movie about a bee called "Bee Movie." Dreamworks Animation head Katzenberg bit immediately, introducing Seinfeld to several candidates for director. Seinfeld chose Hickner and Simon J. Smith. (Animated features often have a directing team.)

"Steve is totally dedicated to what he's working on," Seinfeld says. "I hate these kinds of writers or directors that never have an idea until you sit down and say, 'We need an idea.' Steven would come in like, 'You know, I was thinking about the movie in the shower, thinking about the movie in the car.' He was just so focused on it."

Hickner, a spritely 50-year-old with ringlets of brown hair, called the three-year collaboration "winning the lottery."

Seinfeld, the writer and lead voice of Barry B. Benson, knew as much about animation as George Costanza knew about tact, so he leaned on Hickner. The sitcom giant received a tutorial in computer story-boarding and other technical matters. But Seinfeld still directed the actors and was the final arbiter of what was funny. Hey, he's Jerry Seinfeld, and it's his baby and his premise: An enlightened bee sues humans for eating the bees' honey.

Hickner recalls that when he offered a line that didn't pass muster, Seinfeld would crack that he had already dropped his popcorn and was walking out of the theater. Hickner might not be a standup comic and pop-culture icon, but he held his own. Seinfeld credits the director with infusing many of the funny bits. Hickner says Seinfeld didn't care where the good ideas came from, as long as they came.

"Steve has an incredible ability to analyze a story problem and really explain it very succinctly," says Smith, the co-director.

There were moments when the duo had to inform Seinfeld that some of his gags weren't getting laughs, which is like telling Roger Federer that his forehand could use a little work. But Hickner and Smith managed it with diplomacy, barking, "You're Jerry Seinfeld, and that's the best line you can come up with? Well, that's up to you. It's your movie."


Hickner recently completed a nationwide press tour with Seinfeld that focused mostly on the creator (lowercase "c," though in show business, one never knows). This is Hickner's moment.

"He's very high up on our list of graduates and their achievements," says Conard Principal Tom Moore, who mentioned actor James Naughton among the school's other show-business alums.

There is one part of the job that Hickner avoids. "I'm colorblind, so I delegated all my color decisions to Simon," he says.

As for his Connecticut roots, he keeps in contact with his many cousins who live in the Hartford area. His father died a long time ago, and his mother moved to North Carolina. The director and his wife call L.A. home.

Hickner built his rOsumO on the West Coast with producing credits on "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West" (1991), "We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story" (1993) and "Joseph: King of Dreams" (2000). He has been in DreamWorks' stable since the beginning. Hickner keeps a photo of the original 35 employees. That number has grow - Hartford Courant


"Animating Your Career to Debut in Fall 2013"

Release about my upcoming book. - Compass Publishing


"Animating Your Career to Debut in Fall 2013"

Release about my upcoming book. - Compass Publishing


Discography

FILMOGRAPHY

DIRECTOR:

DreamWorks:
Bee Movie (2007)
The Prince of Egypt (1998)

PRODUCER/EXECUTIVE PRODUCER:

DreamWorks:
Joseph: King of Dreams (2000) (Home Video)

Amblimation (Steven Spielberg)/Universal Pictures:
Balto (1995)
We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (1993)
An American Tail II: Fievel Goes West (1991)

STORYBOARD:

DreamWorks:
Home (2014)
Peabody and Sherman (2014)
Book of Dragons (2011) DVD
Shrek Forever After (2010)
Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five (2008) DVD
Over the Hedge (2006)
Madagascar (2005)
SharkTale (2004)
The Road to El Dorado (1999)
Antz (1998)
Shrek 4D (Universal Studios Ride, 2003)

Other Feature Films worked on:

Walt Disney Animation:
The Little Mermaid (1988)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1987)
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
The Black Cauldron (1985)

Many hours of Television Animation including:

Ziggy’s Gift (1982) (Christmas Special) Emmy Award, Kung Fu Panda Holiday (2010),
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Father of the Pride, Tarzan, Zorro, Blackstar, Shazam!, Pac Man, The Dukes, Kangaroo; many others

AUTHOR:

Animating Your Career (Fall, 2013)

LECTURED AT:

The Dubai International Film Festival (2007)
The Zagreb International Film Festival (2007)
CSU Media Arts Festival; CSU, Channel Islands (2008)
Mission Viejo Arts Festival (2012)

New York University
University of Southern California
California Institute of the Arts
Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning
Ringling College of Art and Design
Brigham Young University
San Jose State University
San Francisco State University
California State University, Northridge
California State University, Fullerton
Creative Talent Network Animation Expo
California State University, Fullerton
CREO Institute

AWARDS:

Animafest Zagreb, Audience Award, Bee Movie
Critics Choice Award, Best Animated Feature, Bee Movie. (Nomination)
Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, Favorite Animated Movie, Bee Movie (Nomination) Annie Award, Best Animated Feature, Bee Movie (Nomination)
Annie Award, Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing, The Prince of Egypt (Nomination)
Movie Guide Award, Epiphany Prize, The Prince of Egypt
Best Animated Video Premiere, Joseph: King of Dreams

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Inducted Member 2010

Photos

Bio

Steve Hickner has spent the past thirty years working at some of the most fabled studios in animation, including DreamWorks, Disney, Amblimation (Steven Spielberg), Aardman, Hanna-Barbera, and Filmation. He has worked on both the production and artistic sides of the process, serving as producer on such films as American Tail II: Fievel Goes West, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, and Balto. His director credits include Bee Movie and The Prince of Egypt.

In addition, he has contributed to such feature films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Little Mermaid, The Great Mouse Detective, Antz, Shark Tale, Madagascar, Over the Hedge, Shrek Forever After, and the upcoming 2014 releases, Peabody and Sherman and Home. His television credits include such favorites as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.

In the Fall of 2013, his book, "Animating Your Career"-- an in-the-trenches survival guide to getting into the entertainment business-- and staying in, will be released.

He has been a guest speaker at many colleges and universities, film festivals and animation events.