Skip to content
Seinfeld's 'Bee Movie' about something
It was supposed to be a yellow-carpet event, meaning it was supposed to be a red-carpet event for an animated picture about honeybees. But for various reasons (scheduling conflicts, said one source; threat of rain, said another) Monday's "Bee Movie" presentation at the downtown AMC River East 21 unrolled no carpet of any color outside the theater. The film's producer, co-writer and star, Jerry Seinfeld, showed up as scheduled (well, a little late; his plane was a little late) along with the film's co-directors Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith. A couple of hundred people saw about 20 minutes' worth of footage, which was preceded by an introduction by Richard Roeper, who made a joke about the TV series "Benson," on which a fledgling Seinfeld briefly appeared, back before Seinfeld was famous and everybody started coming up to him and wondering "what's the deal" and such.
The star of the titanically popular TV series "Seinfeld" has spent most of the last four years focused on "Bee Movie" (with some stand-up comedy gigs thrown in). He relates this axiom from producer Frank Marshall: "There's two stages of animation. Too soon to tell, and too late to do anything about it. And he's kinda right. But that was what intrigued me about it."
As a kid growing up on Long Island, about an hour east of New York City, Seinfeld participated in an unspecified number of insect-related "experiments." "For some reason kids take it upon themselves to study the insect world and take many insect lives in the pursuit of science. I don't know why all kids want to do that."
He says he wanted to avoid certain sounds with "Bee Movie." "No. 1, I did not want to do any of the usual body function-type of puerile humor that they often do in these movies. I thought I gotta be able to do a better job than that. So that was my challenge. I wanted to make kids laugh, but I wasn't going below the waist to do it."
The "Bee Movie" cast includes Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Rip Torn and Megan Mullally. "I recorded with every actor every line of every scene," he says. "I didn't think I could create the comedy I wanted unless it really felt like a conversation. Like the scene with me and Renee [shown Monday]. That's us actually talking. It's not like she was in L.A., I was in New York, and we just edited it together, 'cause that's just ... I can hear that when I watch these movies. And I don't like how it sounds. It sounds ... arid to me. And I wanted it to sound warm."
His early cartoon heroes included Jay Ward's Rocky and Bullwinkle. "That show had more sophisticated things in it. Even if you didn't know what they were talking about, they were just funny. Kids feel funny. You know? They can just feel it. They don't even know what you're talking about but they laugh. Sometimes they laugh when they see you laughing, they don't even know what you're laughing at. I love that about kids."
He and his wife have three, ages 2, 4 and 6. "I don't like being away from 'em. I started my family late [he's now 53], and when you start late you're just much more conscious of time. I don't know if I could put this kind of time into a project again in my life. I don't really see that happening. But you never know. Everything is hard. Anything in show business is hard. I mean, I did kind of feel some pressure from the TV series and certainly wanted to live up to the quality of it.
"The DVD of this movie, I'm telling you, is going to be the greatest DVD. There were so many really good jokes that didn't quite fit. Like there's this whole series of scenes with me and the queen, and me trying to convince her to let me talk to the humans. And we had Megan Mullally play the queen as this completely ditzy, dizzy dame, and she's trying to have sex with him and kill him. 'Cause that's what they do. And he knows it ... there's a lot of good stuff that didn't make it. But the stuff that made it in is better.
"Bee Movie" opens Nov. 2.
IN THE WEB EDITION: To continue the conversation, visit chicagotribune.com/talkingpictures.