Dreaming of a Healthy Planet with DreamWorks Animation

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg accepts the Global Conservation Hero award from CI leadership.

L-R: President Dr. Russell Mittermeier, Vice Chair Harrison Ford, and Peter Seligmann from Conservation International present Jeffrey Katzenberg and DreamWorks Animation with the Global Conservation Hero award at a gala dinner in Los Angeles, May 16, 2011.

“As we go back to our jobs at DreamWorks Animation, we can be sure that we will be able to continue emulating nature because Conservation International is so hard at work protecting it.”

That’s a quote from none other than DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who said those words Monday night as he accepted Conservation International’s Global Conservation Hero award on behalf of his colleagues at the trailblazing film production studio.

CI gives the award on special occasions to a person or organization that has gone above and beyond in support of CI’s efforts around the world. This year, we honored DreamWorks Animation for its special contribution to what is almost certainly the world’s best known flagship species: the giant panda of China.

Gathered in the elegant, Asian-themed ballroom of the Beverly Hills Montage Hotel, more than 200 philanthropists and conservationists from across the entertainment, business and publishing industries — along with “Po,” the Kung Fu Panda — came out to help Conservation International honor Katzenberg and hear about CI’s new mission and vision.

(Want to see photos from the event — including Po, the Kung Fu Panda, on the “bamboo carpet”? Click here.)

‘This is truly a rare moment’

The recognition followed DreamWorks Animation’s 2008 investment in CI’s work in Sichuan, China, to help track, monitor and protect wild populations of endangered giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), following the success of the DreamWorks film Kung Fu Panda. Funding for our joint three-year Panda Survival Plan also supported the basic needs of thousands of Chinese people whose communities were shattered in the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

On stage, CI founder and CEO Peter Seligmann described the extraordinary gifts that nature gives us and the “open defining moment” now facing us.

“This is truly a rare moment, a moment of innovation, a moment of new solutions,” Peter told the crowd. “We have never had so many leaders recognizing that protecting the services that nature freely provides us is in their enlightened self interest.”

But Peter also described the daunting challenges of a global population that’s estimated to reach a staggering 9 billion people in just 40 years, adding, “Our children have a freight train coming at them, and we have a responsibility to divert that train.”

Emulating — and protecting — nature

Presenting the award to Jeffrey Katzenberg on behalf of DreamWorks Animation were CI President Dr. Russell Mittermeier and Vice Chairman Harrison Ford — who, earlier in the evening, posed for pictures on a “bamboo carpet”‘ with Po, for a crush of media photographers.

Katzenberg explained how his company’s commitment to nature grew out of its work.

“At DreamWorks Animation, we’ve become environmentally aware because we spend so much of our time trying to emulate nature,” he said. “We know how many pixels are needed to make fur look realistic because the real thing is at our disposal.”

He added, “It will always be a challenge to match the beauty and splendor of our natural planet. Because of so many Conservation International projects, we can be confident that we won’t have to glimpse this splendor through emulation.”

Past recipients of Conservation International’s Global Conservation Hero Award include former World Bank President Jim Wolfensohn, for his vision in ensuring that environmental considerations were factored into the agenda for global economic development; Anderson Cooper and CNN’s Planet in Peril team, for their groundbreaking coverage of some of the most under-reported environmental stories of our day; and Walmart, for its groundbreaking sustainability initiatives.

Kim McCabe is CI’s media director.

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