Movies.ie went behind the scenes of this animated hit to gather these eye opening facts…
* It took four years to make “Bee Movie” and over one million man hours to animate it, with an estimated 25 million render hours used during the course of the production…that’s five times more than the original “Shrek.”
* Now THAT’S a lot of BEES! It is no exaggeration to say that the animation team created upwards of one million bees for “Bee Movie,” specifically in the sequence where the bees help to land the jet. Around 750,000 bees carry the plane, and about 350,000 bees form the flower pattern on the ground. In the five or so shots where these groups are together, more than 1,000,000 million bees are onscreen.
* Jeffrey Katzenberg had been trying to convince Jerry Seinfeld for more than 12 years to be in an animated film, but Seinfeld wasn’t really interested in acting in a movie – even an animated one. Then one night over dinner with his Hamptons neighbor, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, a break in the conversation resulted in Seinfeld announcing that he had an idea for an animated film called “BEE Movie”. Steven loved the idea and the title and immediately phoned Katzenberg after dinner telling him to get a hold of Seinfeld ASAP. The deal was done before Jerry even knew it, and the four-year journey of making “BEE Movie” had begun
* Jerry Seinfeld has always been fascinated with bees: their shape, color, the fact that they create something as amazing as honey (they are only bugs after all). He wondered how bees would react if they knew that humans were taking and selling their invaluable product…and that’s where the idea for “Bee Movie”’s storyline came from.
* Jerry Seinfeld was not overly familiar with the animation process, so Jeffrey Katzenberg gave him a crash course—Making Animated Movies 101—and mentored him through production. Seinfeld later described the process to being given a sandbox and told that you could shape and mold its contents into absolutely anything…with one catch: you’re given one grain of sand at a time and it would take four years to make it!
* In early stages of design, Barry looked like Jerry Seinfeld as a bee dressed in a sweater, but all felt the design wasn’t quite right…so filmmakers took Barry in a slightly different direction, as in rounder and sillier-looking. That proved to be the ticket. However, it took between 800 and 900 designs before the final Barry was found.
* How to catch a florist—A longtime fan of Renée Zellweger, Seinfeld immediately thought of her for the role of Vanessa. Since the two had never met, Jeffrey Katzenberg conveniently sat them next to each other at the 2004 New York premiere of Shark Tale in Central Park, where the idea was pitched and enthusiastically received.
* Renée Zellweger would show up extremely prepared for her recording sessions with pages of questions for Jerry—everything from motivations to factual questions—which she would have answered before recording her tracks.
* No offense to the plastic guy…The role of Ken, voiced by Patrick Warburton, was so named in reference to a certain one-foot-tall plastic guy—both are handsome, slightly stiff, without a lot going on upstairs. Seinfeld penned the role with Patrick Warburton in mind, and both had such a great time during recording sessions that engineers began booking long periods in the studio just to tape a few lines of dialogue…a lot of time was spent with Seinfeld laughing uncontrollably, much to Warburton’s amusement.
* As Jerry Seinfeld and Matthew Broderick are close friends, Broderick was first choice to voice Barry’s best friend, Adam. Seinfeld felt that their off-screen friendship would flesh out the bees’ relationship, and that Broderick’s dry and subtle delivery was perfect for Adam.
* Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld ad-libbed most of their dialogue together. Chris’ character of Mooseblood the mosquito was originally scripted with only a few lines…but once the in-studio magic began, the cameo became a role with more than 50 lines. Mooseblood’s diatribe about female mosquitoes wanting to “date up” is the brainchild of Rock and Seinfeld.
* Megan Mullally was originally cast as the queen bee, a character which was developed for the film over a two year period; however, when the part was cut due to story changes, Seinfeld was so impressed with Megan’s delivery that he created the part of Trudy, the Honex tour guide, to keep her involved in the project.
* Jerry Seinfeld visited a French bee keeper in Long Island early in production. The keeper did not believe in wearing protective outfits and ensured Jerry that there wouldn’t be any problems. With everything off to a great start, the bee keeper began showing off somewhat, deciding to show the queen bee to Jerry. Quicker than you can say, “Swarm!,” the bees began to come after Jerry, with one determined attack bee stalking Seinfeld, eventually stinging him on the nose. (The fact that the angry bee would perish from the act—bees die after they sting—did not make Jerry feel any better!)
* Seinfeld’s commitment and vision was evident at every turn; he was present at every single recording session (attending a record 135 separate days of recording!), voicing Barry’s lines opposite the other actors in the scene (a luxury that rarely happens during the making of animated films). The upshot—with the film’s writer/producer/lead at every session, new material was invariably produced on the spot and a great deal ended up in the final film.
* The Pollen Jocks are voiced by stand-up comedians and friends of Jerry’s—including Tom Papa and Mario Joyner.
* Director Simon J. Smith is a talented voice artist himself, and he recorded many “scratch” (or early temporary) voices, several of which ended up in the final film: the bee who provides Barry with a waiver to sign before taking off with the Pollen Jocks; and the truck driver who clears his windshield of Barry, Mooseblood and others with wipers and fluid.
* Dave Pimentel, the head of the story department, also provides the voice of Hector, the box boy.
* Producer Christina Steinberg is allergic to bees in real life.
* Ray Liotta ran into Jerry Seinfeld early in the making of “Bee Movie,” and when he learned what Seinfeld was doing, asked to be included. The two crossed paths again a few months later, with Liotta reminding the filmmaker of his interest. A year and a half later—when the perfect role arose for Liotta—Seinfeld contacted the excited actor, who proclaimed that Jerry was the only person in Hollywood to keep his promise!
* Seinfeld friend and colleague Larry Miller appears as the voice of the dean of Barry’s academy.
* Seinfeld’s driving vision maintained a level of filmmaking excellence throughout the process, including editorial sessions. Seinfeld worked directly with editors, steering them toward one part of this line reading, a later part in another—when patched together, the seamless take always bore the imprint of Jerry’s observant, wry and perfectly calibrated comedy.
* In addition to guilt at consuming the bee’s valuable honey, the crew felt somewhat hypnotized at points during the years of production…with some starting to see hexagons everywhere.
* Each lighting team on the film was named after episodes, characters or famous lines from the “Seinfeld” television series, including such names as “Junior Mint,” “Cosmo,” “Festivus,” “Pez” or “Yadda Yadda.”
* Learning about the bees…The crew visited the apiary of local bee keeper Bill Lewis in 2005, and also learned about the world of bees from Thomas D. Seeley, a teacher in neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University. Terrance Bird, the father of “Bee Movie” layout artist Jim Bird, also happens to be a in bee keeper in the UK, and met with the crew to share his knowledge of bees during one of his visits to California.