At Calif. studio, Obama gets taste of movie magic

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By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press

GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) — President Obama has toured many a factory floor and high-tech plant during his presidency. It's part of the job. But until Tuesday, he had never quite met the likes of Oh and Capt. Smek.

In what qualifies as one of those special perks of governing, Obama toured the DreamWorks Animation studio of one of his top political benefactors, Jeffrey Katzenberg. All other tours must have paled by comparison.

He saw motion capture technology on display and he shook hands — well, bumped elbows — with Steve Martin before the actor-comedian-banjo player transformed himself into the villainous Capt. Smek from the upcoming movie "Home."

But nothing could beat the short clip of another character in the film, Oh, intoning in the familiar cadences of Obama's voice: "Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Welcome to the White House."

"That'll impress the girls," Obama, thinking of his daughters, said delightedly.

Martin and actor Jim Parsons of "Big Bang Theory" were there to demonstrate voice recordings for the DreamWorks movie "Home" about a civilization of aliens called "Boovs." It's scheduled for release in November of 2014.

Speaking to a few thousand staff and others gathered on DreamWorks' campus, Obama praised the entertainment industry for helping transmit values of tolerance and diversity and overcoming adversity, calling it part of American diplomacy.

"Hundreds of millions of people may never set foot in the U.S., but thanks to you they've experienced a small part of what makes our country successful," Obama said. "We have shaped a world culture through you."

"Can't wait to see your next movie," Obama added with a grin.

Entering the studio earlier for his tour, Obama extended a hand to Martin, who informed him he had a slight cold. So the commander in chief and the once wild-and-crazy guy bumped elbows instead.

"How's the banjo playing?" Obama asked

"Better than ever," Martin replied.

Obama mentioned that Martin had played the banjo at the White House.

"The fact that I played banjo at the White House was the biggest thrill (pause) of his life," Martin cracked.

"That's how I felt," Obama deadpanned. "Biggest thrill of my life. Inauguration? Nothing."

Martin and Parsons then ran through a scene. Obama appeared thoroughly tickled as he read along from the script.

Obama also saw a demonstration of motion capture technology, known in the business as "mo-cap"

Two actors, a woman and a man, were wearing full black body suits with colored sensors applied like polka dots to their suits. Behind them a large screen showed two animated characters, a young boy, "Hiccup," and a young girl, "Astrid, from the upcoming movie "How to Train Your Dragon 2."

Every movement the actors performed on the studio floor was replicated on the screen by the animated characters.

Obama asked what the difference was between using that technology and actually drawing animation.

"Is the advantage here that by seeing the natural movement, that can't be replicated in your head?" he asked.

The cinematographer told him that the technology allowed for more natural movement and more dimension and was able to take advantage of ad-libbed movement.

"So, serendipity," Obama said.

After seeing a final clip from the movie, Obama turned to the reporters following him and offered an unfiltered DreamWorks commercial:

"Coming to a theater near you!"

Indeed, Katzenberg added: "June 13."

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