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Burb's Eye View: A meeting with a mega mind Tom McGrath

January 10, 2012|By Bryan Mahoney

How do you know when you’ve made it? For Burbank’s Tom McGrath, it may have been when Angelina Jolie became starstruck by him.

I met McGrath recently in the Starbucks located on the DreamWorks campus — they don’t like to call it a studio or workplace — on the far end of Flower Street, just inside Glendale’s border with Burbank. For the casual observer, it may have been a competition in who could sit comfiest — two lanky guys in jeans sitting deep in plush coffeehouse chairs, the kind that could put you to sleep faster than the Wizard of Oz’s poppy field if not for the plastic-cupped caffeine bombs amply supplied by the campus barista.

It was the end of a short (too short) tour of the back offices, koi ponds and pool tables that comprise DreamWorks’ 12-acre spread. Seventeen years ago, the property was dirt. Now, 1,675 employees call this home. Seriously — with an on-site medical clinic, free meals, and yoga and martial arts classes, there’s plenty of incentive to “work late.”

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As an animator and now director of DreamWorks hits “Megamind” and the “Madagascar” franchise, McGrath enjoys an obscure kind of celebrity status. Only rarely would a person at the grocery store associate his voice with that of Skipper, the leader of Madagascar’s penguin team that launched a TV franchise on Nickelodeon.

Maybe that’s why sitting with him over some Starbucks feels more like chatting with a next-door neighbor whose professional interest in Tex Avery and Bob Clampett art mirrors your personal ones.

It was with similar aplomb that he was first introduced to Angelina Jolie.

The way Tom tells it, they were at the France premiere. She was there with Brad Pitt, who voiced the film’s anti-hero, Metro Man. McGrath was introduced as “Megamind’s” director, and the director of “Madagascar.” But when she heard about Skipper …

“She just stops and looks at me and goes, ‘You didn’t see anything!’” he says in his character’s trademark spyspeak.

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