From Snow White to The Simpsons Movie, the most beloved animated films show some heart. But when Jerry Seinfeld brainstorms a family-friendly CG comedy, you have to wonder: Didn’t his sitcom revel in having no heart at all? ”We’d always reach a point where we’d go, ‘Jeez, this feels like a serious moment. How do we cover this up with a joke?”’ says Spike Feresten, one of three Seinfeld alums who helped pen this story of a bee who sues the human race over honey profits. ”DreamWorks was really good at saying, ‘That’s all right, people like that.”’
For his cast, Seinfeld — who voices litigious bee Barry B. Benson — signed up pals Chris Rock (as a mosquito) and Renée Zellweger (as a florist who saves Barry from a mortal swatting). Recording the voices has been a three-year process, and Seinfeld is still tweaking the script, occasionally calling actors back in whenever he comes up with a better line. It’s gotten so bad that Zellweger’s friends have started asking when it will finally come to an end. ”I tell them, ‘When Jerry Seinfeld quits waking up at four in the morning with epiphanies,”’ she says. ”Which is never.”
While writing Bee Movie, Seinfeld and his collaborators have tried to follow one rule: No bee puns. ”You couldn’t catch yourself sometimes,” says Feresten. ”You’d go, ‘Instead of eBay, beeBay!’ And the enthusiasm in the room would just die, and we’d all get depressed, because this is where this movie could very quickly go if we’re not careful.” Instead of bad puns, the movie features Seinfeldian takes on apiarian life, painted in with plenty of cartoon humor for the kids. Yes, the man with a famous routine about how there’s no such thing as ”fun for the entire family” is going for just that. But Rock isn’t surprised. ”Some of his best bits were just about being a kid. So I knew he would knock animation out of the park,” says the comedian, recalling how Jerry ”had this bit about how now that he’s a grown-up he can get another cookie whenever he wants.” As long as there are no contests to see which bee can keep his hand off his stinger, this could be a hit for all ages.