Jerry Seinfeld was one of the biggest celebrities and one of the highest paid TV stars in the world in the ‘90s. Today, he’s still doing standup comedy and he still has a TV show and he still appears in movies, but millennials have made him a huge star for all the wrong reasons. When he snubbed Ke$ha for a hug (because let’s be honest, he’s an old man – he has no idea who Ke$ha is!), he unintentionally went viral. And as if that wasn’t enough, millennials have turned his movie Bee Movie – which, for all intents and purposes, was just a fun cartoon for kids to enjoy – into a meme. Someone created a version of the movie that speeds up every time a character says the word “bee” and it all started from there. Vanity Fair has described the rise in the movie’s popularity on the internet as “totally bizarre.” One of the movie’s screenwriters has said that the “odd relationship between an insect and a human woman” might be one of the reasons that the movie is so meme friendly. Inverse attributed all the Bee Movie memes to “the realization among millennials that they’d been shown a truly odd movie as children and thought nothing of it.” So, just in case you’re a tech savvy millennial hipster and therefore really into Bee Movie, here are 10 truly fascinating facts about the movie.
10. Jerry Seinfeld had Renee Zellweger at hello
For a long time, Jerry Seinfeld had been a fan of Bridget Jones’ Diary star Renee Zellweger. He knew she would be the perfect choice to play the female lead role of florist Vanessa Bloome, the romantic interest of his character Barry, in Bee Movie. But he had never met her, so he couldn’t just call her up and ask her to be in it. She needed to be wooed. And you can’t go through the agents and managers, because that gets you nowhere – they get a hundred offers a day for these people, yours will just get lost in the fray. He needed to meet with her face to face to talk. So, that’s where DreamWorks Animation overlord Jeffrey Katzenberg stepped in. He was developing Bee Movie with Seinfeld around the time that Shark Tale – another DreamWorks movie starring the voice talents of Renee Zellweger – was completed and ready for release. Katzenberg “coincidentally” placed Seinfeld right next to Zellweger at the premiere of Shark Tale – and they hit it off immediately! For some unknown reason, when Seinfeld pitched to Zellweger the role of a human woman who leaves her fiancé for a bee, she lapped it up and accepted the part. Sometimes a project just speaks to you. It’s like a hunch thing.
9. It took more than 800 designs to perfect Barry B. Benson’s look
Jerry Seinfeld based the character traits of Barry B. Benson on himself. He’s curious, he’s ambitious, he hates the mundane, regular working life (that’s why he became a comedian), and the two share the same clean, fun, observational sense of humor. So, when it came to designing the character of Barry, it seemed like a no brainer to model him after Seinfeld. The animators basically drew Seinfeld, but as a bee and with a sweater on. But this looked really weird. Naturally, simply taking a human man and turning him into a bee didn’t quite look right. So, it became a case of trial and error. The animators kept drawing it and redrawing it and tweaking the design until they finally had the Barry character looking exactly the way they wanted him to. In the end, it took them somewhere between 800 and 900 designs to eventually perfect it. That’s a heck of a lot of designs, right? But at the end of the day, you have to admit that all of that work did pay off, because Barry looks perfect – he’s likable, he’s not off-putting, he’s easy to look at, he has the right balance of bee and human features. They nailed it!
8. Some of the best Seinfeld writers worked on the script
Bee Movie was the first ever movie screenplay written by Jerry Seinfeld, so he enlisted the help of some of the writers from his sitcom Seinfeld – which was voted by the Writers Guild of America to be the second best written TV series of all time and described by E! as the “number one reason the ‘90s ruled” – to work on it. He got some of the best ones. Andy Robin wrote episodes like “The Jimmy,” “The Caddy,” (which introduced the “braless wonder” Sue Ellen Mischke), “The Bottle Deposit,” “The Nap,” and “The Comeback” (“The jerk store called – they’re running out of you!”). Spike Ferensten wrote such classics as “The Little Kicks,” “The Muffin Tops,” “The Andrea Doria,” and the timeless and iconic “The Soup Nazi” (“No soup for you!”). Barry Marder, meanwhile, although he never wrote for Seinfeld, is a standup comic in his own right who has performed as Jerry’s opening act and worked with him closely for years. The script was one of the better received elements of the movie, as the New York Post’s review of Bee Movie read, “After Shrek the Third’s flatulence jokes, the return of that Seinfeldian wit brings animation up a level.”
7. Barry shares Jerry Seinfeld’s love of sneakers
In the opening scene of Bee Movie, we see Barry B. Benson’s extensive collection of sneakers. This mirrors the sneaker collection of his real life counterpart Jerry Seinfeld, who is reported to personally own more than five hundred pairs of sneakers. His sitcom alter ego in Seinfeld is also shown to have an affinity for sneakers – and he is often made to be the subject of ridicule by his friends for it. On the show, he wore a bunch of Nike Airs – like, so many Nike Air sneakers that you just know there was definitely a product placement deal there worth millions of dollars – as well as some obscure white on white brands. There were so many that Complex compiled them into a lengthy article entitled “A Complete Guide to Seinfeld’s Sneakers.” And the sneaker fun didn’t stop there. Just because the comedian got older, that doesn’t mean anything happened to his love of sneakers. Now, whenever you see him on his sort of talk show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, he’s wearing a sports jacket with jeans and – you guessed it – a pair of sneakers. So, naturally, his bumblebee foil Barry B. Benson is a huge lover of sneakers, too.
6. Bee Movie has a ton of actors from Seinfeld in it
When audiences think of Jerry Seinfeld, they think of his eponymous, semi-autobiographical sitcom Seinfeld. It seems that the comedian still keeps in touch with the old gang, since he got a ton of actors from the show to voice characters in Bee Movie. Ken, the fiancé who Vanessa leaves for a bee (touted by internet users as the only sane character in the whole movie), is played by Patrick Warburton. Warburton is now known for roles like Joe Swanson in Family Guy and Jeff Bingham in Rules of Engagement, but he got his start on Seinfeld, playing the dim-witted David Puddy. Michael Richards, best known for playing Jerry’s wacky neighbor Cosmo Kramer, and Larry Miller, who played a guest role as the titular doorman in the Seinfeld episode “The Doorman,” also voice small roles in Bee Movie. So, it was only fitting that NBC – the network that was home to Seinfeld for nine years – was the network to give Bee Movie its broadcast TV premiere in America. And you have to bear in mind that this was just one year after Richards’ highly publicized racial tirade at the Laugh Factory. That’s the level of Jerry Seinfeld’s allegiance to his friend.
5. Jerry Seinfeld has ruled out the possibility of a sequel
A few years ago, during a Reddit AMA, Jerry Seinfeld was asked if he would ever make a sequel to Bee Movie. It didn’t do so well at the box office when it was first released back in 2007. In fact, it has the title of the third lowest grossing computer animated DreamWorks movie. But since the movie has risen in popularity on the internet and a lot more people would go to see a sequel this time around, even if it was for ironic purposes, a sequel is back on the cards. However, Seinfeld quickly dashed anyone’s hopes for a sequel. He acknowledges that the movie has a new following of millennials, but he wouldn’t want to detract from the uniqueness of the original with a sequel. He explained, “I considered it this spring for a solid six hours. There’s a fantastic energy now for some reason, on the internet particularly. Tumblr, people brought my attention to. I actually did consider it, but then I realized it would make Bee Movie 1 less iconic. But my kids want me to do it, a lot of people want me to do it. A lot of people that don’t know what animation is want me to do it. If you have any idea what animation is, you’d never do it.”
4. Chris Rock’s role was only supposed to be a cameo
Legendary standup comic Chris Rock has one of the main supporting roles in Bee Movie, as he voices the mosquito character Mooseblood who Barry meets on the windshield of a truck. However, the role was never supposed to be a large one. It was only originally supposed to be a cameo appearance. But once Rock got into the recording studio with Jerry Seinfeld and they started doing their lines, they began improvising new dialogue and ended up going on for hours and hours. In the final cut of the film, Rock ended up having more than fifty lines. This is a testament to the friendship and chemistry shared by these two comedy legends whose iconic status knows no bounds. Rock and Seinfeld started doing standup comedy at roughly the same time, and their fame exploded at roughly the same time. They’ve collaborated together a lot. Seinfeld appeared in Top Five, the brilliant romantic comedy that Rock directed in 2014. Rock appeared as one of the earliest guests on Seinfeld’s pseudo talk show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. These guys are friends! And that friendship ended up getting Rock a meatier part in Bee Movie, so it totally paid off in spades.
3. Bee Movie revolutionized the way that animation voice recording works
Usually in animation, the voice actors are brought into the studio separately to record all of their lines in one long session. So, for example, they’ll have Mike Myers come in and do all his Shrek lines, and then they’ll have Eddie Murphy come in and do all his Donkey lines, and then they’ll edit those lines together into a conversation. But that’s not how Jerry Seinfeld works. There’s nothing organic about that. The reason that the dialogue and the acting on Seinfeld are so great and why the show was such a revelation was the riffing between the actors – and indeed, the characters. That’s what the comedian hoped to bring to Bee Movie, which he achieved by recording the lines face to face with each of his fellow cast members. This is how Chris Rock’s role ended up getting expanded from a cameo role into one of the main supporting roles. It’s also why the sound technicians ended up logging hours upon hours for just a few of Patrick Warburton’s lines, because his aggressive delivery of every line kept cracking up Seinfeld, who ruined each take by laughing. But you have to admit, this technique helped to bring better chemistry to the movie in the end.
2. Somebody watched Bee Movie 357 times on Netflix – but it’s not what you think
Netflix announced a few months ago that one of its users had streamed Bee Movie a staggering total of 357 times in one year. Naturally, the internet went absolutely bananas over this, as everyone from the Twitterati to the actual news were speculating about who it could be. As everyone waited for this mysterious fan to come forward, there were predictions that it could be some creepy, lonely guy, sitting alone in his mother’s basement, obsessing over every frame of the movie. As it turned out, the culprit was nothing like that. Gemma Chalmers came forward to explain that it keeps her baby son Jaxson calm. “My friends were tagging me in posts saying, ‘This has to be you,’” she explained. “I calculated it, and it might even be more than 357 times.” When Jaxson was just a few months old, he became engrossed by the colors and the sounds of Bee Movie – and he hasn’t look back since. “Ever since, we’ve watched it multiple times a day to keep him happy. He watches the film from the moment he wakes up until he goes to sleep at night.” Charmers herself doesn’t really care for Bee Movie, but she can’t get Jaxson to watch anything else: “He doesn’t even pay attention to it and plays with his toys – but still, it always has to be on. We’ve tried Trolls, Cars, and other Disney films. But nothing works like the Bee Movie.” So, there you have it. Jerry Seinfeld – comedian, actor, writer, producer, vicarious babysitter.
1. The whole thing began as a joke to Steven Spielberg
For a grand total of twelve years, DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg had desperately tried to get Jerry Seinfeld to appear in one of his animated movies, but the comedian kept insisting that he had no interest in acting in any movies – even if they were animated and only required his voice. But one fateful night, Seinfeld was having dinner with Steven Spielberg, who lives near him in the Hamptons, and when there was a break in the conversation, Seinfeld joked that he had an idea for a movie about bees called Bee Movie (a pun on the term “B-movie”). It’s the kind of throwaway joke that Seinfeld’s TV counterpart or his friend George Costanza might make during an awkward silence at dinner – but in this case, Spielberg loved the idea and instantly called his friend Jeffrey Katzenberg to get a deal in place. See, you know how it’s DreamWorks Animation SKG? Well, the “S” stands for Spielberg and the “K” stands for Katzenberg. So, as far as Jerry knew, he’d just made a joke at dinner. Little did he know, $150 million was being invested in it before he even knew. Spielberg would later appear in the movie’s live action teaser trailers, telling Jerry Seinfeld in a bee costume to just do it as a cartoon.