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January 15, 2013 11:37 am

It is against the laws of computer animation to produce a bee. This is not to say it can be done, and is not; rather, it is widely known to be impossible. The polygons simply don’t fit together correctly; it is unknown how bees appear three-dimensional in the wild.

So when Jerry Seinfeld approached Paramount with a brief treatment about a CGI bee, they were excited. They were getting the Seinfeld name, and they were going to show the world they could make a computer-animated picture about something no one else would dare to - bees.

But man-years of work produced only hideous, Groeningesque mockeries of the bee form. Millions of dollars were down the tube. In desperation, they settled on a final gambit: if they could not make a bee for Seinfeld, they would make a bee OF Seinfeld.

Over the course of a year, Jerry Seinfeld, then aged 52, underwent a gradual transformation at the behest of his new patrons at Paramount. Hundreds of procedures, costing tens of millions of dollars, caused Seinfeld to resemble an immense bee more than a human man. The executives at Paramount were unsettled by his grotesque transformation, and disturbed by the mounting costs of making a man into a bee, but they considered the patented Seinfeld style and the technical marvel worth the financial and human costs.

Paramount forged ahead with shooting, and Seinfeld forged ahead with the procedures. They finished the mo-cap for his new bee body in two horrifying weeks. Interns confirm Seinfeld refused to wear clothing - that he was fully nude for the duration of shooting, exposing his increasingly alien stinging genital. He was more bee than man now, and the world knew it - and he knew it.

But what Paramount did not anticipate, could not anticipate, was the effect of the gradual transformation on Seinfeld’s mind. Successive iterations of the script, as the scalpel and pint after pint of bee signalling peptides reshaped his body, became more and more incomprehensible to humans. Obsessed with hierarchies of power, and with stinging. Months into the scriptwriting process, Seinfeld confessed to co-star and personal friend John Goodman that he feared his drive to sting intruders had overtaken the procreative urge he understood he should have - which, as a drone, was increasingly alien to him.

The result was a disaster, even in test audiences. Shell-shocked Paramount executives asked Seinfeld why what was ostensibly a children’s film had long, dark, involved jokes about suicide pacts, the reparations issue, legal procedure, and genital mutilation. Seinfeld, without batting one of his many eyes, told the executives that his task was to vomit the nourishment of his ideas onto the young.

The turd was, at this point, complete. They had no choice but to polish it. Tens of millions of dollars went into an unprecedented ad campaign, in the hopes that buzz marketing would accrue to their technically proficient if alarmingly inhuman project. Seinfeld, for his part, was forcibly restored to a state resembling human, receiving dozens of transplants of pig and sheep organs and skin to permit a promotional tour.

Oddly enough, in candid interviews he has given since, Seinfeld confesses that the “restoration” process galled him more than his original bee metamorphosis. He has said - off the record - that human thoughts still feel alien in his brain, and he has not been able to feel fully safe and secure since his stinger was surgically removed.

His hope - and the reason he went along with his promotional tour in his mutilated and foreign human body - was for a Bee Movie sequel, and a chance therein to escape to the wild, fleeing Paramount and the strictures of human society. But Bee Movie was a notorious bomb, and Seinfeld lacks the money or the connections to illegal doctors to have anything like the procedures he had in 2006-7. If “to bee or not to bee” is Seinfeld’s question, Paramount has answered it for him: not to bee; never to bee again.

But bees have a long, long memory.

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