Fate of DreamWorks

I am very aware that this topic was buzz-worthy news in the Spring, but after watching Beyond the Trailer a few weeks ago, and taking a much needed break from the blog at the time, the wheels in my head started turning, which is the inspiration for this post.

We have been very aware of DreamWorks Animation’s state for the last few years, and I have spoken about it on the blog in the past. Right around the time this blog was started, DreamWorks suffered its first major layoff, which continued year after year. Outside of a hit (which usually involved sequels), a majority of their films have fallen flat financially, and they were never the best critically either. The deal with 20th Century Fox started around the time I started the blog, so the issues that the company has suffered that I have covered have all been in this era.

NBCUniversal has acquired Dreamworks for a $3.8 billion acquisition, which was revealed at around April of this year, but people were not expecting for the deal to go through and close so quickly. There was a good chance that the deal could close as early as August, which ended up happening. Katzenberg is going to put his focus on techno-centric venues, so someone must replace him, right? Well, people know that Comcast purchased the studio for $3.8 billion dollars, and they gave Katzenberg $400 million for him to leave, claiming that it was not his choice to leave. Katzenberg has been a part of DreamWorks for 22 years, so to see such a main figure abruptly leave (especially when the studio is already on shaking ground) is a bit worrisome. Katzenberg will be a chairman of DreamWorks New Media though.

Comcast is owned by NBCUniversal, who also owns Illumination Entertainment. They claim that they want to keep the two studios separate, but if they really wanted to, the two studios could end up sharing the same fate as Pixar and WDAS. NBC wants to keep the heads of DreamWorks’ divisions in place, though there were about 200 people that were fired from corporate overheads to distribution/consumer product divisions within the last 2 months. If the only major change involves Katzenberg leaving, will DreamWoks thrive with the acquisition of Comcast/NBC?

The last two films Katzenberg will have a part of is Trolls, and Boss Baby, the former being released in a few weeks, and the latter being released in March of next year. The deal with 20th Century Fox will most likely end around this point as well. From what I have seen regarding the marketing of Trolls, they are using Justin Timberlake for a large portion of it and to attract people to watch the movie. The trailer for Boss Baby also just came out, and…….. my contemporaries have already covered it well enough. Captain Underpants will be released later next year, and even that is self explanatory.

I know I have created a few posts like this in the past few years, but it is disappointing to me. Once you devote your time to study and analyze an animation company and their films, no matter what, you feel some sort of attachment to it, and the work that went into it throughout the years. Reviewing the canon legitimately made me appreciate the company more, and it seems like things have only gotten worse for them since. Where did things go wrong? Why are things going wrong? Is it just because of the over-saturation of the animated film business in general? Are they over-saturating themselves? When it comes to the layoffs, and losing money, they seem to have done better within the last year or so, but……….. they still are not doing very well at all.

Maybe it is just the context they are choosing to use for their films, and the fact that it is just…. not…. good.  The films in the past few years seem like they are trying really hard to turn anything into a franchise in desperation, since How to Train Your Dragon is ending in a year and a half, and Kung Fu Panda is bound to end as well. Most of their successful films come from franchises, so maybe they are relying on that to carry the studio. It is interesting to me that the animation community does not talk about what is happening with DreamWorks much, and it is astounding to me. They were such polarizing figures in the 2000s, and now roughly being 3/4 into the 2010s, what can we really say about the company? Dragon was a success, and the sequels/spinoffs which include Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, Madagascar 3, Kung Fu Panda 3, and Dragon 2 were successful in both areas, but most of those films were from 2010-2012.

I was looking through the list of films in production, and there is a Shrek 5 that was confirmed in July, which is to be released in 2019/2020. Puss in Boots 2 was supposed to be released in 2018, but it was removed from the schedule, since they are apparently doing some rewrites. Croods 2 is to be released in early 2018, and Madagascar 4 was removed from the 2018 schedule as well. What I can say is that it is good that the company has a new policy to only release 2 films a year, but it just sucks if 2 of those films are mediocre at best. I guess we will see what happens.

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7 thoughts on “Fate of DreamWorks

  1. Very well done. I completely agree with you on this one. It’s so frustrating when we know they can do great work and we get talking babies, trolls and captain underpants 😭

  2. I think there are several reasons why Dreamworks is in the position they’re in today:

    1) The animated film market is oversaturated. When you look back at the 2000s, they’re only major competition was Pixar and Blue Sky. However, in the 2010s, not only do they have to compete with Pixar and Blue Sky, they also have to compete with Walt Disney Animation Studios (who has made an amazing comeback after going through a dark period in the 2000s) Sony Pictures Animation, Illumination Entertainment and Warner Animation Group. The animation landscape has changed and every studio has something to prove and put their all into each film they make to make sure the audience shows up.

    2) Dreamworks is suffering from an identity crisis. In the 2000s that they had a formula that made them stand out from the competition, but now almost every studio uses the exact same formula and now they’re having a hard time to try and stand out from all of the other animation companies.

    3) I think them trying to release 3 films a year really hurt their brand, as it made them seem too desperate. I always wondered why they decided to release 3 films a year, when each of them seemed to cost at least $140 million to make. At least now their limiting their releases to 2 a year and cutting down their budgets.

    4) Their trailers are absolutely awful. Dreamworks really needs to get a new marketing team because they make their films look unappealing and they don’t give viewers any reason why they should watch their films.

    I do think that Dreamworkds will be okay in the end. WDAS has gone through dark periods before and has always bounced back.

    1. Interesting comment. I really appreciate it.

      The market has definitely been over-saturated since the early 2010s, and a lot of people do not have time to watch every single animated film. Animation is now seen as a way to make some quick money in the movie business now.

      Most of the other studios definitely did steal their formula, and exaggerated all of the horrible traits and patterns. Illumination, Blue Sky, and some of the other studios are as hit or miss as DreamWorks with the formula, so maybe people are being too harsh on them.

      They did stop with that trend in 2013/2014, which was definitely an improvement. Maybe it will cause the studio to put more attention on their films, and have less films in production, which is always the best formula.

      20th Century Fox has received a lot of flack for their trailers, so a lot of the responsibility could be blamed on them.

  3. Honesty aside form early Dramworks I do not care for their films much. I actually disliked the How to Train Your Dragon films despite what everyone else seems to feel about them. So I am not suprised by their issues. I think tehy should not have tried to make so many films a hear and focus on writing and marketing more.

    1. That is how I feel. Most of their earlier works involve a lot more heart and creativity, though some of the writing may not be the best. Now, they are only a marketing machine that is backfiring on them because most of the other studios stole their marketing ploys, innovated it, and the studio just released way too many films.

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