Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Big Partner, Big Dreams: Comcast To Buy DreamWorks Animation? [UPDATE]


As DreamWorks' distribution deal with Fox draws to a close in two years, it looks like the studio is already looking for the next partner... The one that may pick them up? It's a big one...

Certainly a shocking and unexpected development, Wall Street Journal is reporting that Comcast is in talks to buy DreamWorks Animation!

This comes after a few years of box office losses and companies (i.e. SoftBank, Hasbro) backing out of acquiring the two-decades old studio, though they are now regaining traction thanks to the TV hits and Netflix, alongside the box office successes of Home and Kung Fu Panda 3.

Comcast also happens to own... NBC Universal. If you remember, 12 years ago, Comcast attempted to buy The Walt Disney Company!

Anyways...

Universal and DreamWorks teaming up...

I sincerely hope this happens. Not to mention, Mr. Spielberg is back at Universal with his separate, live-action DreamWorks SKG studio.

A little while back I put up a poll, asking what distributor should join forces with DreamWorks after their deal with Fox ends with the summer 2018 release of How To Train Your Dragon 3. I felt that Universal was the best candidate, because out of all the non-Disney distributors, look at the scores they're getting with animated films! They've got one heck of a marketing department, as only one Illumination film made a rather small amount... and I feel that Fox has done DreamWorks very little favors in that field.

All the recent flops (sans Rise of the Guardians) happened under their watch, and I've heard stories. Animators openly blasted the marketing people's efforts before, a recent example being the day story artist Clio Chiang took to Twitter to tell people that the teaser for Trolls is no indicator of what the movie will be like. There was also an animator who said that the filmmakers behind How To Train Your Dragon 2 urged the marketing people not to reveal Valka in the trailers.

Miraculously, Home opened very well though its legs weren't all that special. Kung Fu Panda 3 did fine enough, as it had the franchise power behind it along with little-to-no competition for a little while, but who knows how the likes of Trolls, Boss Baby, et al. will do. Regardless of quality, you got to get the audiences interested in seeing your movie first. The marketing folk failed to do just that with mega-budgeted films like Turbo, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and Penguins of Madagascar.

Early 2015 brought a massive restructuring, which lead to over 500 animators being laid off and a 35-year-old studio (partner studio Pacific Data Images) being shut down... Gotta love how the animators are the ones who suffer. Heck, Fox even kind of botched Kung Fu Panda 3's marketing. That should've opened higher than a fair $41 million, but it still did well so no use complaining.

If all goes through, they will acquire the studio for a whopping $3 billion. WSJ warns that it may not happen, but who knows!

I think it would be a perfect match, because DreamWorks deserves success and hopefully that success will lead to significantly better pictures than the current crop we've gotten.

What say you?

UPDATE (4/27/2016)

The Wall Street Journal says that Comcast is interested in DreamWorks Animation more for their TV and consumer products end than the feature film production end. They intend to mesh those with NBCUniversal properties, and franchise the heck out of them so more. Plus, the theme parks!

Also, if the acquisition will happen... Jeffrey Katzenberg leave the company.

Katzenberg. Will leave DreamWorks. If this happens.

That is big in so many ways.

Katzenberg has been part of the animation industry since the mid-1980s, starting at Disney as we all know and "helping" foster their Renaissance of the late 80s/early 90s. (How much of the Renaissance was his doing, that's up to you. I think he merely just gave a ton of talented people keys to a car that they hadn't been allowed to drive.) After his relationship with CEO Michael Eisner soured, he left in fall 1994 to start DreamWorks SKG with Spielberg and David Geffen. Of course, they fired up an animation studio to compete with Disney, right off the bat. Years later, DreamWorks Animation became its own unique, independent entity - but shared the name with the live-action end. He remained CEO of that company, while DreamWorks SKG went around, notably entering a 30-picture deal with Disney that fell apart last year due to Disney's shift to specializing only in big tentpole movies. No more room for a small-scale movie or two, the fall release The Light Between Oceans being the last picture in the deal.

How do I feel about him leaving? Honestly, I kind of want that to happen... I'm not really a fan of Katzenberg, though I can acknowledge the good things he has done. That's an opinion for another piece.


DreamWorks has been through many ups and downs following their mostly-unscathed hit streak that ran from the release of Shrek 2 in 2004 to the 2012 release of Madagascar 3. During that time, DreamWorks happened to make quite a few big acquisitions. Classic Media was one of them, now they have a whole library of properties that they are little by little exploiting. (i.e. the new Voltron animated series is on the way.) I'm sure that plays a massive part in the deal.

So what's to become of DreamWorks Animation then?

WSJ says that Chris Meledandri, head of Illumination Entertainment - the studio that Universal makes a killing off of - will figure out what to do with the studio. Illumination, if you remember, is very smart with budgets on their animated features... Something DreamWorks, well, wasn't... In the recent years. Blowing $135-145 million on projects like Turbo, Mr. Peabody & Sherman and others? Really? Especially in a time where not every CG movie is meant to pull $400-500 million worldwide out of a hat just like that? It isn't 2003 anymore.

DreamWorks' overspending in the past few years has always been an issue for me, because so much was expected of their films as a result. Add in wishy-washy marketing (Fox, I'm looking at you) and you have an even bigger problem. Pixar can shrug off the big box office loss they suffered with The Good Dinosaur this past autumn, because they have a huge safety net - Disney. Plus a plethora of smash hits. DreamWorks doesn't have that, despite some popular franchises. Katzenberg did like Walt and built the company, expanding to TV, theme parks, and other areas. It looks like the moves might be a saving grace, because the movie pipeline is not foolproof.

Anyways, I hope Meledandri - if DreamWorks is to become part of the Comcast/NBCUniversal family - keeps the budgets under control. Illumination's films look fine for films made for less than $80 million, the MacGuff house impresses with each film. DreamWorks' heads said they'd lower the costs of their films following the 2013-2014 losses, but really... Is $120 million that much less than what they were spending? Hopefully Trolls, the first of these "lower budget" films, does well. Same with Boss Baby and the other slated productions. It was also mentioned that Meledandri would be the one to determine what projects move ahead... I guess DWA Presidents Mireille Sora and Bonnie Arnold won't have a say in that process anymore?

On a less positive note... Studio layoffs and cutbacks will likely happen if the merger occurs.

What say you? Should Comcast buy DreamWorks Animation? Or do you think there's a better place for DreamWorks Animation? What do you think of Jeffrey Katzenberg potentially leaving the company?

UPDATE (4/28/2016)

And it happened...
 
The plot thickens... 

26 comments:

  1. Interesting idea. I wonder how Disney's reacting to this? They didn't have much to say about the Nintendo deal last year.

    For all I know, Disney may see Nintendo as a worthy adversary and somebody may actually have liked that idea.

    Please respond to this.

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    1. Disney probably either sees this is as their competition getting more strength, which is good for them, or maybe it's not in their interests. As for the Nintendo deal, I have no idea.

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  2. Kung Fu Panda actually did quite poorly in comparison to the other films in the series. I am sure Dreamworks was expecting moore even if it was not a flop. Decreasing both dom and overseas is not good, they probably can't make any more sequels to the series since they would keep decreasing.

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  3. Yaay hope for the future of disney!!!!

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    1. As in Disney having their competition become even stronger?

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    2. I think this guy think Dreamworks and Disney are the same.

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    3. I think he's expecting DreamWorks as a brand to get weaker, or a certain someone at DWA not going with them to Comcast and potentially becoming a Hollywood Wild Card that Disney may or may not want to play.

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    4. I know this guy - he knows all the studios are different. Maybe he made a typo or mistake, what say you Seba/Pantufla?

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    5. Ha ha ha ha sorry I was on School writting this and i coulnt see well what i was writting and I writte Disney instead of Dreamworks, ha ha ha so awkward ha ha

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    6. To quote the Shakira song "Try Everything" from Zootopia:

      "I'll keep on making those new mistakes. I'll keep on making them every day."

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    7. Ha ha ha you are right , how could I confuse Disney with DreamWorks, both had a D in the begining but ha ha ha

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  4. Comcast already has an animation studio, though--Illumination.

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    1. The more, the merrier I say. I think Comcast/Uni can turn DreamWorks into another monster money machine (or the one they used to be) with the right tricks.

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  5. The funny thing is, I predicted that Universal would get DreamWorks, even though I made the Sony/DreamWorks combo logo on YouTube. Now when do you suppose they'll announce their revamped slate with 2019-2020 movies? I'm predicting:

    Trolls gets moved to 10/14/2016
    Boss Baby stays at 3/10/2017
    Captain Underpants stays at 6/2/2017
    The Croods 2 gets moved to 10/20/2017
    Larrikins gets moved to 1/26/2018
    Dragon 3 gets moved to 6/1/2018*

    Everest(Oriental)on 10/19/2018
    Puss in Boots 2 on 3/8/2019
    Felix the Cat(Mikros)on 7/19/2019
    B.O.O. on 10/18/2019
    Me & My Shadow on 1/31/2020
    Kung Fu Panda 4(Oriental) on 6/5/2020
    Madagascar 4 on 11/6/2020

    *=I think that How to Train Your Dragon 3 will get moved to 6/1/2018. This would then allow Illumination's 7/13/2018 film to come out on 6/29/2018. Currently, it's set to open one week before whatever FOX has in the pipeline. Even then, I think that 7/20/2018 will be taken by Warner Animation Group as a new date for S.C.O.O.B. so that it doesn't have to open against Hotel Transylvania 3.

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  6. Nok katezemberg dont leave DreamWorks, the company was created by your hate to disney, it is like a father leaves his children. You had to be with your company in the good times and in the bad times

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  7. I remember that in 2013 with the release of Turbo there was a HTTYD 2 teaser but not a Mr peabody one and peabody comes early than HTTYD 2, that was a bad dessition because HTTYD was a sequel and had more chanses to do more money, Mr peabody was an original and they need to put more marketing on that one

    Did you remember that Kyle?? I saw that the day I go watch lone ranger. I remember it very good

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  8. Two of Disney's arch-rivals under one corporate roof. . . I'd be having nightmares if i were Bob Iger.

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    1. Well, if Disney wanted DreamWorks gone, they are now firmly down to their nuclear option: sue to stop the deal and try to acquire DWA themselves.

      If that isn't possible, they may want to consider trying to buy out Nintendo. I do not know how the Mario Mansion is reacting to this turn of events, but we'll find out.

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    2. I strongly doubt either of those things are going to happen. The merger's already happened, and Disney doesn't need DWA anyway, seeing as they already have both WDFA and Pixar.

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    3. And Disney's deal with Nintendo is really just a movie-adaptation deal. It's not very different that the deal that Warner Bros. made with LEGO to make movies based on its properties (The LEGO Movie, Ninjago, etc.). It doesn't necessarily imply that a merger is going to take place, although it's not impossible either.

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    4. No, Nintendo made a deal last year with Universal to incorporate their products into Universal Parks and Resorts. But strange things happen.

      The merger still needs approval from regulators, and when Patrick Dempsy purchased Tully's Coffee several years ago, Starbucks, who was one of the bidders to purchase the Seattle-based coffeehouse chain, sued to try to block the deal from being fully implemented, which they failed (although that was due to Tully's having filed for bankruptcy, so you never know).

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    5. That's true, but I have a feeling that this merger is going to go off without a hitch. Disney has better things to do than try to stop it, especially since their animated movies routinely outgross Dreamworks' anyway.
      Look at it this way: Disney's recent major acquisitions (Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm) all give the company an asset it previously lacked. Pixar gave Disney access to a computer-animation studio at a time when hand-drawn animation was declining, Marvel gave them a set of characters and concept aimed at the young male demographic they sorely needed, ditto Lucasfilm. DWA doesn't fit into that mold at all. They don't have anything Disney doesn't already have.

      As for Nintendo, they've made both a theme park deal with Universal AND a movie deal with Disney. This could get. . . interesting.

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    6. Where's the mention of a movie deal between Disney and Nintendo?

      Why do I have a feeling Katzenberg might do what Nintendo's doing, and that is play both sides like an orchestra? He'll likely be free to do that.

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  9. This just in. Universal acquired them for 3.8 billion dollars.

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