Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Extended Family: DreamWorks Now Officially Part of Comcast

The acquisition has finalized... DreamWorks Animation SKG is now part of Comcast...

DreamWorks is now part of another family...

So... It begins. A new chapter in the 22-year-old studio's life.

Right off the bat, it seems as if some concerns are being a little spun out of control. Earlier reports and rumblings on who will head the company, who will oversee the movies, if Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri will really be involved or not, and many others. For some, that and Jeffrey Katzenberg's departure from the studio might translate into the studio possibly heading off into the abyss, or a complete restructuring that may lead to even more layoffs...

However, it has been said that the studio is going to continue making feature-length films, and that Universal is going to want at least two new feature-length stories from them ready for every calendar year, as the globe's animation powerhouse Illumination is currently easing into doing just that. (Secret Life of Pets and the holiday release Sing are their offerings this year.)

DreamWorks does have a considerable string of flops behind them, mostly due to the fact that their movies cost way too much, weren't marketed correctly, and had a hard time finding audiences in an overly competitive playing field. Luckily for them, Home and Kung Fu Panda 3 met their expectations while their TV and merchandise end builds the bottom line. They no longer have to worry about keeping their head above water in a sea storm, they're now aboard an ocean liner. I don't understand how that is all translating to the studio possibly going the way of the dodo.

A new CEO may not have been determined yet, but one should be named soon. It may or may not be Meledandri, it may be someone else in the brass, or maybe an outsider. I wouldn't be surprised if one of their Presidents, Bonnie Arnold or Mireille Soria, get the promotion. It's been a few days, I think after they settle in, we'll get an idea of who runs the DreamWorks section within the Comcast machine. It appears that some, if not half of the upcoming films that were supposed to be distributed by Fox, have been ported to Universal. Shadows and Shrek 5 are currently on track for 2019, and development on projects is underway. I've seen nothing suggesting that the studio is just going to cease to be...

If anything, a bigger company buying them was perhaps the best thing that could happen to them. I'm going to be brutally honest, DreamWorks - quality of their output aside - needed a safety net. Being an independent company, they took major risks, blowing $130 million+ into not-guaranteed things like Rise of the Guardians, Turbo, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Their consumer products division is no Disney, and while their TV end has done quite well, they needed course correction. They had flop after flop, their films were marketed badly, and animators got laid off left and right. And don't get me started on what happened to Pacific Data Images.

Now, will Comcast keep them in line? That I do not know, and I suppose it's healthy to have a little skepticism. We literally have no idea what path they'll be on from here on out. Will the budgets of their movies be lowered? Will Universal market their movies with the same firepower that they put behind Illumination's films? Will production and development be sharper? We don't know, anything could happen, but I prefer to be an optimist. I'm hoping this move translates to a less rocky future for the company, and also prolonged success that leads to higher quality movies.

I think DreamWorks had it for a little while. That period between the release of Kung Fu Panda in mid-2008 and Rise of the Guardians in late 2012 was their high point, most of the films put out during this period were either good or great, with few okay-ish ones inbetween. After Rise of the Guardians flopped and things got changed around, I think the slate got spottier in terms of quality. Hopefully we get another winning streak under Comcast, and that interesting projects move ahead. Maybe there's a chance that they can revive some canceled films that quite frankly should have been green lit.

We shall see what happens to the boy on the moon...

1 comment:

  1. Do you think it's possible that DreamWorks could have 3 movies in the years where Illumination only has one film? I'm thinking something like this:

    1/26/2018-The Croods 2(DWA)
    5/18/2018-How to Train Your Dragon 3(DWA)
    7/13/2018-The Secret Life of Pets 2(Ill)
    11/9/2018-The Grinch(Ill)
    3/1/2019-Oriental DreamWorks Film
    5/17/2019-Shrek 5(DWA)
    7/3/2019-Johnny Express(Ill)
    5/22/2020-Madagascar 4(DWA)
    7/10/2020-Despicable Me 4(Ill)
    12/25/2020-The Cat in the Hat(Ill)*

    *=Ever since The Grinch got delayed, I've been thinking that Illumination's pattern would be 1 film a year, 2 films the next year, and so on.