Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Shattered Dreams: Is Oriental DreamWorks Being Phased Out?

DreamWorks' Shanghai unit apparently is the next casualty of the Comcast acquisition of the company...

The moon boy studio, according to Variety, is going to give up their 45% stake in the overseas unit.

The Shanghai unit, which is called Oriental DreamWorks, has actually had it kind of rough. Attempts to jumpstart live-action pictures fell through. It took a while for their homegrown Everest (set for fall 2019) to get off the ground, and now that picture (according to this) has apparently been ported back to Glendale.

Variety also mentions that Kung Fu Panda 3, despite grossing a strong $521 million against a $140 million budget, was seen as something of a disappointment. Though Kung Fu Panda 3 took in over $150 million at the Chinese box office, I can see why they could've been disappointed with the results. The film was pretty much localized, a whole other version of it was made specifically for China with some alterations here and there. It doesn't help that Zootopia blew past it with ease a few weeks later. A film that wasn't an entry in a pre-existing franchise, and one that wasn't either overtly American or Chinese. No one predicted how huge it was going to be.

Not too long ago, the Shanghai unit laid off 40 animators. The staff number was 250 in 2014, now it's less than 100. Universal has their own Chinese distribution firm, and supposedly they see Oriental DreamWorks as extra weight. A source told Variety, "It’s not because it’s not an important or successful business, it just duplicates what they already have in China."

It's yet another Jenga peg being pulled out from the tower, the tower that is the old DreamWorks. After Comcast's acquisition of the company, the now 23-year-old animation studio is changing quickly. Many layoffs ensued, ties with the India-based unit were broken, the new executives pulled the plug on movies like The Croods 2 and Larrikins, and the film slate was reshuffled. While Everest was on DreamWorks' docket long before the acquisition, the only film given the go-head under Comcast/Universal so far is Trolls 2. A film that did far better in the merchandise department than at the box office.

What DreamWorks gets mutated into by the end of the decade, I have no idea. My brutally honest opinion? I don't think things are looking too good right now. The one project of theirs that I was interested in is now dead, and I kind of fear that the new executives may just turn DreamWorks into an Illumination-lite hit-house. Maybe, maybe not. If Edgar Wright's Shadows gets the greenlight, maybe I'll have a little faith.

What say you?


  1. I actually think that DreamWorks Animation might actually be absorbed into Illumination.