Must be Monday. New podcast! Just click on the fancy logo below.
The studio that managed to finally destroy the long-held perception that all feature film animation is Disney.Dreamworks Animation's story begins with Jeffrey Katzenberg – one of the architects of the Disney Renaissance – getting fired from Disneynote , and co-founding Dream Works with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. Katzenberg used his portion of the studio to create a new animation subsidiary, merging with animation studio and partner Pacific Data Images (PDI). After Spielberg's Amblin Animation shut down, most of its animators moved to Dreamworks.Katzenberg's ultimate goal was to compete directly with his old bosses on their home turf: feature animation. To that end, DWA came roaring out of the gate in 1998 with The Prince Of Egypt, an animated epic telling the story of Moses and the Exodus – similar to but distinct from Cecil B DeMille's The Ten Commandments. A fine article about the environment in which Prince was made can be read here. Prince performed extremely well at the box office, though still below Disney's films from that decade. The same year, DWA released the All CGI Cartoon Antz, a blatant Follow the Leader of Pixar's A Bugs Life – although Antz actually premiered first. More on that film and its repercussions further down this page.In addition to its in-house films, DWA also benefited from a partnership with Aardman Animation, with Nick Park creating well-received stop-motion films like Chicken Run and The Curse Of The Were Rabbit.Although Prince of Egypt had been a success, DWA's follow-up traditionally-animated films met with diminishing returns. The Road To El Dorado failed to recoup its budget (to date the only DWA film not to do so), and although Spirit Stallion Of The Cimarron & Sinbad Legend Of The Seven Seas both turned profits, they suffered from poor critical reviews in part because of typical North American All Animation Is Disney prejudice – as well as their returns looking absolutely pathetic on the heels of Shrek. 2003's Sinbad in particular only made back its budget upon international release and performed poorly enough with critics to cause DWA to stop traditional animation completely.note Computer animation was another story entirely. Antz proved a surprisingly big hit, and eventually showed DWA the path they would take to success. The premier of Shrek in 2001 changed the animation game completely. Using Katzenberg's penchant for rampant celebrity casting and modelling the characters from their movies after the actors voicing them to the max, this film finally put DWA on the map as a legitimate competitor in the feature film market, permanently opening the door Disney largely held shut for decades. It's a fact made undeniable with this film winning the first Academy Award for Best Feature Animated Film.Post-Shrek 2, however, DWA hit something of a Dork Age – an impressive feat for a studio less than a decade old. In addition to the increasingly blatant Stunt Casting, their films became notorious for being simply conduits for pop-culture references and toilet humor (and predictable plots). With the notable exception of 2006's Over The Hedge, nearly every film DWA put out in the middle of the 2000's was savaged by critics – though they still performed well at the box office (usually beating contemporary Disney CGI films). Shark Tale holds the distinction of being the worst-reviewed Dreamworks animated film. Madagascar generally got mediocre reviews and, though it made a healthy enough profit to spawn two sequels, did not have as much financial success as the first two Shrek films. The studio arguably hit its nadir in 2007 with Shrek the Third and Bee Movie disappointing at least critically, and Aardman breaking away from Dreamworks after the release of Flushed Away.Beginning in 2008 however, the studio grew its beard with a new crop of films arising with an greater focus on story, characters, and quality. So far, this new direction has been paying off handsomely in the box office worldwide. For instance, not only was the classic Kung Fu Panda released, but Madagascar Escape 2 Africa marked the transition as that franchise moved from a hastily pre-emptive strike against Disney's The Wild to become a gradually improving series with its own voice.Originally rivals with Disney, currently rivals with Pixar. Disney alum Jeffrey Katzenberg has, of 2009, produced more animated films in his studio alone than Walt Disney did when he was alive! While the quality of the films have been more inconsistent than Disney, the best of the bunch manage to reach for Disney and Pixar quality (with How To Train Your Dragon sharing a director team with Lilo & Stitch). In fact, in 2011, DWA exceeded them in critical reception with Kung Fu Panda 2 (RT 81%) and Puss In Boots (RT 84%) considered far and away superior films to Pixar's Cars 2 (RT 39%) and both were nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar while the Pixar film was shut out. Furthermore, KFP 2 outgrossed Cars 2 in the box office worldwide. In short, Katzenberg's dream has come true.To bolster the company's revenues with meat and potatoes stuff, DWA has acquired Classic Media, the copyright holder to various animation properties including Jay Ward's library like Rocky and Bullwinkle, Filmation's original series, most of the old Famous Studios/Paramount characters including the properties acquired by Harvey Comics like Casper the Friendly Ghost with their original ones like Richie Rich, the Rankin/Bass christmas specials and many others.On the business side, the company's distribution contract with Paramount was not renewed at the end of 2012 as that company's getting back into animation itself after the success of Rango while DWA will be going to 20th Century Fox as its distributor from 2013 on, which will mean a balancing act with Blue Sky Studios' own animated films. Considering that DA has planned 12 films in four years, that will be a quite a scheduling challenge. Even moreso due to how they laid off 25% of their worldwide staff at the end of 2012 after Rise Of The Guardians failed to do well, and they are even planning more lay-offs into 2013.However, The Croods proved a big sustained worldwide hit (with some decent critical reception), and the studio's animation adventures continue...
List of subsidiaries and acquired franchises owned by Dreamworks Animation:
Live Action work (Through PDI; either prior or after merging):
Tropes for Dreamworks Animation: