Mireille Soria (left) and Bonnie Arnold are the new presidents of DreamWorks Animation. Mireille Soria (left) and Bonnie Arnold are the new presidents of DreamWorks Animation.
Business

Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria Become DreamWorks Feature Animation Co-Presidents; Bill Damaschke Out

Major management shake-up this afternoon at the creatively struggling DreamWorks Animation. The studio just announced that veteran producers Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria, the respective lead producers of the studio’s How to Train Your Dragon and Madagascar franchises, will oversee creative development and production for DreamWorks Animation’s theatrical releases. They will serve as the new co-presidents of the studio’s feature animation division.

The studio’s chief creative officer, former Pocahontas production assistant Bill Damaschke, will step down from his role.

“Mireille and Bonnie are two of the most accomplished and prolific filmmakers working in feature animation today,” said DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg in a statement. “I am confident in their ability to marshal the extensive creative resources available at our studio and lead DreamWorks’s vast ranks of artists and filmmakers as they produce the highest quality entertainment.”

“Great storytelling is the heart of DreamWorks Animation, and we are honored and excited to help shape the movies that will entertain audiences around the world,” said Arnold and Soria in a joint statement. “DreamWorks has long been our home, and we can’t wait to begin working with all of the studio’s outstanding filmmakers and artists!”

Arnold, in addition to producing the Dragon series, also produced Pixar’s Toy Story, Disney’s Tarzan, and DreamWorks’s Over the Hedge, as well as the 2009 live-action film The Last Station, which received a best picture nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards.

Soria, who has 31 years of film experience including fifteen at DreamWorks, has produced other projects besides the Madagascar series including Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and the live-action Ever After: A Cinderella Story. She was formerly the vice president of production at Disney, where she oversaw the development and production of The Mighty Ducks, Cool Runnings, and the live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book.

  • Change was needed

    Hate to see Bill go…. But this is probably the best news for Dreamworks in the Headlines for years. DW has *LONG* had difficulty picking the right projects to put into production. Bonnie Arnold is one of the best in the entire industry, and Mireille has a strong track record as well.
    Here’s hoping this will be the change Dreamworks needs to get back on course.

    • Ravlic

      Their recent flops could have been easily avoided if simply someone in their right mind read the premise and didn’t greenlight them in the first place.

    • RL

      When you are responsible for the creative content and nobody buys it shouldn’t you be held accountable? Or should hundreds of very dedicated and talented artists be laid off because they did their job well under his watch over and over again first? You want to wear the big hat, take the huge salary and bonuses? Then do your job. When I worked there, JK had minimal or no salary. His compensation was based on stock performance. Chambers over at Cisco was the same at one point (maybe still is?). It’s not personal. He owes the people that worked under him. Peace.

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    No one person is the key to success of a collaborative effort such as animation.

    I am waiting for them to blame and say audiences are tired of CG as they did when there were a few hand drawn bombs several years ago. I don’t personally believe that but why aren’t they saying it as they said with drawn? No, people want good stories and stop being so close-minded about animation media.

    Here’s what they should do as an experiment: Have a parallel development production team (side by side with the standard way things have been done) ; allow creative people to create and the execs, producers and marketers get the F out of their way.

  • Anonymous

    They should have fired Bill after “Shrek the Musical” flopped on Broadway.

  • tservo2049

    Maybe now Brenda Chapman will get to make the movie she was talking about doing when she moved back to DWA…?

  • Kusanagi

    Looking at their “resume” of movies, how are these two going to revive DWA’s fortunes. HTTYD2 underperformed domestically. The Madagascar franchise is played out as witnessed by the under performance of “PoM”. And I don’t see someone responsible for “The Mighty Ducks” and “Cool Runnings” as being the innovation that DWA needs to turn around their fortunes.

    • Ravlic

      I loved Cool Runnings. At the very least it was fun and different.
      Though I admit more underdog comedies is really not what DW needs right now.

  • Groundhog

    Given DW’s most recent debacle, and the fact that it is a public company, it was obvious that it was always going to have to sacrifice a power-player at the alter of the shareholders. It does two things: shows that the company is taking its licks- even at the highest level, and that it is not standing still, but “aggressively” moving forward. Now that that is out of the way, the stage is set for the main event. The net effect of all those bombs.

    DW’s films cost a lot to make, certainly the budget of POM should be called in to question. How a film that (while well made) looks for at intents and purposes like a $40m film, yet can cost over $120m ought to be a real cause for concern, but what animated film at this level is cheap? To me the real issue, the blinding all encompassing issue, is that DW’s has developed a one size fits all approach to selling their products. Every single one of their last five releases have received the same lame poster campaign, hanging in the same lousy bus stops, tied-in with the same, genericly unplayable game, and the same 7-years-since-that-was-funny trailer campaign. None of their films recently have been must-see events- even the much adored Dragons2 couldn’t distinguish itself from the meh-ness of its campaign. I suspect that side of things will go un investigated though, as a splashier move would be to simply cut a few hundred artists. It’s super easy to do, the numbers look awesome on paper, and business types can congratulate themselves for their steely resolve. The next few weeks will be real interesting.

    • Change was needed

      You can thank 20th Century Fox for their marketing on those points. DW made a big move and broke from Paramount for Marketing/Distribution a few years back, but the change to Fox has yielded exactly the same generic crap as before. Simply, how can you drop the ball marketing ‘How to Train your Dragon2’? 20th Fox found a way.

  • A change in leadership seemed necessary so that DreamWorks can push for more successful projects for the future. It is not an easy task, and I do want to see them succeed. What I hope to see is DreamWorks try to create more innovative and stronger storytelling, and not take the predictable approach to their style. That would be something to see.

    • Cheezytoons

      I like how you think! as an artist myself… looking to get into the cartoon industry … hitting brick walls… it is so cut throat and dog eat dog greedy….. I was actually sitting there at the Expo when DreamWorks announced that they acquired Felix. In my head I thought ‘acquired’ is not the word. The 2014 Licensing Expo in Vegas was nothing more than a big (tax write off) party for the them. For us artists sitting in the corner it was our sweat, blood and years of tears life on exhibit with our Cheezytoons cartoon characters making their World Debut begging to be noticed. It was obvious the big companies sent ‘super top secret’ scouts over to look at us in the corner ……… ya know……. So, we are on our own. And happier for it!

  • tom bancroft

    Anyone that heard the pitch to TURBO and gave it the greenlight SHOULD go. No offense to the creatives that worked on it. It just didn’t make biz sense as a feature film concept. Good luck to these talented ladies! This is a good move!

  • ChristineJazzy

    Bill ‘Assgrabber’ Damaschke is finally out, eh? I’m sorry DreamWorks the moment those allegations surfaced he should’ve been fired IMMEDIATELY.

    Though it’s great to see feminist women take over roles that have been held by generation aftergeneration of privileged males, these two are not feminists. One has repeatedly stated in her workplace that she doesn’t really identify with feminism and the other claims she is an “egalitarian/humanist” (a typical term for anti-feminist). So these are TOKEN women, placed there by a male CEO to push the idea that misogyny isn’t rampant in the animation industry.

    • mud

      While these are points to keep in mind I suppose, I don’t know if going around called women who don’t identify with feminism ‘tokens’ is really the appropriate response either. Nor do I think Katzenberg was staying up late worrying about misogyny in the industry enough to promote two women in response, so, let’s hope they got there by their suitability to the positions shall we?
      It really does a disservice to the women involved and women striving through the industry to cite their promotions as nothing more than political statements rather than the result of years of devotion to the work (or whatever reasons anyone normally gets these promotions). I know we could find that women writers/creators were responsible for many instances of what we could deem as sexist story elements throughout the years in a myriad of films, and in that respect maybe they’re no better than a male counterpart, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still be up there.

      • Ravlic

        Pretty sure you’ll find that most sexism in stories, both against men and women, is written by men.
        Not to mention that taking a stab at women is seen as a completely acceptable comedy staple, while taking a stab at men means you’re a man-hating lesbian.

    • Bernie

      Some pretty inflammatory terms and accusations being thrown around here. No offense but given the borderline militant tone of the complaint, if either of these two women fit your desired description it sounds like we’d just be trading one kind of bias for another. How about fair, honest, and most-importantly, TALENTED leadership regardless of gender? I don’t understand why they have to be card-carrying activists to be acceptable female appointees in some people’s eyes. Either gender is perfectly capable of leading in ways that are fair to everyone without explicitly subscribing to one label or another.

  • Softy

    One should always write about what they know. DW knows how to be a grossly over-managed place. There must be a good story in that somewhere. Call it “Transitions” or “The Managers”