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Breaking: Dreamworks Animation Ceasing Operations In India?

Dreamworks Animation could be shutting down operations at its major production facility in India in early-2017. An announcement was made to the studio’s 300+ employees on Thursday by general manager Damien de Froberville.

The news, if true is especially shocking because prior to the Comcast acquisition of Dreamworks, Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg had been aggressively growing the India studio. A news story from January 2016 had reported that the studio was set to expand from 260 to 350 employees.

The company is being cryptic about what is happening. De Froberville told the web site Animation Express, “DDU is not shutting down. I do not have any comments.” Studio manager Adi Shayan said, “[A]ll I can say is it’s not that black and white and there’s more to it.”

Dreamworks partnered with Technicolor in 2008 to open DreamWorks Dedicated Unit, Technicolor India (DDU) in Bangalore, India. The goal was to create a fully-functioning unit of Dreamworks in India, with the ambitious goal of creating work at the same scope and quality level as the American Dreamworks, and do so seamlessly, using the same high-end production process.

Whether the studio had managed to reach that goal in full, it was well on its way. DDU has made contributions to most Dreamworks animated features in the last few years, including Puss in Boots, Penguins of Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda 3, the newly released Trolls, and the upcoming Boss Baby.

Clearly, whatever is happening at DDU is part of a much bigger restructuring. There are big questions about the future of Dreamworks’ feature animation operations, and it is assured that Comcast-NBCUniversal will make changes, even if we don’t know specifically what those changes are at the moment. The rumor mills are churning though. Former Dreamworks employee (and vfx/cg industry observer) Daniel Lay posted the following on his Twitter this morning:

This is a developing story and will be updated as details become available. Cartoon Brew has reached out to Dreamworks for comment, and we will update if they respond.

Here is the Dreamworks Dedicated Unit’s sizzle reel from five years ago:

  • Slim Cognito

    If this means that they’re going to focus on their domestic talent, good. If this means they’re going to fire a lot of the people there, awful. Those rumors are very frightening. Dragons 3 at this point is going to either be a cobbled mess or never come out, and I mean that. It’s a shame because the two other films in that series are fantastic works of art, but Dragons 3 has continually been getting the shaft throughout production. The downsizing due to Penguins and Sherman flopping, then PDI getting shut down and now Comcast meddling with Dreamworks.

    Best of luck to everyone there, and it’s unfortunate we may be hearing reports of hundreds of people losing their jobs (50% if true sounds catastrophic) within the coming days. Stay strong.

    • Strong Enough

      dragons 3? weird. HTTYD is a pain to type out though

      • VG

        It depends on where he/she’s from, in France it’s “Dragons”.

        • Strong Enough

          WORD? crazy

          • Sometimes countries don’t always follow the same titles as we use them here. It makes sense to shorten it to “Dragons” than to try to translate the full title in French let’s say.

    • RickyButler89

      “domestic talent” ha!

      Dreamworks is owned by Comcast. A multinational corporation. It has no domestic anything.

  • Elsi Pote

    Was bound to happen, and now with Trump as president, everybody seems to be cleaning up their respective houses.

    The worse scenario revolves around foreign working visas in the US being slashed to the bare minimum. Even the potential shut down of NAFTA.

    Hence the animation industry in the US is on route to some changes. Good or Bad? Well, nobody knows.

    • Karl Hungus

      Reversing NAFTA was the point. And keeping american jobs for americans healps our middle class. Everyone under 30 is about to get a lesson in how prosperous this nation can be. Finally. All of us older than 40 have been horrified as we have watched American companies benefit from cheap labor overseas. India will be fine. We’re going to tend to our country for a while and its going to be great.

      • Hankenshift

        Good one. Everyone under 30 is about to get a lesson in how much worse off things can get. And that’s saying something after reagan and bush 2. Big business is about to run jobs out of the country even faster than before.

        • Karl Hungus

          Politics aside, I have to point out that the article you are commenting on suggests the opposite. And thats encouraging.

          • Dstinct

            Destroying Nafta would just get rid of the TN and H1B visas. If you want someone good, they are still handing out O visas like candy and it’s getting easier to qualify.

            Other option is to just launch more satellite offices and do all the work overseas, funneling the money back as needed to the US. The laws are also tricky when it comes to importing tariffs on services vs a product. The industry will always be playing wack-a-mole to shut it down.

      • KW

        There’s nothing that says those jobs are coming back, it sounds like they’re just going away. They’re not going to need another 300-250 more jobs here in the US if they’re pulling back to 1 film per year.

        I also fail to see what NAFTA has to do with the Indian animation industry.

        • It shouldn’t. That’s North America only (Canada, US and Mexico).

      • jawsnnn

        India will indeed be fine. The trade phobia of the new USA administration will fare differently. The lesson that you can’t function alone in this century will quickly be learnt. Think it’s empty rhetoric – read about Theresa May’s recent visit to India. The trade deal she wanted to pitch wasn’t even entertained and she was turned back empty handed

      • TKeen

        NAFTA and its predecessor, the 1989 Canada/US Free Trade Agreement, were pushed at a time when the business community was all in favour of globalization. The FTA was a creation of Ronald Reagan and then-PM Brian Mulroney and their governments and they were opposed by the left at the time because (wait for it) they said that the FTA and NAFTA would drive manufacturing jobs out of Canada and the US and into Mexico and overseas.
        It would be nice to hear some people in the current political climate say ‘Hey, those 1980s liberals were right!” but that ain’t gonna happen.

  • Srinivasan Parandaman