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It’s A Done Deal! Comcast Buys Dreamworks Animation for $3.8 Billion

Comcast’s NBCUniversal division has bought Dreamworks Animation for $3.8 billion. The deal was announced this morning.

Comcast says that Dreamworks “will become part of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, which includes Universal Pictures, Fandango, and NBCUniversal Brand Development.”

As reported last night, Illumination’s Chris Meledandri will take charge of Dreamworks Animation’s business. “We are fortunate to have Illumination founder Chris Meledandri to help guide the growth of the DreamWorks Animation business in the future,” said Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, in a statement. “DreamWorks will help us grow our film, television, theme parks and consumer products businesses for years to come. We have enjoyed extraordinary success over the last six years in animation with the emergence of Illumination Entertainment and its brilliant team at Illumination Mac Guff studio. The prospects for our future together are tremendous.”

Following the completion of the sale, which is expected to happen by the end of 2016, DreamWorks Animation CEO and co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg will become chairman of Dreamworks New Media, which will be comprised of the company’s ownership interests in Awesomeness TV and NOVA. Katzenberg will also serve as a consultant to NBCUniversal.

Here is Katzenberg’s parting statement:

Having spent the past two decades working together with our team to build DreamWorks Animation into one of the world’s most beloved brands, I am proud to say that NBCUniversal is the perfect home for our company; a home that will embrace the legacy of our storytelling and grow our businesses to their fullest potential. This agreement not only delivers significant value for our shareholders, but also supports NBCUniversal’s growing family entertainment business. As for my role, I am incredibly excited to continue exploring the potential of AwesomenessTV, NOVA and other new media opportunities, and can’t wait to get started.

  • Patchworx

    The only way this can make any business sense is if they cut the staff at Glendale by 1500 people, and focus solely on legacy franchises like Shrek or Madagascar. DreamWorks is so top heavy, and producing animated films in Europe is far cheaper than producing them in the states. Wages are lower, and because of social healthcare, you don’t have to cover people’s health insurance. Trust me, that’s a hell of a savings. It’s also true that while illumination can’t match DreamWorks production quality, who cares? Certainly not the paying public. Illumination have absolutely nothing they can learn from DreamWorks. This is really bad news for the animation industry here in LA.

    • Toto

      Wages might be lower in Europe but companies do pay for health insurance though not directly to their employees since it is part of their taxes. Plus, as far as the sense it makes, let’s give it 6 months before giving them bad ideas ;) Fox owns Blue Sky and distributes Dreamworks movie right now even though it does not seem to make much sense, we’ll see what kind of business they want to do.

      • Patchworx

        The employees pay for it through their taxes- which you may be surprised to learn are on par with what American employees pay in taxes- the only difference is the return on your investment. In Europe they get free healthcare, education, beautifully kept roads, here you get the military industrial complex. I know everyone here is fine with that (omg, terrorists!!), but don’t be surprised when those things are taken in to consideration by business leaders. Corporations pay nominal taxes in any modern country, and film companies in particular are given enormous tax incentives to set up shop. Fox distributing DreamWorks’ films may have contributed more to their downfall than helped their situation. The advertising campaigns for DreamWorks most recent films have been absolutely deplorable, worse than they ever were under Paramount. For further reading on that kind of thing, google what happened when Warner’s took over marketing and distribution for Don Bluth back in the nineties, just as they were opening their own feature devision. But back to Meledandri: He has shown enormous nous in setting up in France and working with freelancers in particular. The success of his business model is nothing short of spectacular. There is no way that a man who knows the business as well as he does, and who has zero reason to feel sentimental about DreamWorks, would ever OKAY them continuing as is. Expect the slate of DreamWorks films to be halved, expect massive layoffs, and plan accordingly.

    • hgf

      I totaly don’t mind them going to europe

      • burymylovely

        Clearly you don’t know anyone who works for them now.

  • doing nothing, nothing doing

    It’s all Ogre now.

  • kaminasbro8000

    Im now expecting less Kung Fu Pandas and How To Train Your Dragons and more Shark Tales, Homes and Trolls.

  • Inkan1969

    What’s the mission of Dreamworks nowadays? In the days of “Shrek”, Dreamworks/PDI tried to be the anti-Disney. Now there are many studios other than Disney, and Dreamworks just seems one of the many.

    • Michael Howe

      The mission seems to have been to ‘appease the stockholders.’

      Dreamworks’ original mission I miss, where they were going to dare to be different…though ‘Prince of Egypt’ is still to me, their best work.

      • Funkybat

        I would say “The Road to El Dorado” was probably the best thing DreamWorks ever did, though the writing and voice acting on the first Shrek was spot-on. Road to El Dorado was a little muddled in the story department, but it had absolutely breathtaking visuals, and some very funny and believable comedic chemistry between the main characters. I was heartbroken when DreamWorks basically game up on 2D and became “the Shrek studio.” It wasn’t until Kung Fu Panda and How To Train Your Dragon that they did anything on that level again.

    • Barrett

      I think DreamWorks gave up trying to be the “rebel studio” some time around Shrek 2, and by the late 00s they were basically just trying to be a franchise machine. The “great experiment” more or less died when Geffen left and Spielberg got uninvolved. The end of the live-action “DreamWorks Studios” as an entity was the nail in the coffin. DWA has been adrift ever since, a “homeless” animation studio plying their wares where they could, riding on previous glories for the most part (Kung Fu Panda and Dragons excepted.)

      • aandybarclay

        why did spielberg and geffen leave?

        • Funkybat

          I don’t know about Geffen, but I get the impression that after the first couple of DW films failed to hit Disney-esque numbers, Spielberg decided to concentrate his energies elsewhere. He in particular wanted to develop DreamWorks as a live-action as well as animation studio. His name has been associated with animated projects over the years, but the triumvirate seemed to break down to;

          Geffen=Music Division,
          Katzenberg=Animation Division,
          and Spielberg=Live-Action Division.

          Once they dissolved the live-action brand and became JUST an animation studio (the music division having disappeared within the first 5-6 years of DW) Spielberg probably wanted to go back to directing and releasing films through other live-action major studios.

          • aandybarclay

            I always thought that Warner was a better home for Dreamworks, but I prefer it under the Comcast umbrella rather than Alibaba’s or a Japanese studio…

  • Slim Cognito

    I was not expecting it to be finalized so quickly. All the other bids to buy DWA have failed.

  • Alex Dudley

    Since DWA is one of the largest employers of animators in the country, what’s going to happen if they decide to outsource all the animation like they do with Illumination? Will it all go to DWA’s studio at Technicolor India, will it go to Illumination McGuff? Or maybe a new studio entirely? Will they terminate their production deal with Netflix instantly, or will they wade it out while focusing on Hulu? With the large library of content, will NBCUniversal launch a children’s network?
    Can’t wait to see how this all plays out!

  • Matt Norcross

    Maybe the Woody Woodpecker movie Bill Kopp is directing could move to DreamWorks if this deal is completed.

  • Googamp32

    *looks at DreamWorks’ release schedule.* Something tells me that Comcast may soon have some buyer’s remorse.

  • Landon Kemp

    Great, another corporate buyout. It depresses me that people are just so willing to sell their company like this nowadays in a pitiful attempt to make it live on. Has anyone considered the possibility of the company losing its soul or any other downsides to this buyout? Has anyone ever thought that this sort of business decision could wind up being a really poor one? Just because the new Star Wars movie made money, doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there that are dissatisfied by the product, and just hearing about all the upcoming Star Wars features and the other plans they have means that Disney is just planning to milk this franchise dry. I wouldn’t be surprised if Comcast only made things worse for DreamWorks.

    • Paul N

      The company lost its soul when it shut down PDI.

  • alt animation podcast

    I bought some stock in DWA just for fun like 5 years ago and I think I am the only animator who came out on top today

  • danielle716

    Comcast way overpaid. Disney bought both Marvel and Lucasfilm for just about the same price. Dreamworks won’t come close to giving Comcast the return those properties have given to Disney.

  • J.S

    Movie crossovers are coming.

  • Ira Owens

    I understand your disappointment however Phil Vischer (the original owner) didn’t sell out.

    He lost the company due to what I would possibly call a misguided ambition to grow the Veggie Tales in an unstable animation market, while depending on home video sales. After losing Big Idea and claiming bankruptcy the property was then bought by Classic Media and later resold to DreamWorks.

    A good number of Christian’s still work on the show such as Doug Tennapel and Tom Bancroft who still believe in the shows original value and intent.

    I hope that helps.