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BusinessIdeas/Commentary

DreamWorks Execs Have An Incredible Reason For Why Their Films Are Unpopular

Why did Penguins of Madagascar underperform at the box office?

Or Mr. Peabody & Sherman?

Or Turbo?

Everyone and their mother has a theory, but the most outlandish one might belong to DreamWorks executives, who told an investment firm recently that people have been avoiding their films because they are too adult.

During a meeting with investment firm analyst Benjamin Mogil of Stifel Nicolaus, DreamWorks explained to him that sometime between 2012 and 2014, kids stopped watching animated films as much as they used to, and now only very small children watch animated films. This sudden shift in moviegoing audiences from young to very young obviously hurt DreamWorks, which specializes in high-brow fare for discerning filmgoers.

DreamWorks’s struggles between 2012 and 2014 were, according to what Mogil was told, “tied to films which skewed older right as the box office began to see changes whereby animation demand was increasingly skewing younger as kids began to age out of the genre earlier.”

Curiously, at the same time that DreamWorks was struggling with its overly “adult” films, other studios were wholly unaffected by this alleged demographic shift. In the same 2012-2014 period that DreamWorks claims only small children appreciated animation, Disney scored its biggest hit ever with Frozen which appealed across a broad demographic range; Illumination had its biggest hit ever with Despicable Me 2; Pixar scored its third-highest global gross with Monsters University; and Warner Bros. enjoyed an unexpected breakout smash with its broadly appealing The Lego Movie. None of these films were targeted at a younger age range than any of DreamWorks’s films, and in fact, most skewed older.

DreamWorks, however, is convinced that its box office stumbles are attributable to a demographic upheaval amongst young moviegoers. As a result, they’re pushing a “younger skewing slate” to be “more realistic/in-tune with the evolution in changes in the box office market.” The explanation was convincing to analyst Mogil, who felt that the studio’s execs were “exceptionally candid about what had creatively gone astray over the last few years from the movie creativity front.” He not only upgraded DreamWorks’s stock from hold to buy, but also set a $34 price target, a generous valuation increase from the company’s current trading price of $26.40. Mission accomplished!

Meanwhile, DreamWorks is pivoting its approach to feature films, and will dumb down its output to reach a younger crowd. They’ll intellectually unstimulate viewers with projects like the upcoming Trolls, based on the 1960s Danish toy fad, and a film adaptation of the children’s book Boss Baby, starring a tiny, bald, stressed-out businessman (alternate title: The Jeffrey Katzenberg Story).

No doubt, someone in DreamWorks’s finance department spent a lot of time crunching numbers to arrive at the conclusion that older children no longer watch animation as much as they used to, but the theory makes little sense to anyone who has observed the development of animation features over the course of the last decade — or more obviously, looked at recent box office grosses.

Animated films, if anything, attract a much broader audience of older children, teens, and adults than they ever did in the Eighties and Nineties. Ironically, DreamWorks’s own films in the 2000s played a significant role in expanding the public’s perception about animated features. Now, DreamWorks is betting against its own history as they try to get back on track.

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  • They don’t consider the ‘Dragons’ franchise effective? Isn’t that like a cross-conglomerate God-send? I loved How To Train Your Dragon when I was in high school. It was a nice, like they said, semi-adult thing to watch as a budding animator looking for something to validate my impending adulthood. That was 2011, yes, but what about their series that are airing and the next one on Netflix? If they are talking about Shrek and Turbo, perhaps (and I am being serious here) they should consider how they became somewhat of a meme. That tends to knock the wind out of things.

    • Ravlic

      Remember how we kept hearing that Dragon 2 was a failure because I guess it didn’t make a billion dollars?

  • Chris Hensley

    Or perhaps you are releasing too many films during the year like Disney did at the end of their 2D run.

    • Ravlic

      Yeah, because too many movies is the reason people hated such masterpieces as Home on the Range and Chicken Little.

      • Ice cream squared

        chicken little was OK it was cliche and had WAY too many pop culture references

  • Does anyone have any better theories? I think perhaps it’s a combination of unappealing character designs and far too much or a reliance on pop-culture references over the more timeless Pixar/Disney approach.

    • AG

      The Penguins was definitely Shrekked-out by pop-culture references, that date everything fast. But also the timing was bad – the tv show had popularity, episodes were certainly good enough but it was just taken off, probably in anticipation of a movie that came far too late.

      • Matthew

        The pop culture references in SHREK were dated before the film came out. The first time I saw the film, I cringed when they did the Macarena. In 2001. By which time anyone who did it or asked to do it in real life was rightly scorned and booed.

    • Ravlic

      Does it really need to be said? Their newer movies are horrible. DW never did make amazing movies (literally the only ones out of 30 films people remember are Madagascar, Shrek, Dragon and Panda) but at least they made stuff that was fun to watch.
      Now? Let’s make a movie about a racing snail, that’ll get people pumped up! How can you greenlight such a bad idea? Did not a single person in the company have a better one?
      Penguins were unbelievably unfunny and childish. I didn’t expect a masterpiece, heck I could even stand the extremely predictable plot but come on, at least give me more than a movie with only one solid joke in it. How can you take a film with wannabe secret penguin agents and fail so much at making it funny?
      Home?! A kid helping an alien escape Earth? We’ve seen literally this exact premise ten times already.
      Every idea they greenlit was just going one step down. And now we’ll get Trolls. And Boss Baby. And Captain Underpants.
      DW was never about being timeless, but they were about being fun and they could work with that. These new films are neither. And no matter how good the writers and artists are, you can’t do miracles when your hands are tied from the start with such awful premises.

    • L_Ron_Hoover

      Most of their movies have great character designers, actually. Before “How to Train Your Dragon”, I’d say that Bee Movie actually the best character design concept art ever for a Dreamworks film. That being said, pretty much none of it was used in the end and the convoluted plot devoured the film.

      Madgascar also had a very talented team doing the designs and for once it wasn’t a film studio doing a standard Disney rip-off. It’s related but much more caricature-esque than Disney.

      I know you’re referring to Shrek though. Yes, they are very ugly and did not age well. You should check out Carter Goodrich’s designs for Shrek. They were really cool (obviously not appropriate for the same storyline though.)

  • James VanDam

    Dream Works Execs, please stop. Dumbing down your films will only serve to insult your audience. Just make movies that have a story to tell and people will go to see them. IE The First How to Train Your Dragon Movie was a story about an outcast standing up to challenge the social Norms of his society. Kung Fu Panda was a story about an underdog learning to believe in himself. And The Croods was a story about a Father leaning to try new things. Please, don’t back track and just pander to children, animation is a medium that can do so much more than keep a group of 8 year olds entertained for 90 minutes.

    • KnickKnackMyWack

      You forget that this same company was producing Madagascar and similarly pandering type movies at the same time as their better, more Pixar-like productions.

      • James VanDam

        They have gotten better since then.

  • Tim Tran

    I can definitely feel the burn from that Boss Baby insult. What a perfect comparison. Jeffrey Katzenberg continues to destroy DreamWorks just like what his rival Eisner did to Disney. Bravo, you guys now have the same mindset.
    No seriously, how does Katzenberg even come up with that conclusion? Did he seclude himself inside a room with no factual info and just thought it up himself? If this affects Dragon 3 or KFP3 I will use my American rights to sue him. This time with with crime of ruling with stupidity.

    • jm5d

      I think it’s also worth mentioning that when you really look back in time, Jeffrey was really the catalyst for the whole wage-fixing issue going on right now. We do know that Ed Catmull might have had a good chunk to do with putting that policy into effect. In all honesty, however, if Katzenberg hadn’t poached and, quite frankly, waylaid all those Disney employees from their comfortable jobs and driven artist salaries through the freaking roof, we wouldn’t be dealing with this “techtopus” crap plaguing our industry right now. It really goes without saying that Jeffrey has to feel at least some shame for the mess that he willingly allowed to happen, as well as screwing over hundreds of talented artists in the process. But I can’t assume that he will, considering how Jeffrey acted as the Dick Cheney to Michael Eisner’s George W. Bush. Jeez, what a puke!

      • Guest

        Jeffery Katzenberg can be blamed for a lot of things; however, blaming him for the creation of a wage fixing cartel, because he was willing to pay higher wages to acquire talent is ridiculous.

        It’s the law of supply and demand. If the demand for talent is high and the supply is low then wages and benefits have to rise in order to get the best people on your team. At least, that is what all the CEOs and CFOs like to say whenever anyone questions why they get 20%+ raises on top of their already grossly swollen pay packets.

        The only one to blame for wage fixing is Ed Catmull, who thinks artists should be like Dumbo in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and work for peanuts.

        • You got that right.

        • jm5d

          I understand your point; perhaps I forgot to mention, however, that some of the top animators’ salaries during Jeffrey’s poaching spree, such as Glen Keane shot up in the millions. Obviously this was very good pay. At the same time, however, that’s a little too much, realistically for studios vying for such artists. This theory is also shared, somewhat, by Tom Bancroft. At least that’s what he says when he appeared on the Surviving Creativity podcast. It’s also worth mentioning that I am not trying to white-knight guys like Dr. Catmull in any way or transfer the blame on the no-poaching policy to one other person, entirely. I recognize, however, that this is most likely far from the best thing for us artists. The thing is, I just believe that this wage issue may not actually be as black and white as commentators like Amid might make it out to be. https://soundcloud.com/survivingcreativity/surviving-creativity-s1e13-animation-with-tom-bancroft

          • RCooke

            Why would that be too much? That’s pretty ignorant. These animated features can make BILLIONS, and currently the only ones seeing big $$ from it beyond executives are the writers and musicians–some of whom work on the film less than the key talent. I don’t think Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy, or Ellen Degeneres would take less than $20 million to spend a couple of weeks in a recording booth.

      • barney miller

        You obviously have no real knowledge of Jeffrey’s history.

        Like him or not, wages went up big time when he started DW and they still pay some of the best rates in the business

        • jm5d

          I believe that’s what I was actually saying in my first post. The wages DID go up when DWA started. They went up to the point where even some of the top artists were paid millions. This was detrimental to the bottom line of both studios, and most likely, this is probably what led to this wage-fixing issue. If I sound like an idiot, I apologize. I’ve read up on books such as Nicole LaPorte’s “The Men Who Would be King”. One section outlines how Jeffrey poached several Disney employees. The skyrocketing wages are also mentioned in the documentary “Dream On Silly Dreamer.” Some of the information I’ve presented comes from sources like these.

      • Again, Katzenburg and Eisner SAVED Disney, and thus animation in general. They were going to chop it up and sell it for scrap back in the early ’80s.

    • AmidAmidi

      The Boss Baby comment wasn’t intended as an insult. Just a cute observation that I’m sure has been made more than once by people within the studio.

      Also your comparison to Eisner isn’t quite accurate. Whatever JK is “destroying,” he built up himself and he’s entitled to do as he wishes with his company. Eisner, on the other hand, was tinkering with the legacy of another person, which is why his actions offended many Disney fans.

      • Ravlic

        Just because it’s technically your company doesn’t mean you can destroy it. He employs a ton of people and he’s behind the name that used to be associated with decent animated films. If he ruins his company, it’s not just his ass that will get screwed over, it’s the jobs and hard work of all the people there that made those films happen beyond just throwing money at them.
        And honestly, why is a dead man’s company so much more special and magical than a company like DW? If you think Katzenberg has 0 responsibility towards the people who work on his movies, if he has no responsibility towards his audience and the name that created some really solid movies, why should anyone care then about the Disney company when the one who made it isn’t around anymore, if we only care about what the ceo’s name is? Why not close it down instead of letting a completely different person be in charge and then talk about some “legacy” a greedy multi-billion dollar corporation is upholding? It was Eisner’s company so was entitled to do whatever he wanted with it, right?

  • ethomson92

    You know, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world anymore, if Disney bought these guys too

    • Matthew

      Disney just took a huge bath on TOMORROWLAND. I think they’ll be cooling off on buying more stuff. They need to focus on taking care of the intellectual properties they already own.

  • Landon Kemp

    (reads theory) Everyone slap their forehead in 3… 2… 1…

    *SMACK*

    REALLY? THAT’S their theory for why they haven’t been doing well? Because your movies were “too adult”? If they really go through with this dumbing down, it will only further add to the stereotype that animation is “for kids only”.

  • RCooke

    Audiences don’t want “darker” films (whatever that means) or even films aimed at a younger demographic. They want GOOD films-with strong points of views and a broad spectrum of emotion, which HTTYD and it’s sequel certainly had. And you can hardly get more mature themes than the likes of HTTYD, Toy Story 3, Tangled, Wall-e, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and especially the new film Inside Out. And they appeal to the everyone–not dumbed down for anyone, hence their critical and financial success. I’m all for another Bakshi film, and look forward to seeing The Prophet–and anything by Bill Plympton. But those kinds of films tend to be smaller budget/distribution with smaller audiences- IN EXCHANGE for more singular artistic expression.

    The analysts are just ignorant.

    Until then, I’m looking forward to Sausage Party.

  • Megan

    “People have been avoiding their films because they are too adult.” I think there could be a teeny…TEENY tiny nugget of truth in this, but the exec is looking at it all wrong.

    In the 2000’s, DreamWorks films were performing well, but were also building a reputation for throwing in tidbits of crass humor and/or innuendo to appeal to older kids and parents. Most moderate viewers probably don’t blink an eye at those details, but they peeved many parents in more conservative/religious groups. (I have fond tweenage memories of my religious parents getting irate during certain parts of El Dorado and Shrek, and wondering if they shouldn’t have brought my younger siblings.) Certain types of parents might be avoiding DreamWorks films to this day based on that reputation, while Disney (somehow) remains pure-as-snow in most people’s eyes.

    In recent years, both studio’s films were earning PG ratings, but generally for different reasons – mild violence for Disney films (which is inexplicably better for your kids than poop jokes?) versus mild crass humor for DreamWorks films. It seems silly, but I think you could at least sympathize with a parent who says, “Well, I just want to take my toddler to a PG-rated movie without any butt or sex jokes, I have no time to look at reviews…safest bet is that Disney one.”

  • Mermaid Warrior

    DreamWorks marketing is just awful. They always make the movies look a lot more childish and dumb than they really are. So when it comes to DW films, I usually rely more on reviews.

    And, yeah, I was REALLY surprised at how much DW was promoting Turbo. Did they really expect it to be the next hit franchise? Really?

  • Bill Turner

    How do you dumb down Shark Tale?

    • mavis

      add a Wayans brother?

    • Matthew

      That wasn’t a movie. That was 90 minutes of advertising disguised as a movie.

  • Guest

    Dreamworks isn’t doing very well with their films, because they employ executives that are about as competent at reading audience demographics as they are at picking worthwhile stories to animate.

    Dreamworks is going to burn if they think appealing to a narrow demographic of pre-teen kids is going to create box office gold. Parents are not going to sit in a theater and suffer through material aimed only at their kids. They’ll just wait until the film hits Netflix, plop their kids in front of the TV and quickly leave the room.

  • It is sad. I’ll miss Me and My Shadow too.

  • “I blame the execs buying such a useless property.”

    Whatever the case, Dreamworks still owns plenty of those classic IP’s anyway.

  • Thannia Blanchet

    Bummer, I had had my hopes up on Dreamworks after How To Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, The Croods, etc. I thought they had finally left their pop reference era and started releasing fantastic stories, shame it seems like it’s all over now.

    • Adam Davis

      All over? Based on what?

  • Chicken McPhee

    Nothing more needs to be said.
    Sorry your execs lacked substance. That’s the peninsula though.

    Hey guys – movies aren’t only to entertain audience x-z, you can’t treat it strictly as statistics, through it doesn’t hurt to understand the statistics as well, but certainly don’t model product off them. You’ll just get hollow product.

    STORY business, not franchise business by itself.

  • KShrike

    What an absolute joke! This is the 2003 animation scare all over again….

  • Ravlic

    Why didn’t Lego flop because Peabody was a success? Why didn’t Penguins go on to rake in a mountain of money, leaving nothing for BH6? Why was Ralph the one with good box office while Guardians failed? Is it just some huge improbably coincidence that everyone always happens to pick non-DW films?
    Audiences may not be the brightest crayons, but they still have a certain measure of standards. Acting as if all successes and failures come down to competition and marketing is completely disregarding any role quality has in it. No amount of marketing is going to make people watch something bad and uninteresting.

    • kidglov3s

      It is kind of disappointing to see good DW movies like Peabody, HTTYD2 and Penguins disappoint and then a piece of garbage like Home go on to exceed all expectations.

  • Ravlic

    KFP2 and HTYD2 underperformed? They earned as much money as the first films did, which were considered hits! What, do we only consider a billion $ box office a success now? DW only considers them failures because they didn’t make as much money as they wanted, but they are both very successful movies.
    We have two mature films that made a lot of money and were a success. Then we have immature unimaginative kiddie fare like Turbo, Peabody, Penguins, Home, which failed to make much money. Home was barely a success and it made half the money Dragon made. So to recap, 2 mature movies that made a hefty amount of money, 3 immature movies that were total failures, 1 immature movie that was almost a failure.

    In regards to another two recent movies, Guardians did try to be slightly mature, but ultimately was fairly childish (the premise, the whole “we didn’t even have the guts to kill off an undeveloped character” deal and the kid characters, among other things) which made it have pretty low value for older viewers. Croods was decent, somewhat generic but not too childish, and was a moderate success.

  • Marcus

    Woow! Easy with the “Bozo” reference, if they read this, considering their subtle analysis for sucess it might become one of their next movie.

  • Benedict O’Flanagan

    So a spin off that seems like a cash grab, a film with multiple butt jokes in it’s trailer, and a film with underwhelming reviews. I think you have yourself to blame here, Dreamworks, not your audience. There’s a decisive lack of How To Train Your Dragon/Kung Fu Panda type movies in the list mentioned in this article

  • Tony

    This problem goes all the way back to the beginning of the company. Their first two films, Antz and Prince of Egypt, were far more mature than what Disney was doing at the time. They did okay, but they weren’t the juggernauts that Shrek and Madagascar later became, and when their more adult fare didn’t do as well, they began doing the pop references and gross-out jokes instead. Most of the ambition of the early Dreamworks films dried up within five years of its founding, and the studio has mostly settled for the Lowest Common Denominator ever since.

  • Joseph Patrick

    The problem with analyzing the success on an animated film and what age-group they appeal to is part of the problem. From the start they assume animated movies are made for children therefore confirming their bias that it should only appeal to children. If they were to have taken account for other factors like current trends both in movies and culture, their findings would have shown something different. Could they have looked at the success of superhero movies from the 2012-2014 period? But because these executives see animation as nothing more than fodder for kids, nothing new is being said leaving a lot of things ignored.

  • Céu D’Ellia

    Or: How a wrong diagnoses gradually leads to the death of the patient.

  • ddrazen

    None of the analytical double-speak can adequately explain, on the flip side, why Disney’s “Frozen” was more of a phenom than a film. THAT’S the question they should be asking themselves.

    • DizzyFuss

      Frozen was deliberately marketed to appeal to as broad of an audience as possible. The early trailers has an emphasis on action and comedy.
      Their goal was to challenge the unfair perception that these films are
      only for little girls. Broad marketing is what got people to buy
      tickets. And the strong word of mouth kept the box-office momentum
      going.

      One of the reasons why the film is so successful is because it is a
      non-traditional fairy tale. It challenged the tired, formulaic ideas of a
      “charming prince” and “true-love’s kiss”. Audiences love the film becuase of the characters, the music, and the STORY.

      Given the fact that they film received acclaim from critics and audience alike, won awards, (Two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe) and became the highest-grossing animated film of all time, clearly shows that they did something right.

  • GabzGirl

    No no no NO Dreamworks! The reason why your movies as of late have underperformed and received mixed reviews is because they’re simply NOT THAT GOOD. For every How to Train Your Dragon or Kung Fu Panda you release about five mediocre pop culture laden dance party ending movies. Instead of just focusing on kids you need to focus on everyone! Argh, this really bothers me.

  • John Bowen

    I always worry when “dumbing down” and “younger viewers” are equated (as if they correlate). Very young kids aren’t necessarily dumb. They can understand very sophisticated themes, provided that these are not presented lazily. It’s all in the telling of the story, tailored through a medium. It does not even matter what medium (Great oral story: Jay O’Callahan, Great Puppets: Henson, Great 2d: Rocky & Bullwinkle, Great CG: Incredibles) a small sampling of an extensive list – appealing to very young and older without being dumb. There is also, BTW animation for older viewers that is very sophisticated in its dumbness (Beavis), and plenty of staggeringly dumb examples of films for teens and adults (fill in your favorites). Unfortunately, I am pretty sure that DW does not understand this as fully as they should.

  • Adam Davis

    “DreamWorks is pivoting its approach to feature films, and will dumb down its output to reach a younger crowd.”

    How do you know they’ll be dumbing it down? Just because the target demographic for something shifts to younger children doesn’t mean it’ll automatically be dumbed down. The official target demographic for Nickelodeon is ages 6-11, and they’ve put out such “dumb” shows as “Avatar: The Last Airbender”!

    ” They’ll intellectually unstimulate viewers with projects like the upcoming Trolls, based on the 1960s Danish toy fad, and a film adaptation of the children’s book Boss Baby”

    That’s a pretty strongly opinionated conclusion to jump to about films that don’t even have trailers yet. Okay, so maybe the concepts don’t sound promising, but neither did “The Lego Movie” when it was first announced (“A film based on a toy? Come on!”) and that turned out to be surprisingly good. I agree that Katzenberg’s conclusion about why his business hasn’t done well lately seems pretty silly, but why jump to conclusions about movies we know next to nothing about yet?

  • Adam Davis

    Notice that none of the quotes in the article actually indicate an intention to dumb down their films, only to aim for a younger demographic (those aren’t the same thing). The “dumb down” part is only Amidi’s conclusion (I would say, a guess on his part supported by little evidence).

    • AmidAmidi

      If by “little evidence,” you mean 31 prior DreamWorks features, then yes, you’re correct. At this point in history, there’s not much of a question about who DreamWorks is or what they produce.

  • Adam Davis

    “I guess this means we will never see Me and My Shadow come to light.”

    Or maybe we’ll see it but it’ll skew younger than it originally would have.

    ” It’s funny, I just finished watching this video series on Youtube about Dreamwork’s movie history.”

    That sound really interesting! Can you tell me what the video series is called or what the username is of the person who posted it?

    “if they go with the business model of dumbing down their movies for young children…”

    Notice that none of the quotes in the article actually indicate an intention to dumb down their films, only to aim for a younger demographic (those aren’t the same thing). The “dumb down” part is only Amidi’s conclusion (I would say, a guess on his part supported by little evidence)

    “…I only see them doing miserably.”

    Dumb movies can do perfectly well at the box office. Ever heard of the Michael Bay “Transformers” franchise?

    • Ravlic

      Do you seriously expect them to come out and say “Yeah we’re totally making our films stupider”? Their films are childish and simplistic enough as it is, exactly how would it not be a downgrade to make them even more childish and simplistic? Yeah, I’m sure Captain Underpants is going to be the new Matrix. I mean, Home and Turbo were such complex, mature films after all, so we gotta raise the bar.

      Quality movies are for all ages, not for little children. Little children don’t care about what they watch and as such are best kept home in front of tv where they can make noise and watch stuff over and over again, not be brought into (what should be) quiet theatres for their parents to suffer through an hour and a half of colourful movement with no depth whatsoever. I though DW figured this out long ago, apparently they got amnesia.

      And yeah, dumb movies can do successful. Did DW’s recent box office failures on their dumb movies in any way suggest they’re a good idea? Which part of Panda and Dragon making money and Turbo, Peabody and Penguins failing miserably makes you think the audiences want more of that rubbish? Their crappy childish movies are commercial failures while their competition is making big, BIG money from well-written movies for all ages.

      • dantes342

        Jeez, that’s a lot of anti-kid haranguing from someone on a site called CARTOON BREW. ;)

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9Aaz0jArvw there are certainly better reviewers out there, but this guy gives a pretty good lookback on Dreamworks movie history(up to 2010). His voice is a little nasally, but he did his research on all the films pretty well. It’s in seven parts

  • Adam Davis

    I didn’t think “Home” was a particularly good movie, but what about strikes you as “kiddie”? Is it because it’s a lighthearted comedy? Correct me if I’m wrong, but your comment gives me the impression of someone who thinks darker movies are inherently more mature and respectable. And if KF2 and HTTYD2 under-performed, why is Dreamworks making threequels for each of them?

  • Darissa Townes

    As much as it hurts to reference this ‘film’ this Dreamworks trait of adult references reminds me of Foodfight and why it doesn’t always work. That movie had plenty of pop culture references that would fly over kids’ heads solely for entertaining any adults watching. While such tactics allow for some clever writing, if there are too many jokes and references aimed at the smallest demographic watching, then the biggest demo, KIDS, won’t get it, losing money. I think this is what Dreamworks is claiming.

    I don’t understand why so many people pee their pants whenever an animation studio wants to make more kid-friendly fare. Kids today are not going to be entertained with juvenile butt jokes, though they could easily make stuff like that anyway. There’s nothing wrong with a studio making great kids entertainment and it honestly seems more genuine when they aren’t trying to please the adults watching with stuff that THEY think they might like.

  • Tori

    Turbo, Penguins, and Peabody….I have seen all these movies and I would not describe them as catered to an adult audience at all. The idea is preposterous, just imagine asking an adult if they want to see any of these movies by their synopsis.

    “You wanna see a movie about snails that race to save a taco stand?”
    or…
    “You want to see five penguins battle an evil octopus with a team of arctic animals?”
    or maybe…
    “A movie about a dog that adopts a boy and has to fix history?”

    I thought Peabody was the best of this group but I feel like the appeal was lost somewhere. Turbo and Penguins just felt insulting to the audience.

    I think they’re just trying to say in sugar coated terms, the films didn’t appeal to anyone in particular.

    Dragons and KFPanda seems to appeal to a range between teens and adults. What is their explanation for those movies’ sucess?

  • tt

    those films did not underperform. they made more money than their predecessors. Domestic box office is no longer the major box office. It’s worldwide box office that they should take care of. and both of those films did immensely well aroun the globe, including China, where DreamWorks is welcomed with open arms because of Kung Fu Panda.
    If they looked at those 2 film’s financial success, there’s no reason why they should think of that theory.

    Also, Home was a success because many think it would flop, but it didnt. Penguins made more money than Home, but that was called a disappointment.

  • Oh yeah. Thats totally It.

    Dreamworks Executives are the most inept people on the planet. They have no idea what it takes to make a good film, but unfortunately, they are the ones who decide What movies are made, and How they are made at Dreamworks. This includes Creative content as well. Filmmaking by committee at Dreamworks has given you such Gems as Sharktale, Bee Movie, Turbo, Sherman and Peabody etc etc… It has been, and forever will be an “Executive Run Film Studio” vs. a “Creative Run Film Studio”

    The age group for Animation has NOTHING to do with why nobody was coming to see their films. Those films were CRAP. Young and old alike, nobody wants to see CRAP. If Dreamworks would make compelling, truthful films, that people have an emotional connection with, Audiences of both Young and Old would come to see them. They fail to recognize that though. They think tying in some sort of Marketing hook (Trolls), or enough Pop references, and hip Voice Talent (nobody cares) will be the magic recipe to boxoffice gold.
    You need compelling characters and story that people identify and care about.
    Its not that people Hate Dreamworks movies….Its that they’re Indifferent to them. And that’s even worse. Hatred is at least an emotional response…. Indifference is the kiss of death.

    The concept of Businessmen making films at Dreamworks unfortunately started at the top with Katzenburg, who said, “Dreamworks makes movies for the adult that lives in every child”. Really? Don’t believe he said that, or maybe got it the wrong way around? Google it, or read this headline. http://www.articlejax.com/dragons-2-dreamworks-makes-movies-for-the-adult-that-lives-in-every-child/ Now, he’s close to something….but he’s got it just wrong enough to ruin everything. Adults can remember their childhood, and have fond emotional memories of those days. But what Child can look into their own future and want to see movies for the “Adult them”? Its absurd.

    Nobody at Dreamworks will ever have the balls to tell Jeffery that his idea is flawed.

    That backwards philosophy has been handed down from Jeffrey to his vast army of “Creative Executives” that run things at Dreamworks, and that’s how you end up with movies like Turbo. Factor into that now, Dreamworks is a public company, and has to run creative decisions past their Board of Directors. Just one more cog in the wheel to Cinematic Crap. Movies like Dragons and Kung Fu Panda are an astronomical anomaly, when you look at the bullsh!t Executive nonsense they have to run through.

    Hoping that Bonnie and Mirelle can stop the Executive Death Spiral the company has thrown itself into… But that’s one tall task, and in my experience, Executives don’t like to give up the reins very willingly.

  • rubi-kun

    A few months ago weren’t they saying that Turbo failed due to being too dumbed down: http://io9.com/mr-peabody-sherman-failed-because-it-was-too-clever-1681302509

    Now even Turbo is “too adult”?

    What’s going on with Guillermo Del Toro’s connection with the studio? He can’t be happy about this.

  • Carissa

    What about HTTYD2? That was really successful and kids along with adults loved it.

  • skywryter

    Great solution: Blame your audience and talk down to them at the same time. Anyone notice how well their first foray into this younger demographic went with the tooth fairy/easter bunny/sandman/santa infested Rise of the Guardians?

  • Agreed, it’s great! It probably would have won the Oscar a few years back if it weren’t for Toy Story 3.

  • Lazer-Lion

    wow, what a terrible excuse. It could just be your films feel like they’re designed by an executive committee or just unpolished and kinda average compared to Pixar.

  • Dude_Seriously

    Yes, only Dreamworks is run by “business minded execs”, not the other companies you mention that own multiple theme parks, licensing and marketing divisions, and tv networks, all of which were built for the sole purpose of bringing educational content to the poor and to allow their “creative-driven team” to make only artistic, one off masterpieces with nary a hint of franchise or sequel potential.

  • Googamp32

    I’d LOVE to hear them try to use that “too smart for our audience” excuse when the Trolls movie competes against against the Doctor Strange movie.

  • Ravlic

    If you’re incapable of telling a good story for all ages I guess the only solution is telling a good story for toddlers because they’ll like anything. Success???
    Oh I’m sorry, a racing mutated snail is too “adult” for us moviegoers. That’s some heavy stuff on par with the Godfather, us dumb audiences are just not ready to face such genius and complexity.

    • or remaking “The Godfather” with Sharks….the first dreamworks flop.

  • George Comerci

    Or, it could be that the films weren’t very good. Whatever helps them sleep at night.

  • Sammy Maudlin

    First, blame the animators. Next, blame children. What’s next, puppies?

    These people have messed up, We all do. But to point fingers at everyone but themselves is astonishingly desperate. And it’s not true.

    If anything, it was not the films so much as the business model, designed to milk some excellent franchises for short term gain. The public was getting too much of the characters through overexposure on TV as well as numerous sequels. They could have waited but the siren’s song of their own ambitions got in the way.

    Peabody may have tanked for the opposite reason. The cartoons were not on TV anymore, and let’s face it, the original Peabody was very nice but hardly the Ward cartoon everyone was clamoring for. All the others were taken.

    The very act of blaming others, especially kids, is extremely immature.

    The sort of thing little crying babies do.

    • Chris

      No, we can’t blame puppies for this. Puppy-blaming is a phenomenon which is best restricted to SF fandom. [/injoke]

      The real problem with most of their recent flops is that audiences get the impression that everything worthwhile from the movie is in the trailer, so there’s no point in paying to see the whole thing.

  • Try thinking STORY/CHARACTER first, instead of merchandising.

  • Jon Dangerously

    I hate the idea that “for kids” = “dumbed down”. Make a good movie, make the right people aware of it, and they will watch. Peabody and Sherman was decent (could have been better, but I liked it), however everyone I know that is a fan of the original was unaware of this movie even existing, as it was only advertised to kids. The previews also didn’t make it clear who it was intended for, or that it was going to be somewhat true to the original aside from character design. Kids’ deserve intelligent movies just as much, if not more, than older people. You learn the fastest when you are the youngest. The will undoubtedly try to make the movies less intelligent and more flashy, rather than making smart movies for kids that are interesting to all ages. It doesn’t even have to mean slipping in ‘adult’ humor, just tell a good story that doesn’t require a ton of world knowledge to follow. Even better if the story itself teaches you that knowledge. Winnie the Pooh and Curious George are great examples of movies that younger kids can enjoy along with parents, but have no ‘adult’ in-jokes. Much easier to just throw multi-colored cgi randomly at the screen though.

  • Fanboy Bob

    Mister Peabody is a great and timeless (no pun intended, punny as the show was) property. The film was nicely polished and had some great talent, but it’s greatest flaw was hammering the concept into a standard modern formula. Very few of the historic references were well developed, but those moments which were stand out as the high points of the movie.

    I would say they pulled off giving Sherman a romantic interest well enough, but they managed to turn off the feminists who might have praised the addition by making her little more than a damsel in distress. See Frozen for a better example of how to package female characters for today’s audiences.

    • Chris

      “Timeless property”? To the extent that I was aware of it at all before the movie, I thought of it as “one of those things my parents remember from their childhood.” I don’t have kids of my own, but I’m about the age of the parents of the target audience.

  • Lizbit

    It’s a ridiculous idea that making films for one age bracket is an automatic key to better returns at the box office- but I’ll say that working within tighter guidelines can sometimes bring out greater creativity. Let’s hope that is the case with Dreamworks.

  • Tim Tran

    the marketing is definitely terrible. spoiling the entire plot twist of Dragon 2? what was Fox thinking? Fox and paramount seems to think that DreamWorks is famous for jokes, so everytime i watch a trailer from them, everywhere is jokes and jokes and jokes, without anything else. *sigh*

    • Memorian

      Oh yea, I thought it was very strange that they showed that the mother was alive in Dragon 2, like it’s Dragon, it’s already a beloved Franchise you’re weren’t going to get MORE people to come by showing that.

  • Ice cream squared

    Dreamworks execs tell that to Disney everyone is gaga over frozen two so we know your theory is not true

  • mariomguy

    The only reason the box-office shifted to younger crowds is because the people who grew up watching Shrek and Toy Story have now grown into watching anime while Dreamworks and the rest of western animation gets more childish and buffoonish as time goes on. There are no good western animated movies anymore, virtually all of them pander to audiences instead of actually entertaining them.

    You know when you have a mattress for 15 years, you turn and roll over trying to find a comfortable position, but everywhere you turn it still hurts? It’s time for a new mattress. This game Dreamworks keeps playing of how much adult humor and silly pop-culture references belong in a pandering “obviously for kids” animated movie is pointless. This false dichotomy is not sustainable as a business model for 15 years. It is not the direction Dreamworks should continue to go in.

    Anime in America has ballooned in recent years. The plots are better, the characters are more intelligent, the pop-culture references are kept to a minimum, and that all really helps the soul of the story and essence of the characters shine through. This is not the direction we all need to go in, but it’s a start.

    • Ernesto Jose Narvaez Osorio

      It hasnt. Anime is on its death bed here. And its no where near as popular enough to kill western animation. Western Animation is in a Golden Age economically. Dont just say stuff you want to believe is true and parade it around like it is.

      Also Anime is extremely guilty of pandering.

      • mariomguy

        Economically speaking, yes, western animation rules. But I’d attribute this to the higher population, bloated marketing, heavier merchandising, and slower release of films. I have no explanation for the popularity of television animation, but it’s sure not because it’s any less pandering than anime.

  • Fluffydips

    God, what a frickin mess. What Dreamworks Animation (this applies to shit-flingers SPA and Blue Sky too) needs to get is a very creative brain trust and talented artists who know what they are doing. It OBVIOUSLY is working for Disney, Pixar, and Warner Animation Group. Just GET CREATIVE. For the love of god quit thinking with dollar signs in your eyes. Why do I bother though? When they dumb down their films to kids they will see decreasing box office numbers like never before. They will watch as Disney, Pixar, WAG, and Illumination zoom by them and they will be forgotten. Just die Dreamworks, you think nothing of the art of animation and just misuse it, just like The Weinstein Company. No cuts.

  • James

    The problem actually is that Dreamworks films are trying to appeal to adults, because their definition of “adult” is extremely superficial – fart jokes, innuendos and references to other stuff. During their peak (commercially, not artistically) in the 2000s, the only other company making animated movies that appealed to adults was Pixar, and so people were willing to take what they could get. Now the competition is much higher, and Dreamworks rightly remain the “superficial” brand.

    The HTTYD franchise is an exception but one property is not enough to change the image of an entire studio. Basically, these analysts have come up with the right problem, but the entirely wrong reasons behind it!

    • KLA

      Don’t forget Kung Fu Panda among the exceptions, but I agree with everything else.

  • Michel Van

    Enough Dream Works Execs!
    instead of gabble about “demographic shift”
    Go watch your own Movies and how you treat them!

    “Turbo” was good, but had to compete against Pixar “Monsters University”
    had you put “Turbo” for Christmas it would made allot of money.

    “Penguins of Madagascar” lack it mojo from it’s TV series
    was good for little children, but not for there Parents accompany them
    but again BAD TIMING PoM had to compete against in December 2014
    “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” and
    “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”

    “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is a Zombie, yes a Zombie !
    I try to watch this movie and gave up after 5 minutes
    Why put DreamWorks $145 million dollar into obscure forgotten 1960s Tv Show ?!
    last time someone try that was “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” in 2000
    And that was Atomic box office Bomb

    Dream Works Execs
    The problem ist NOT the change in Demographic of viewers
    The problem is you shooting your self in the foot…

  • Vincent Langella

    Based on this theory, Pixar’s Inside Out should be a very poor performer.
    But what will be the excuse if the movie does well. Brand name?

  • KLA

    “As a result, they’re pushing a “younger skewing slate” to be “more realistic/in-tune with the evolution in changes in the box office market.” ”

    No. This is exactly why you’re failing. Because PoM, Mr. Peabody, & Turbo looked like ridiculous kiddy fare with jokes thrown in to placate adults rather thatnmovies made to be enjoyable for everyone. The HTTYD and Kung Fu Panda franchises are loved because they are so well-balanced and mature. So stop trying to age down your movies. Balance. It’s something we need to learn, and it’s something you clearly need to learn.

  • Vincent Langella

    According to this theory, Pixar’s Inside Out should be a poor performer on the box office. If the movie is successful, then what? Blame it on the brand name?

  • Ted

    Chicken Little was a box office success. If anything it saved Disney animation.

    If anything, it shows that decent character designs can save a convoluted plot.

  • Turbo had an awful script. It was about affermitive action and cheating….and those were the good guys who did it.

  • The fact is is that DISNEY’s heart and soul were not the “nine old men”, it was DISNEY himself. This doesn’t mean that the people under him didn’t have über-talent, they did. When Disney died in 1966, the company started going down hill. At a technical level, the animaiton was still magnificent, it was the storytelling that suffered.

    If it weren’t for Katezenberg, Eisner and Welles, Disney would exist anymore.

  • “The Rise of the Guardians” is how they got into this mess in the first place.

  • No, “Atlantis” and “Treasure Planet” did.

  • Ernesto Jose Narvaez Osorio

    Im angry about the way Dreamworks dumbs down stuff. But the way you insult and belittle children’s intelligence is pretty horrible. And I hate this “We adults are the true audience of this children’s cartoon”. Avatar was a major success with children. Stop with this nonsense.

  • Brian of Ohio

    Easiest way to describe Dreamworks plight is: story last. While Turbo was still in production Jeffrey Katzenberg was out in the media describing the toys, games and theme parks that would be based on Turbo – before it made a dollar in the theaters. No emphasis on telling a great story first – then capitalizing on it. Until the stop making movies and start telling great stories their stock has very little value.

  • Not Anonymous

    it actually has more to do with them pushing their own people, instead of giving fresh ideas a chance. eventually that waters down everything you do.