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First Look at $2.4 Billion Oriental DreamWorks Complex in Shanghai

Last week DreamWorks revealed the first renderings of the Dream Center, a 40-acre, $2.4 billion development in Shanghai, China. Scheduled to open in 2017 (or early-2018), the site will house the Oriental DreamWorks production studio, which is currently working on Kung Fu Panda 3, as well as the world’s largest IMAX screen, eight outdoor plazas, hotels, restaurants, theaters, galleries, and tourist attractions.

Fifteen different Chinese and international architectural firms are working on designing the various spaces that will have a floor area of 5 million square feet. (For comparison, the DreamWorks Animation campus in Glendale is 6 acres and has 463,000 square feet of office space.)

The site is being envisioned as “a world-class cultural destination…comparable to New York’s Broadway and London’s West End,” according to a 2012 press release. The project was first announced publicly in 2011.

Here’s a news report from a few days ago that shows DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and others discussing the development, and participating in a ‘ribbon cutting’ set to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” a song created for rival Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me 2.

Click on any of the images for a larger view.

The IMAX theater

Northwest view of the waterfront

Dream Center office buildings

(source: Variety/Wall Street Journal)

  • Rufus

    Michael Eisner would be proud.

  • LrsDude

    Are they hiring?

    • wgan

      or do you speak Chinese?

    • wgan

      or do you speak Chinese?

    • John A

      Sure! just submit a resume along with your ankle size for your own custom fit leg irons.

    • John A

      Sure! just submit a resume along with your ankle size for your own custom fit leg irons.

  • Myst AnimatorX

    Here we go. The slow process of taking all American productions to China. Get ready everyone.

    • samuel

      It already started a longtime ago, they just don’t need to hide it anymore.

    • Yes, because your phone and most of the cloth you wear is Made in US soil, right?

  • matthew justice

    they can spend that much in china but had to lay off 300 people here ?

    • AmidAmidi

      DreamWorks isn’t spending anywhere near that much. That’s the cost of the project, but commercial real estate developers and the Chinese government are involved as financial partners.

  • Pinky

    So, will Disney now spend $15 billion, build a bigger IMAX and surround ‘Dreamland’, China?

    • AmidAmidi

      Exactamundo! A few miles away, Disney is spending nearly twice as much—$4.4 billion—to build the Shanghai Disney Resort which will open at the end of 2015. It’s hard to believe that the Disney park, which has been in development for a long time, didn’t have anything to do with Katzenberg’s decision to base his project in Shanghai.

      • Pinky

        Wow. I was kidding…Is life really this ridiculous?

        • cckrad

          what’s ridiculous about it?

        • cckrad

          what’s ridiculous about it?

  • William Bradford

    Honestly, I say good for China. Feature-film animation demands time and effort; and even the most Crass of animated films still demands quality animation. My qualms over so much production coming from China is less about taking work away from North America (I don’t think people here are more important then people anywhere else) but because we buy the stuff there because it’s rush and cheap and as a result poor quality. Also, I always got the impression DreamWorks had to lay off all those people because they overhired to try and fit in three films a year and realized it was too much to manage.

  • Guest

    If we keep going in this direction there will be so few animation jobs :(

    • AmidAmidi

      Your statement is verifiably false and adds nothing to the discussion. More new animation jobs have been created in the past decade than any time prior in the art form’s history, and it is precisely because of the art form’s global expansion. In fact, there is far greater demand for animation content today than there are people to make it, and there is still significant expansion ahead for the art form in the coming decades.

      • Gavin Mouldey

        Also, considering China holds almost a fifth of the world’s population, it’s only fair, and statistically sensible, that their chunk of the workforce pie grows larger. Even in little New Zealand, where we have only around 4 million residents, people still complain about international industries being dominated by China and India. Support local jobs for local products (and independent projects), sure, but blockbuster films are a part of a global industry.

      • Martin

        Dear Amid Amidi, When you move 2.4 billion dollars to China it DOES add to the discussion pointing out about how much jobs are being lost in the animation industry in the US and this is happening too in other countries. For instance, in Latin America, some studios send people to India so that they can work with motion-capture… there are mocap teams there in Latin America, but India is cheaper.

        What kind of local development does outsourcing give to local artists? Do you have figures? You have posted about VFX, other studios going down, firing artists… Come on, man.

        • AmidAmidi

          The comment that I responded to didn’t say anything about jobs being lost in a particular region. The commenter only said that “if we keep going in this direction there will be so few animation jobs,” and I pointed out that that was incorrect. What you are saying about jobs being shifted from one location to another is legitimate, but it’s a different subject than what I was discussing.

      • Destiny

        I will not move to China to do animation, so yes, we are losing animation jobs in the U.S. I’d rather not work in animation anymore if I’m expected to move from my family and get paid less overseas in order to do animation. I love animation but its not worth it.

      • DangerMaus

        Yeah. You’re right there will be plenty of jobs in animation. They just won’t be in North America.

  • Draw_John

    2.4 how much?

    Great googally moogally!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Well, Disney tried that once.

  • Pedro Nakama

    DreamWorks was going to build a theme park in Russia. Now that Putin is acting up is that still on?

  • All is well……

    If you don’t believe Animators in Glendale and Redwood City will lose their jobs…. Remember, Katzenberg is the same man who told all the 2D artists that “Everything is just fine…. I’m dedicated to 2D animation…. Nothing to worry about…” And then *Poof*, 2D Animation desks were set out in the rain, along with the artists attached to them.

  • IamSam

    I’m okay with outsourcing jobs to China. At the end of the day the Chinese are people just like us in the US. We are all people. If they work for cheap simply because their country has a lower cost of living than I am okay with that. What makes one person deserve to work over another?
    I think the 2.4 billion in spending was a bit much though considering they did let people go but that is business for you.

  • John A

    A multi billion dollar sequel factory. Let’s not pretend that it isn’t. They’re just going to reuse pre existing character riggings, props and backgrounds from the original production (whatever it was, they can do this with any of their movies) add a new character or two, and get some hack TV writer to scribble out a script or series of scripts, just like the direct to video eyesores from the nineties–only now they’ve eliminated ANY need for those pesky expensive, experienced artists to put the whole production together.
    It IS Eisner’s dream come true.

    • IJK

      Disney re-used animation, stories, characters, designs.
      Pixar is big on sequels right now.
      Almost all of your childhood favorites re-used something or skimmed something or were made with profit in mind.

      What world are you living in where a big studio spends millions of dollars on a product just for the art of it? Everything you are stating has been going on since the beginning of Hollywood.

      Why are you complaining about the basics of business? It’s like complaining how oxygen is tasteless and boring when it should have a tang to it.

  • Mrenjoyable

    The architecture and design is pretty uninspired for what is considered cutting edge – – Yawn… With that $ and the aspirations of the project I wish it didn’t feel so much like the “Mall of America” in China… – hard to get excited about it.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    You’d think we’d be past that point by now.

  • James VanDam

    It is a bit disheartening to see a lot of jobs go over seas, But that doesn’t stop people from creating their own company here in the us. Maybe it’s time someone created the next Pixar

    • GS

      Amen. If the system’s broken, create your own system.

    • hamilton geyser

      Need capital though. and cheap labor. not gonna find that here.

  • DangerMaus

    What you can’t build when you are only going to have to pay your workers 10 dollars a day.

  • Arnaud
  • Rufus

    Jurassic Park has never been more relevant. This guy’s John Hammond.

  • I don’t know much about studio economics (heck, I’m just a student learning how to actually *do* animation), but spending that much money on a subsidiary studio seems like a really dumb move to me, considering that most of their films have been losing money. Like- do they *really* need hotels, tourist attractions, and shopping plazas? Obviously if people use them, great for them, since they’re making money. But will they? Seems to be too big of a risk for something that, in the end, isn’t the key important part of the project.

    Also, I’d prefer it if Dreamworks spent a bit more money on keeping the people who are working for them here state side STILL working for them.

  • hamilton geyser

    The American VFX industry is completely dead, and I’m thinking animation will be close behind.