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Netflix Hires Former Dreamworks Exec To Head Kids And Family Content – And Gives A Big Clue About Where They’re Headed

Netflix has hired Melissa Cobb from Dreamworks Animation as its vice president for kids and family.

In her new role at the leading internet streamer, Cobb will oversee the creation and acquisition of series and films for children and families, and will be tasked with “an expanded focus on high quality series and event programming across the spectrum of kids and family entertainment, including both animation and live action.” She will report directly to Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

The notable thing here is that Netflix didn’t hire someone with a television background, but rather someone with a film background. It’s a surprising choice given that Netflix’s original family programming until now has mostly focused around series. As the description of her role acknowledges, Cobb will also be involved with the creation and acquisition of films. We’ve heard the rumors that Netflix is prepping for a bigger move into original feature animation production, and Cobb’s hire lends credence to the theory that Netflix is taking a step in that direction.

Cobb was most recently chief creative officer and head of studio for Oriental Dreamworks. From her Shanghai, China base, she oversaw all aspects of running the studio and U.S./China collaboration including creative oversight of all projects in development and production, business strategy, and production strategy for a slate of films including the upcoming Dreamworks pic Everest.

Prior to Oriental Dreamworks, Cobb was a producer at Dreamworks, including on the Kung Fu Panda series. Kung Fu Panda 2 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson recently credited Cobb for nudging her into the director’s chair, making Yuh Nelson the only solo woman director of a major Hollywood animated feature this decade so far.

“Melissa brings a wealth of experience creating and overseeing series and feature films that resonate with kids and families across the globe. No matter where they live, our members find tremendous enjoyment in our kids and family content, and I couldn’t be happier to have Melissa on board to continue expanding into new and exciting areas,” said Sarandos.

“Given the creative freedom offered here and the global audience, there’s a huge opportunity for talented creatives across the industry to create the world’s best kids and family series and features for Netflix,” said Cobb. “My goal for this team is to offer a diverse slate of great, powerful and timeless family entertainment with global appeal, and to be creator and talent friendly, while striving for the highest quality in everything we do.”

Prior to her work at Dreamworks, Cobb worked at 20th Century Fox Feature Animation, where her credits included Titan A.E. and Ever After. Earlier, at Walt Disney Pictures, she helped discover and develop live-action titles, including Blank Check, the 1994 remake of The Jungle Book, and Man of the House. She holds an M.B.A. from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA and a B.S. from Stanford University.

  • Anonymous

    They may be headed to bankruptcy. They are in a lot of debt.

    • Something about internet giants collapsing on themselves makes me laugh.

      • Josh Evans

        Why though? Netflix is giving artists an opportunity to make movies and shows that no other network gives them the creative freedom to do! We should be cheering on companies with this business model in my opinion.

        • I suppose it’s more a case of Sturgeon’s Law that still rings true with these online ventures. There’s always one or two gems in the pile of coal waiting to be discovered.

        • Barrett

          From where I sit, Netflix is a pretty good service. I certainly like their business model more than, say, Hulu’s. No ads, one-demand entertainment on my PC or phone any time, and at this point a decent selection of content. Most of what I want to watch that isn’t on Netflix is on Amazon Prime video (the rest is on Hulu.) I feel what I pay for streaming per month is a good deal. My only gripe with Netflix is the too-frequent shuffling on and off of titles. If they get something, I’d prefer to know it’s going to be on there non-stop for at least 4-5 years from that point on. Seems like a lot of stuff these days cycles on, off, then sometimes back on again within the span of 2-3 years. They need to pony up enough to get longer-term contracts, and also be OK with non-exclusivity (say, the same title being on both Netflix and Amazon Prime at the same time – that should be up to the IP holder.)

    • Gregory

      Not while shareholders continue to allow Netflix to keep raising money by allowing them issue more stock ($80B in market cap).. for now, they’re able to keep burning cash..

  • I can concur the titles she developed at Disney aren’t very inspiring.

  • RCooke

    “oversaw all aspects of running the studio and U.S./China collaboration including creative oversight of all projects in development and production, business strategy, and production strategy”

    A Businessperson with no proven creative vision. Hopefully she’ll hire good people who do, and gets out of their way.

    • Josh Evans

      Her experience in production lead me to believe in her skills in finding creative people and finding the funding to let them do their thing. Business people are crucial to filmmaking, hard as it is for creatives (like me) to understand what it really is that they do.

  • Matt Norcross

    Who knows? Maybe the Dragon’s Lair movie Don Bluth has been trying to get made will be a part of the Netflix empire. Hollywood see hand-drawn as box office poison nowadays, so Netflix would be a great fit for Dragon’s Lair.

    • RCooke

      Who would they get to write and direct it?

      • Eddie

        Don Bluth of course, just like he did in the past. Allow his work to be ran the way he and his partners would see fit since the would know it best.

      • Matt Norcross

        Obviously Don Bluth, he did the game after all.

    • That’s a pretty cool idea! Bluth and co. recently finished the animated pitch for Dragon’s Lair, so maybe Netflix could snap it up and fund the rest of the movie in exchange for exclusive streaming rights. Either way, I hope they find someone willing to take the risk and get it made.

  • Coco

    Really hoping for the best with this … Netflix has a great chance to become a platform for artists/creators to explore riskier and more creatively challenging projects, instead of just cranking out more $$$$-driven films.

    • Axolotl

      Agreed, they do weird stuff like OKJA…I’d like to see some genre-defying animated movies too…Maybe even…2-d? (Nah, I’m just a naif old baby…)

    • Mack

      If they’re going to foot the bill for these projects, I imagine they’ll want them to have some mainstream success. They didn’t give Adam Sandler a deal to get awards.