UPDATE: Dreamworks to acquire Classic Media

UPDATE 7/23: It’s official! The Wall Street Journal has reported that Dreamworks is paying $155 million to acquire Classic Media LLP, owners of numerous cartoon stars and iconic intellectual properties.

Classic Media will now operate under the name DreamWorks Classics and co-Chief Executives Eric Ellenbogen and John Engelman will remain as co-heads, though the exact organizational structure is still being sorted out.


ORIGINAL 7/16 POST: According to The New York Times, Dreamworks Animation has made an offer to acquire Classic Media – the owners of UPA, the Harvey Comics library (Casper, Richie Rich, etc), Roger Ramjet, Underdog and Total Television properties, The Lone Ranger and many Rankin-Bass specials including Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Classic Media also represents many intellectual properties owned by others including Jay Ward shows (Rocky & Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle, etc.), Felix The Cat and Archie.

I, for one, would like to see Dreamworks Animation complete this deal. It’s good business for Dreamworks and it could be a good home for the characters. Certainly better than the hands they’re in now. It’s debatable how well Classic Media did licensing its properties throughout the years. Their handling of DVD releases of its classic material was particularly irritating. The company’s track record of making new movies from its classic properties (think Underdog, or the upcoming Johnny Depp Lone Ranger movie) was troubling.

Dear Jeffrey,

Good luck acquiring Classic Media. I hope you succeed.

I understand you are planning a Dreamworks theme park in New Jersey – these characters will augment the stars of Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda you’ll have running around there. I look forward to seeing Casper’s Haunted Mansion, exploring Richie Rich’s Enchanted Money Vault, and taking a spin on Mister Magoo’s Wild Ride. Should be fun!

I also look forward to seeing CGI, 48-frames-per-second, 3D versions of Go-Go Gophers, Tennesse Tuxedo and Baby Huey – but I hope you will consider releasing UPA’s Boing Boing Show on DVD (or for download) and restoration of the Harveytoons with their original credits and titles.

You will have an incredibly rich library with dozens of strong, pre-sold properties with famous name characters that are beloved by millions. If you take good care of them and treat them right, you will be rewarded with more than just my gratitude. They’ll repay Dreamworks back many times over. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.

Seriously,

Jerry Beck


  • Hank

    Little Lotta’s Dive Diner!

    • Steve C.

      Little Lotta did not nhave her own cartoon,though!

      • Jow

        SO?

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Well, they could do something with her in animation if they like.

  • http://www.classicparamountcartoons.blogspot.com ParamountCartoons

    Does this mean Paramount/Viacom will finally regain rights to the Harvey-era Paramount cartoons?

    • http://www.cartoonbrew.com/author/jerry Jerry Beck

      No. In fact Dreamworks Animation is ending its distribution arrangement with Paramount next year. Dreamworks is in talks with several other major studios (including 20th Century-Fox) about picking up their feature films.

      • Steve C.

        And such as with the boxoffice success of “The Help” released lasst year, Dreamworks has been working with Disney through its TOuchstone brand,too.:)

      • Lasseter

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      • James

        Of other studios/companies out there, I’d say Warner Bros might be among the most interested. They’ve never seemed to break into the CGI animated film market.

        20th Century Fox has the Blue Sky studios partnership, so I’m not sure if they are interested. Universal and Sony also appear to be partnered with newly emerging CGI animated film production companies

      • Kevin Martinez

        This was back in 2011, but the prospects of Warner picking up Dreamworks Animation seems to be slim.

        http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2011/07/dreamworks-animation-deal-with-warner-bros-appears-unlikely.html

        Good thing, too, as Warner couldn’t market animated features if their financial solvency depended on it (it’s only hits, The Polar Express and Happy Feet, were essentially successful IN SPITE of Warner)

      • KB

        Steve C, DreamWorks Studios (Spieilberg’s live-action studio) and DreamWorks Animation (Katzenberg’s animation studio) are no longer affiliated with each other, except that DWS licenses the DW logo from DWA. DWA spun off in 2004 and is a public company – DWS is private.

        It’s Spielberg, not Katzenberg, who has the distribution deal with Disney.

  • Kevin Martinez

    If Paramount can hold onto DWA, that bit about Harveytoons with original titles just might be within the realm of possiblity.

    Entertainment Rights ,current owners of CM, also own Filmation’s back catalogue, and it seems like the two libraries seem to have marged (ex. Fat Albert and He-Man alongside Classic Media characters in this year’s Met-Life ad). Will DM get that too?

  • Chelsea

    To my knowledge, Classic Media also owns… Veggietales.

    I’m curious as to what Dreamworks would do with that particular property.

    • http://www.frogchildren.com Kevin Konrad Hannna

      For one thing, Dreamworks will have two animated stories about Moses.

      regardless of ones personal thoughts on veggie tales it’s a huge franchise to this day and worth noting.

      Also the Veggie Tales/Saving Private Ryan cross-over writes itself.

      • John A

        “Saving Private Rhubarb”?

  • Ryoku

    Either we’ll be seeing some find DVD releases or more poor CGI flop, I don’t want a psuedo realistic 3D Baby Huey thank you very much.

    • http://artnote.blog.com Stephen

      I would put up with that yellow-feathered Antichrist (Baby Huey) if it meant that we get the Boing Boing show on DVD.

      • Ryoku

        I see where you’re coming from, I want a Fox and Crow DVD very,very badly. If they have to make a few strange movies for some DVD boxsets then so be it.

        But I do have a question, who ownms the rights to the Fox and Crow? I know that UPA owns a few shorts that they made (and thus classic media), but I dunno if that implies every short.

  • top cat james

    I see from Classic Media’s website that they also own the rights to the Dell/Gold Key comics library. Assuming the Disney titles would be unavailable, that would still include Warner Bros, MGM, Lantz, and Hanna-Barbera properties, among others. Would the reprint rights also be included in the DreamWorks deal?

    And I second the request for The Boing Boing Show on DVD.

    • TimeForTimer

      Gold Key does not “own” any of the Hanna-Barbera properties. Nor do they “own” WB, Disney, Lantz or any other companies’ characters. So, they only purchased the titles original to Gold Key/Dell, like “Baby Snoots,” “Wacky Witch,” etc. etc.

  • http://icanbreakaway.blogspot.com Dan

    Could this possibly mean… a renewed interest in Casper’s “POST GHOSTIES ®”? Kee-ripes, it’s been months since that showed up here & I can’t shake that damn tune from my head.

  • Anthony D.

    I’m hoping this will finally mean that the cartoons in Classic Media’s library will be restored. Though, I wonder what this will mean with Classic Media’s sub-licensing deal with Shout! Factory.

  • James

    As Jerry has said here and on his Stu Show broadcasts, Classic Media’s DVD department is among the most lazy out there. They have uncut or high quality elements available for most of their material, but they rarely use them. The later Godzilla/Toho are the few DVD releases where it seems actual effort was put in.

    Hopefully Classic Media takes the offer. It’s not like they are really doing much currently with their properties outside of a few sub-licenses.

    • Jow

      And Everybody Here Thought Warner Bros. Classic Animation DVD Department Was Lazy (The Essential Bugs Bunny, The Tom And Jerry Spotlight Collections).

  • VIC JAURIQUI

    That is weird!! I had a dream a few momths ago that the Harveytoons were sold to someone else…and that they re-released these cartoons uncut, with the begining and end titles intack. In my dream (yes, I dream of cartoons, ha ha), the viewer had a choice to see these ‘toons with the Harveytoons or Paramount openings, Could it be coming true???

  • http://signorestudios.blogspot.co.uk/ Chris Signore

    Depending whether further “reboots” are already in the planning stages or not, if Dreamworks should succeed in buy up Classic Media, the very least they could do is release the rest of the “unused” properties to DVD – preferably those that originated from the United Kingdom.

    We already have “The Snow Queen”, “Lavender Castle”, “Charlie Chalk”, “The First Snow of Winter”, “The Forgotten Toys”, “Second Star to the Left” – to name but a few already available. But the only chances we have of seeing entire runs of “The Spooks of Bottle Bay” or “Budgie the Little Helicopter” are through the means of YouTube or long-deleted VHS cassettes. And I’d rather have them put to disc than rebooted for the big-screen. “If it ain’t broke…”

  • http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/ michael sporn

    I’s about time we saw a cgi Mr. Magoo. The Twirlinger Twins would be fun in a 3D cg version, as well. Perhaps they can get Robert DeNiro back to play “The Big Leader” again in “Bullwinkle & Rocky 2.”

    Or maybe some of these classics will be given proper respect.

  • http://www.granitoons.deviantart.com A Morrice

    Does Classic Media include any UK-produced properties?

    • Tim Hodge

      Yup. They acquired Postman Pat, Pat the Bunny, and Where’s Waldo a couple of years ago when the original owners of Classic Media bought back their library (and then some) from Entertainment Rights, LLC., to whom they had sold it a couple of years earlier.

  • anonymous

    I agrree with Jerry. Dreamworks has a very different setup the other studios and alot of these characters could be reintroduced through new or rereleased shows

  • wever

    Seems like the Sherman and Peabody film was great enough for DreamWorks to have enough confidence in acquiring more classic cartoons. Oh wait. Sherman and Peabody is only still in the development stages! What?!?!

  • Rich

    More classic properties for Dreamworks to ruin. hooray

    • Atheist Libertarian

      Yeah, they would probably make sub-par, forgettable animated flicks with huge, big-name actors, whom no child really gives a shit about, stick in a bunch of moronical fart jokes and tiresome rehashed material they have used in every other of their forgettable films.
      Say what you want about Disney/Pixar but at least they are not as cheap and as desperate as DreamWorks.

  • http://www.davidderooij.nl David

    Haha did you sign it with “Seriously”? :D

    • TheBandSnapsBack

      It’s like “sincerely,” only more sincere.

  • George

    A UPA section of a DW theme park could include a Rooty Toot Toot thrill ride, where whole carloads of happy park goers get mowed down by a chipper ballet dancing Frankie re-inactor with a six shooter, eight times an hour! There could be a haunted mansion featuring the spectral beings of UPA’s long gone studio runners and much of its creative staff. Most entertaining might be an interactive hang gliding attraction, where visitors sail over the HUAC hearings in D.C. as Walt Disney (in newsreel footage) fingers Dave Hilberman and drives nails into the coffins of all Those Communists By the River. But all of this would show the properties DW plans to usurp way too much respect. It’s a business deal. DW needs more hogs to crank out sausage and the perceived value of presold properties (compared to original creations) remains a huge comfort factor that movers and shakers just can’t avoid, even if the move ends up being a strategic one to thwart competitors from grabbing it. A DW Filmation properties CG feature may be one of the few to improve on the source material.

  • Pedro Nakama

    At least DreamWorks will keep it animated. Other studios would make live action versions of these properties.

  • Seriously?

    People who liked the Classic Media characters were the same people in high school who read Archie Comics, and thought they were good.

    They’re not. They weren’t.
    And Dreamworks “Creative Executives” putting their fingers into the pie will make these characters suck like they’ve never sucked before.

    It will be magical.

    • http://www.sweetposer.tk/urbmn/ Cameron A.

      Classic Media is a scattershot assortment of intellectual properties. The company has rights to things like the Harvey Comics properties, Magnus, Robot Fighter, Turok, Son of Stone, Basil Brush, Jay Ward’s cartoons, Felix the Cat, and The Lone Ranger.

      The analogy would make more sense if Classic Media had a flagship product, like Archie and its derivatives for Archie Comics. Also, Harvey Comics is best known for Richie Rich, Casper at al., but they used to be a standard comic book publisher – many horror and war titles – until they made bank with the Famous Studios licences.

      It’s too bad Harvey only held on to The Black Cat – Dreamworks could make something out of, say, The Man From SRAM, if it wanted to milk the superhero trend some more.

    • James

      Classic Media has a pretty wide assortment of intellectual properties. The Harveytoons and Casper are only one property.

  • Scarabim

    If Dreamworks does build a theme park, they could have a Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer dark ride – a trip through a foggy, snowy and dangerous Christmas Eve to the Island of Misfit Toys. I’m serious, it could be awesome!

    Rudolph and Casper are two great properties. Dreamworks could do great things with them. Here’s hoping it does.

    • Funkybat

      A ride with animatronic versions of the stop-motion Rankin-Bass Christmas specials could be very cool. One problem that might be tough to address is that a lot of the charm of those films was the choppy animation. Since it’s impossible to make something in the real world move at a reduced frame rate, maybe some kind of strobe light could be used to make everything seem “just like the TV specials.”

  • Sarah J

    I really hope Dreamworks gets the rights to these characters, even if it does mean we have to put up with a few CGI film adaptations. The characters don’t seem to be getting much love where they are now.

  • Graham

    Maybe now we can get our CGI He-Man. We all wanted that, right?

  • Matt

    My opinion on this wouldn’t be very popular with Jerry and the like. But I firmly believe that things need to die. Franchises need to end. Characters need to take a bow and walk off stage. People should take a page from the book of Bill Watterson. Why? So we can discover new ones and not disgrace the memory/legacy/encapsulated-timeliness of the old ones. Why does everyone have to be all George Lucas A-la the original Star Wars trilogy fidget hack-chop new CGI botox re-imagine re-take re-do what’s old is new all the time?

    • Ryoku75

      DVD releases of classic are fine, but when Hollywood gets desperate it turns to using already extablished stuff.

  • VIC JAURIQUI

    I can only hope and pray that DREAMWORKS treats these classics with a ton of respect,,,something they never got from Classic Media (especially the Harveytoons). An amusement park? Great idea. I wish DW all the best! The deal did go through…right?

  • http://www.digthiscrazytestpattern.com Kevin Wollenweber

    I’m hoping that this is very good news for all properties, including the Jay Ward cartoons. Yes, Classic Media did treat most of those properties with greater respect than they’ve given all other properties but, if Dreamworks digs pop culture as much as we do, maybe they’d consider an all-new rollout of all things ROCKY & BULLWINKLE, this time with the original music and, yes, as annoying as it might seem to some, the laugh tracks on the first few episodes of “Jet Fuel Formula”, merely because that is the way it aired…I’m also very much for the continued restorations of FELIX THE CAT and all original Paramount/Famous/Harvey cartoons. Such moves can only make money for the company as so many animation fans really want these cartoons, even with the Harveytoons logo instead of the Paramount openings. I just care that the original films get the dust and mildew blown off them.

  • MiHI

    If this deal goes through, I hope that Dreamworks will do the right thing and pay Arthur Rankin the millions of back residuals that he was being gypped out of.

  • Joe Schmoe

    Funny. Over in the rumored Finding Nemo 2 post the very same people drooling here over ways to reboot Baby Huey and other long-dead-for-very-good-reasons characters were bemoaning the “creative sell-outs at Pixar” for daring to create a sequel.
    Go figure.

    • Funkybat

      I don’t know if too many people here are clamoring for 3D reboots of Baby Huey or Rocky and Bullwinkle. I think the excitement is more due to the prospect of a lot of these cartoons getting more full-fledged DVD/Blue Ray releases. Some of these cartoons haven’t been released ever on DVD or even VHS, such as The Fox and the Crow, and others have been released in bastardized forms, such as the overdubbed Mr. Magoo DVD set. I’m hoping that this Dreamworks deal means a minimal number of “reboots” and a large number of restored film disc releases.

  • http://www.granitoons.deviantart.com Andrew

    Are there any UK shows within Classic Media’s blanket?

  • Kenny

    From The Wall Street Journal:

    DreamWorks Buys Classics
    Studio Expands Library With Staples Such as Casper, Boosting Its IP Portfolio

    By MICHELLE KUNG

    Shrek and Casper the Friendly Ghost can now play in the same cinematic sandbox.

    Television classics such as ‘Casper,’ will now be under the DreamWorks umbrella managed by the newly branded DreamWorks Classics.

    DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. DWA -2.24% is acquiring Classic Media, an entertainment company that owns “Casper,” Lassie and over 450 family entertainment titles, for $155 million in a bid to increase the studio’s intellectual property base and leverage Classic’s extensive library across its various entertainment divisions.

    DreamWorks beat out more than half a dozen bidders for Classic Media and will pay cash for the 12-year-old rights-holding company, which is owned by Boomerang Media Holdings I LLC, a portfolio company of private-equity firm GTCR LLC.

    As part of the deal, Classic Media will operate under the umbrella of DreamWorks. Classic Media co-Chief Executives Eric Ellenbogen and John Engelman will remain as co-heads of the newly branded DreamWorks Classics, though the exact organizational structure is still being sorted out.

    DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg called the deal a “game changer,” noting that Classic brings to DreamWorks an array of branded assets, including more than 6,100 episodes of animated and live-action programming, as well as the Golden Books library, whose titles have sold more than two billion copies world-wide but have yet to be exploited digitally.

    The studio will move quickly to give Mr. Ellenbogen and Mr. Engelman “access to the various parts of the business they can easily capitalize on,” said Mr. Katzenberg, such as leveraging DreamWorks’ home entertainment distribution resources. The studio will give the duo plenty of “capital and resources to continue building their library,” he said.

    “DreamWorks has been about new products: tentpole movies and TV products,” said Mr. Ellenbogen. “This deal gives the studio a very deep character library that helps it rival Universal or Sony.”

    Formed in 2000, Classic Media has amassed a diverse collection of family and pop culture properties ranging from “Where’s Waldo?” to Christmas classics like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The company generated $82.2 million in revenue and $19.2 million in operating profit for the year ended Feb. 29, 2012.

    DreamWorks and Classic Media first began working together in 2006, when the studio optioned the rights to make a movie about the animated characters Mr. Peabody and Sherman, a genius dog and his human “pet.” Classic manages the rights to the two characters in a joint venture with Jay Ward Productions. The DreamWorks movie is slated to open Christmas Day 2013.

    According to Mr. Ellenbogen, roughly 20 theatrical films have been made from properties in the Classic Media library and a few more are in development or production.

    DreamWorks Classics will include ‘Fat Albert.’

    Classic previously had licensed the rights to several of its characters to other film studios, including “The Lone Ranger” to Walt Disney Co. DIS -0.82% and producer Jerry Bruckheimer and “Where’s Waldo?” to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. DreamWorks now steps in as rights proprietor in those deals, said Mr. Ellenbogen, and all existing relationships remain “unchanged” as the result of the transaction.

    In the case of “The Lone Ranger,” Mr. Katzenberg said having the film in the hands of Disney and Mr. Bruckheimer is “a home run” for the studio. Noting that DreamWorks Animation doesn’t make live-action movies like “The Lone Ranger,” the studio will now be able to share in various opportunities arising from investing creative assets in the live-action business—”not only on the merchandising and licensing side of it,” said Mr. Katzenberg, “but we also have the television rights. There’s a lot of value there.”

    • Ranzak

      What isn’t a “Game Changer” these days?

  • RonaldoM

    Not seeing Richie Rich being a successful character concept in 2012, but what do I know!

  • http://clxcool.deviantart.com/ CLXcool

    Let me start off by saying this. I have mixed feelings about this. For starters, I never cared about Rocky and Bullwinkle or even Peabody and Sherman(but I will admit that the Peabody and Sherman feature would be promising if its handled right). Im kinda surprised that Dreamworks would do something like this. Then again, with the cartoon reboots happening all over the place this was bound to happen sooner or later.

    I never even cared for Casper or even Richie rich for that matter. They just looked the same to me, even the joke on the similarities on the characters on The Simpsons sums up what I gotta say about the rich boy and the friendly ghost who scares the pants off of the average joe. If Archie or Felix the cat get rebooted, I hope that they are about as faithful to what they were based off of rather than trying to be “updated” for today’s audience. While Archie’s weird mysteries was okay, but the voice acting for the characters was off. Most of them didn’t even fit their characters(although Veronica and Betty’s voice seemed “in character”). As for Felix the cat, I know that there were talks for a new CGI cartoon show of Felix the cat. Looks like that’s good as dead. If a new felix cartoon happens, I hope its like The Twisted Tales of Felix the cat(Whats taking them so damn long to release it on DVD? They better have it loaded with special features, including an interview with Milton knight as well as “how to draw” tutorials from Milton on the various characters on the show).

  • VIC JAURIQUI

    I am so happy that the DREAMWORKS/Classic Media deal went through! Jerry, don’t know how chummy you are with the folks at DW, but if you know them and I suspect that you do, you really need to get on this. I, for one, would gladly pay extra $$ to see the HARVEYTOONS restored to their original pristine glory. Maybe a new division created like the people at Warner Archive did. Anyway, I can only hope for the best. Thanks for listening. Good luck, Jerry!

  • James Fox

    I’m skeptic about this for a good reason
    as of now, Dreamworks is under Viacom’s umbrella and Viacom is notorious for not giving 2 s**ts about classic animation

    If they do stay under Viacom.. Kiss Mr. Magoo, Gumby and every toon we know and love good bye

    • KB

      DreamWorks Animation is not a part of Viacom. Paramount Pictures is their distributor, but the company is not owned by Paramount or Viacom.

  • TimeForTimer

    How can they own Archie, Sabrina, and Shazam! when they are owned by other companies? It must only be the DVD rights?

  • http://fluffyandmervin.com Debbie

    Archie and Sabrina are owned by the publisher, Archie Comics. What Classic Media (now Dreamworks Classics) owns is the Filmation TV series starring Archie and Sabrina.

  • Jow

    Makes Sense, Since DreamWorks Is Making A Mr. Peabody And Sherman Movie. Plus, This Means Better DVD Releases, New TV Shows, New Movies And New Theme Parks. Horray!