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Feature Film

Paramount starts in-house Animation Studio

In another sign of Hollywood’s slow recognition of animation as a money-making powerhouse: Paramount Pictures announced today the formation of a new in-house animation studio to create animated features, mainly (but not entirely) in conjunction with its Nickelodeon Movies unit. Their goal is one feature per year.

Paramount has been releasing Dreamworks Animation films for the last several years, but that arrangement is said to be ending. Warner Bros. is a potential distributor for Dreamworks post-2012. Disney, which is distributing Dreamworks live action movies, will never touch the Dreamworks Animation films.

Paramount has been releasing Nickelodeon Movies animated features – as well as films spawned by other Viacom Networks, MTV (Beavis and Butt-head) and Comedy Central (South Park) – for years now. The success of ILM/Nick’s Rango this past spring, and the potential of the forthcoming Spielberg/ Jackson Tintin movie has spurred this new division.

Longtime readers of this site know that Paramount has long ties with animation, going back to 1917 1916. It’s relationship with Max Fleischer was its most significant commitment to the form (yielding Betty Boop, Popeye, Superman and Gulliver’s Travels), and its in-house Famous Studios created Casper the Friendly Ghost in the 1940s. Paramount released several Hanna Barbera and Peanuts features in the 1970s and 80s, and had a long series of Nick spin-offs (Rugrats, Spongebob, Jimmy Neutron, etc.) since.

  • coooooool

  • Michael

    Does this mean the Mighty Mouse movie is back on track? lol

  • snip2354

    Why is it always “one each year”? It’s going to overflood the market, and we know from 2006 and 2009 that this is not a good idea! Why not follow Blue Sky’s model of business and release one film every two years?!

    • Yeah and while we’re at it, let’s lessen the number of documentaries that come out each year. There’s way too many of those!

    • Chris Webb

      The market is already overflooded.

    • they aren’t exactly churning out Citizen Kane though…

  • John A

    Well, Skiddle Diddle Dee, It’s a Hap- Hap- Happy Day indeed!

  • John

    Will all the animation be done in India or Singapore, I know they said in house. I’m just a cynic!

  • Sounds like good news. Are they hiring yet?

  • This is great news, to see the pool grow. I wish I wasn’t feeling this glass half empty on its impact on the job market here in LA, but I can’t help but wonder just how in house this in house is going to be. As nice as it is to hear more players are coming to the table is it Paramount Animation LA, India, or Canada? Completely selfish reasons on my part of course, but for now just keep my fingers crossed that SoCal is the lucky one this time out.

    Still glad to hear that the industry is growing.

  • Here’s a question for show-biz insiders, if any are here…


    “Paramount has been releasing Dreamworks Animation films for the last several years, but that arrangement is said to be ending. Warner Bros. is a potential distributor for Dreamworks post-2012.”

    Why does Dreamworks Animation need a “distributor”?

    As i understand it the distributors don’t actually own the movie screens, they just make the deal to put the movie on the screens. What are they doing that Katzenberg and Co., with all their years in the business and established contacts and whatever, couldn’t just set up a unit to do for themselves?

    Are the distributors the ones who cut those fabulous trailers that give away the whole movie? Are they the ones who make those sure-fire newspaper ads filled with quotes from reviewers we’ve never heard of?

    What value does a distributor add to an established entity like Dreamworks Animation other than being a middle man between the studio and the theater?

    Would theater chain owners not answer the phone if Jeffrey Katzenberg was calling?

    • Jerry is more qualified than I am to answer the above, but a distributor takes care of prints and advertising. A distributor has a crew of specialists to deal with all these things, and the only way to make distribution cost effective is to release a lot of films per year. DreamWorks doesn’t make enough films per year to make a distribution company profitable.

      Disney only opened its own distribution company when they started to crank out live action films. It wasn’t cost effective for them either when they were creating only animated product.

      • dbenson

        Disney picked up a handful of non-Disney features to fill Buena Vista’s pipeline before they had enough product of their own. Story was here and on Greenbriar Picture Shows.

      • dbenson – Thanks for mentioning this, I did write about Buena Vista’s live action pick-up features back in 2009:

      • I can understand needing a certain volume of movies to feed a print manufacturing plant but most (all?) of the name distributors farm this out to companies like Deluxe or Technicolor anyway. Do any of them really make their own prints?

        And with digital projection taking over, the whole need for manufacturing a film print is disappearing.

        Advertising… there’s gotta be someone better at hawking movies than whoever is doing it now.

    • Robcat2075, you really need to learn what a distributor is – and does.

      Distribution is one of the most important parts of the motion picture business (and yes, they DO cut those awful trailers). I cannot give you a complete tutorial on motion picture distribution in this post, but you would NEVER see the films in theatres or DVD or downloads or wherever without the apparatus of a distribution company. You can’t just make a movie and expect it to simply get out there… Ask Tomm Moore (Secret of Kells), ask Sylvain Chomet (The Illusionist)… filmmakers need a distributor unless the filmmaker is willing to stop making films to do the work of distribution (ask Bill Plympton or Nina Paley).

      Mark Mayerson said it well: distributors do the actual business of the movie business, maintaining the film prints (yes they still use those), coordinating the marketing and most importantly, collecting the money. In a nutshell: Yes, Dreamworks needs a distributor!

      • Bud

        Yes, and sadly, they can also be one of the reasons animated features have a hard time in the market (save the big guys…). If a small studio decides to make a film on their own, and want to seek funding, they inevitably will have to get a distributor, which will have a lot of say in the production of the film to ensure they have a film they believe they can sell. It’s a horrible situation, and the death knell of many well meaning animation productions.

        Just financing and making a film is difficult enough. Making a film that sends distributors head over heals with excitement is more difficult. Convincing them they can sell it is more difficult still.

        Thankfull, today, we have the internet, where smart film makers can carefully craft interest in their properties.

      • Not every question asked is because of gob-smacking ignorance. It’s because I have read something of what distributors do that I wonder what value they present to someone of Katzenberg’s position.

        Jeffrey Katzenberg is *not* in the same league as independent, unconnected, unresourced filmmakers like Nina Paley, Bill Plympton or Sylvain Chomet. I’m sure you don’t believe he is.

        Note that my question wasn’t “what do they do?” it was…What do they do that Katzenberg couldn’t do for himself?

        Of the answers given above…

        “Advertising”… They’re lousy at it.

        “Collecting the money”… this is the most plausible one mentioned so far but brings up the logical problem: why is a filmmaker any more likely to get an honest accounting of money taken in from “a distributor” than from theater owners?

        If Jeffrey Katzenberg goes home at night thinking “Wow, I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about distributing or advertising my film” then maybe they are doing something worthwhile for him, but if he’s really thinking “damn, we’re losing __% on every film we make just putting it in the theater…” then I’d begin to doubt their value.

    • Rod Araya

      While W-B is associated with the Australian studio Animal Logic, the studio just distributes an animated film every four years, while Disney/Pixar, Fox/Blue Sky, Columbia/Sony Animation and obviously Paramount/DreamWorks have released animated films every one or two years, so Warner and M-G-M will probably engage in a battle for getting distribution rights for future D-W films.

  • thank God! open more jobs!

  • Bud

    Rango was what it was, b ut it wasn’t exactly a box office buster. It didn’t even make it’s cost + marketing back after WW gross. They’d be fools to let DW go.

  • Sam

    If DreamWorks can’t find a distributor, does this means they will shrink/ cut back the amount of movies they are producing? If so, does this also means having more lay offs from DreamWorks?

    I suppose those artists will be picked up by starting studios like Digital Domain and this new Paramount Animation studios…

    Interesting times to come.

    • Sam, you are jumping to a conclusion that has no basis in reality… Believe me, there are many distributors (big ones like Warner Bros., small ones like Summit) who will want to be in business with the company making sequels to Kung Fu Panda, Madgascar and Shrek. Regardless of what you think may of those films, Hollywood is all about money – and Jeffery (and his studio) has nothing to worry about.

      • Sam

        You are right Jerry, however, I was saying only ‘if’! And it’s only based on the articles that stated the following:

        “The move by Paramount leaves DreamWorks Animation in a difficult position . Most other studios, including Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures and Universal Pictures already have animation divisions. The only studio without a feature animation group is Warner Bros., whose parent company, Time Warner Inc., has been long rumored as a potential buyer for DreamWorks Animation. However, Time Warner chief Jeffrey Bewkes has told associates he would not overpay for the asset.”

        Don’t get me wrong though! :-) The last thing anyone would want for the artists there is to be laid off.

        I personally enjoyed Kung Fu Panda a lot, and it would be interesting to see Warner Bros and Dreamworks work together.

      • Rod Araya

        An association with a very successful animation studio will give Warner Bros. certain confidence to advance in theatrical animation after the disastrous experiences it had with its in-house division in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. But I hope they don’t do too many crossovers between DreamWorks and W-B Animation/Cartoon Network characters.

  • Kevin

    Would they go into their backlog of owned characters or created something new?

    Popeye hasn’t been relevant since the live action movie in 1980. Mighty Mouse had a short lived series in the 80s. Felix the Cat had a revival in late 80s too that didn’t rekick him into pop culture. I don’t believe Haveytoons are owned by Paramount any more so no Casper. Betty Boop hasn’t been used since Roger Rabbit.

    • Although Harveytoons is not connected to them anymore, Terrytoons is owned by CBS Studios, which is still tied to Paramount somewhat (Paramount is the company that a hypothetical Hawaii Five-0 movie would be distributed through just like the 2009 Star Trek movie was.)

      As I said in my own post, Paramount through CBS Studios has a ton of classic franchises that could be made into animated movies and TV shows (I’m thinking about TV shows for Saturday morning or Cartoon Network/Disney XD based on classic properties like Star Trek, or even (gasp) Star Trek animated movies for the big screen!) They don’t necessarily have to use Betty Boop, Mighty Mouse, Heckle & Jeckle or Felix the Cat in a new movie, since those would be denounced by everybody here and elsewhere on the Internet anyway.

      @ParamountCartoons: Spongebob Squarepants and Shrek made Paramount more relevant than what you want to see on screen simply because you love Butch Hartman. And even if you hate both, at least both characters were somewhat fresh and new to audiences.

  • Justin

    Where can I send a reel? haha


    Only in my imaginary version, Butch Hartman would be soley responsible for making shorts – with classic/retro main-and-end titles.

    But this is better. I wish during my internship I could design the short subjects’ titles to look exactly like you’re watching a Famous Studios cartoon of the 2010’s.

    And for one of the bugs next to MPAA number seal and possibly IATSE, it could have an American flag and the words “Animated In The USA”.

    I also want them to do sing-alongs with the Bouncing Ball with the lyrics scrolling, or maybe pitch the technique revival I just mentioned of a gag anthology with a sing-along in the middle to either NBC’s “The Voice” or FOX’s “American Idol” as something for a fun promotion for kids in the audience and at home.


  • Scarabim

    I think Mighty Mouse and Felix the Cat are good choices for revival. I saw a rare color/sound Felix the other day (it was a theatrical short, not an episode from the dreadful TV series), and danged if the kitty wasn’t appealing. If Disney isn’t smart enough to reboot Oswald in theatrical form, then Paramount ought to step in and give their cinematic cat another life. But Paramount, whatever you do, please don’t inflict a live-action CGI version of The Fairly Oddparents on audiences…

    …oh wait…

    • Sorry, Scarabim—as early as fall 1921 (two years into the character’s existence), Paramount gave up all Felix rights to animation studio head Pat Sullivan.
      From that point on, the only thing Felix had in common with Paramount cartoons were Winston Sharples scores (in the mid-1930s and the 1950s).

      • Scarabim

        Awwww….darn it. Well, whoever owns the rights to Felix ought to bring him back. In 2D, not in CGI (he is one character that would NOT work in that format).

        Thanks for the info, David.

      • cbat628

        I was thinking the same thing Scarabim. I absolutely adore Felix the Cat and would love to see some new form of media he can star in that stays true to his character (that’s DEFINITELY in 2D (preferably not Flash)).

      • cbat628

        Just to clarify, I think Flash is a useful product that, when in the hands of experts/creatives, can be used to create wonderful pieces that doesn’t even call attention to how it was made (as with a lot of other art forms). I just don’t like it when figures seem to just float around or barely move at all (later Johnny Test episodes are a good example).

  • dbenson

    Doesn’t this sound like the usual bandwagon thing? Like when everybody was getting into . . .
    Computer animation?
    Disney-style blockbusters?
    Toy-driven cheapies?
    Space operas?
    Too-big musicals?
    3D (the first time)? . . .

  • The connection goes back to 1916, actually.

    • Duly noted! Thanks Tom, you are the “silent” man!

  • As someone who has observed the animation industry since 1995, I am a wee bit skeptical about this. However, I am also hopeful. Paramount did, after all, release the surprisingly good “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.” I’m sure the idea of a Spongebob movie is percolating. I would seriously love to see a Daria movie set a few years after “Is It College Yet?” that would see Quinn in college and Daria trying to make it in the Real World. And to see them animated rather than attempt to make a CGI meets Live Action bastardization? Awesome. Viacom has been historically clueless about its vast library of awesomeness. I still want to see them do an all-animation channel, or maybe an all-animation online thingy that would bring together everything from Farmer Alfalfa to MTV’s Downtown in one spot. I think that the coming 100th anniversary of Paramount might be making them think more about their “legacy.” Their “legacy” has much to be proud of, from Betty Boop to MTV Animation and yes, even Nicktoons Studio.

  • Mister Twister

    The question arises:
    Will they release anything GOOD? And by “good”, I mean Persepolis good, or The Illusionist good. I sure as **** don’t want another Spongebob movie.

  • Tim

    Actually DreamWorks was set up as film studio and distributor, that was their master plan, but I don’t think it lasted too long if it ever did.

    Hope they do the animation in America.

  • More Noveltoons on the way. :P

  • Doug Drown

    Question about Mighty Mouse and the rest of the Terrytoons films: From the mid-’30s until the purchase by CBS in 1955, Terrytoons were copyrighted by Twentieth Century-Fox. I know Viacom owns the characters, but who currently has ownership of all those older cartoons?

    • Terrytoons was an independent studio with a contract to provide 20th Century-Fox with a series of theatrical cartoons – a deal that lasted between the mid-1930s to the early 1970s. The films were always owned and copyright by Terrytoons, Inc. Today Viacom owns all the assets of Terrytoons – including all the old 20th Century-Fox cartoons.

      • Bob

        But in the 1930’s, weren’t Terrytoons distributed by Educational Pictures, who actually had their own exchanges which they closed down around 1933, then had their short subjects released first by Fox Films, then 20th Century-Fox until Educational hit the financial skids in the late 1930s?

      • Yes, Bob, that’s true. 20th-Century Fox inherited the Terrytoons theatrical contract when Educational fizzled out in the late 30s. Terrytoons Inc. always owned their film library. Viacom owns that library today.

  • Whofan

    This might mean another “Star Trek” animation-it’s been a rumor that’s been floating around for a few weeks.

  • Inkan1969

    Why doesn’t Dreamworks do its own distribution, like how Disney does?

  • Ed Thompson

    As far as the comments on the number of animated films they plan to make: If the movies are bad, one a year is too many. If the movies are good, 10 a year is too few.