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Feature Film

Thoughts on DreamWorks Negotiations with Paramount

Paramount Studios

The drama beween DreamWorks Animation and its distributor Paramount continues with plenty of unsubstantiated rumors, but no hard details of the negotiations. Paramount, of course, recently launched its own in-house animation studio, which strikes me as a bargaining chip more than anything else. We’ve also heard rumors that Paramount has just appointed a new studio president, and if it’s who people are claiming, it’s someone with one of the most disastrous track records of any recent executive to work in the animation industry.

The situation reminds me a lot of what Disney did when they started contract renewal talks with Pixar some years ago. Disney launched a new studio, Circle 7, and tried to make their own Toy Story sequel before coming to the conclusion that Pixar’s creative culture couldn’t be replicated with deep pockets alone. I’m not suggesting that Paramount will buy DreamWorks, but I am saying that Paramount is sorely mistaken if they think they can just launch an animation studio and start churning out consistent box office winners like DreamWorks.

This morning, an anonymous commenter on the Animation Guild blog posted a list of thirty properties currently optioned or in development at DreamWorks. The list is printed below. I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but I’ve heard of at least half of the projects on the list. Allowing for some fluctuations in the nebulous nature of options and development, it appears to be fairly accurate.

This list to me is indicative of the infrastructure that DreamWorks has built and the underlying strength of the company. In spite of personal reservations about the creative content of the studio’s films, it would be foolish to not acknowledge that the studio has one of the strongest creative foundations of any animation company currently in operation. It would take Paramount years, if not decades, to develop as robust a development slate as DreamWorks. In nearly a decade of operations, Sony Pictures Animation has managed to release a handful of middling features and doesn’t appear to have a development slate anywhere near the size of DreamWorks’s.

I don’t think anybody on the outside knows for certain how the deal between DreamWorks and Paramount will conclude, but looking at what DreamWorks Animation has achieved, I’d like to believe that the cards are stacked in its favor over the long term.

What follows is the list of DreamWorks films in development:

Puss in Boots
Madagascar 3
Rise of the Guardians
The Croods
Me and My Shadow
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Pig Scrolls
Gil’s All Fright Diner
Good Luck Trolls
Boo U
Imaginary Enemies
Monkeys of Mumbai
Flawed Dogs
The Penguins of Madagascar: The Movie
Madagascar 4
How to Train Your Dragon 3
Kung Fu Panda 3, 4, 5, 6