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DreamWorks Moves Forward with Big TV Animation Plans

DreamWorks Animation announced yesterday the hire of veteran Nickelodeon exec Marjorie Cohn to serve as head of television at DreamWorks Animation. Cohn left Nick last April after 26 years with the network. She joins two other former Nick TV execs at DreamWorks: the well-liked Mark Taylor, who ran Nickelodeon Animation Studio and is currently head of TV production at DreamWorks, and Peter Gal, who is heading up development.

Sources tell Cartoon Brew that DreamWorks is ramping up in a big way. They are setting up a new studio in Glendale where they plan numerous new series based on their original films as well as shows based on classic properties they acquired in the Classic Media buyout (now known as DreamWorks Classics). Among the classic properties owned by DreamWorks are Casper the Friendly Ghost, Where’s Waldo, Lassie, The Lone Ranger, Postman Pat, George of the Jungle, Rocky & Bullwinkle, and (personal fave) Roger Ramjet.

DreamWorks is aggressively recruiting showrunners and artistic talent from other studios. If they move forward with their current plan, which is to produce a massive 1,200 new episodes of content over five years, they will need to hire hundreds of crew, and they will almost instantly become one of LA’s largest corporate-run TV studios, on a par with Cartoon Network, Disney and Nick.

DreamWorks attempted to launch TV studios in both the 1990s (Invasion America, Toonsylvania) and 2000s (Father of the Pride), but neither attempt took off. This new TV initiative is different in scope and ambition. Whereas in the past, DreamWorks made deals for individual series with different networks, now the studio has signed broad-ranging content deals with both Netflix and German kids’ broadcaster Super RTL, thus allowing them to expand rapidly.

Jeffrey Katzenberg’s grand plan isn’t known yet, but between its DreamWorks Classics library and the new shows they are producing, the studio would appear to have enough content to eventually launch its own TV network. Whatever they do, there are exciting times ahead as DreamWorks will be shaking up the Los Angeles TV animation industry over the next few years.

  • Future Dreamworks Employee

    Sign me up. Where can I apply?

    • Good luck with that…..

      You can apply in China, or India. Take your pick of what sweatshop you’d like to “live the dream” in.

      • Ouch. Beaten by the industry a little are we?

        • z-k

          It depends – would you say the main character for A Clockwork Orange is better off in the end.

      • zac leck

        Oriental DreamWorks isn’t an outsourcing studio, they’ll be producing Chinese content, both animated and live-action for a Chinese market.

        The Indian studio, Paprika, who previously handled what was called “low-skill tasks” did a few holiday TV specials, that Madagascar Penguins show, and DVD extra content. It wasn’t until 2011’s Puss In Boots that the studio got some time in a feature production for DreamWorks though. From what I read they worked in conjunction with the other two American offices that DreamWorks has, kind of like a night shift. And even then, they only handled three major scenes from the movie. I guess they did some stuff for Madagascar 3 after that.
        Either way, it seems likely that some (maybe a lot) of these new broadcast shows will outsource there. I don’t know that I feel threatened by that though. There are plenty of places to “live the dream”, as you put it, here in America. Including DreamWorks’s other TWO American offices.

        • Good luck with that.

          And there’s plenty of empty desks and cubicles in Glendale and Redwood city after the Dreamworks Layoffs, and more to come after Turbo. Keep drinking the DW cool-ad Zac. All is well.

          • zac leck

            Yeesh, what’s your deal, were you laid off or what? I think outsourcing sucks, it hurts the industry and creates more competition between artists here. But I can literally count off the Dreamworks movies I like on one hand, so whatever. I don’t care about their empty desks. Every studio has empty desks after finishing a big production.

            Hang on to that charming bitterness of yours though.

          • You know, it’s quite simple. Either be willing to play the animation game or find an area better suited to your talents. Quit knocking on others who still want to play even if your ready to quit.

  • Lauren

    More jobs, more cartoons? Tenouttaten.

  • Roberto Severino

    I’m crossing my fingers that this will succeed and help out a lot of animators out there seeking steady employment.

    • Oh Yay. More DW TV crud…

      I wouldn’t count on it. Its TV Animation… So, unless you’re crossing your fingers that a bunch of Chinese and Indian animators are going to get work, I think you’re wasting your time. Dreamworks is all about making a quick buck, and for as little money as possible. Thats why they have an outsource studio in India, and now one in China.

      • zac leck

        Oriental DreamWorks isn’t an outsourcing company. It’s a joint venture between DreamWorks and a Chinese company to produce Chinese animated and live-action content for distribution within China and around the globe. According to the press release at least.

        • anakinbrego

          Kung Fu Panda 3 is being made at the Chinese studio, how is that’s not outsourcing?

          • zac leck

            Well it’s technically a ‘co-production’. I read they’ll be handling a third of the film at Dreamworks Oriental. I’d still consider it outsourcing, but it’s not with the same intention as the Indian studio. After Kungfu Panda 3 is finished the Chinese studio is slatted to produce it’s own film, wholly produced in and for China. It’s really not that threatening to the animation industry here in America.

      • burymylovely

        The studio in China is not for outsourcing. It is for original Chinese language movies. And yes the studio in India is for outsourcing. but Dreamworks employs more people than any other animation studio. And they do so with good pay, good hours and a lot of benefits.

        Also every studio exec is out to make money. They are for profit corporations, it’s their job. And they all hire talented artist that try to make the best movies they can. Your comment about a quick buck is flawed. Dreamworks movies are in production the longest and they spend a ton of money on them.

        Please get your facts straight. There are plenty of real criticisms that could be leveled at Dreamworks (ie. writing, marketing). Being bad for artists in this industry isn’t one of them.

        • Oh Yay. More DW TV crud…

          If you believe the China studio won’t be for outsourcing, I’ve got a Bridge and some Swamp Land I’d love to sell you. Don’t be naive and believe the bu11sh1t that Dreamworks management is trying to pass off. They laid off Hundreds of US workers not long ago, and more Layoffs are planned with the poor showing that Turbo has given.

          • David the Animator

            and laid off just as many in India (in comparison to studio size)… you guys are just spouting without knowing any facts

          • burymylovely

            Those layoffs were based on movies being pushed back in the schedule. There was no work for those people as they came off their current movies. Therefore there was no work to be sent anywhere else either. That’s not from execs, its from the people who work there. I’m not just someone who heard about this from the internet. Those layoffs had a direct effect on my life. Don’t tell me I don’t have facts. Check the release date for Me and My Shadow. Oh wait you can’t, because its no longer on the schedule.

            And if you think Dreamworks is dumb enough to send their proprietary software to the pirating capital of the world, you don’t understand how this system works. If China doesn’t have their software, they can’t do much more than they are already doing.

            “Past as precedent” is not evidence. If you have some that Oriental Dreamworks is for outsourcing, let’s here it. But in the meantime, this deal means Dreamworks movies stay in more Chinese theatres for longer and can make more money that comes back here and pays the artists who work here. Given how Dreamworks movies are doing over in this country, its necessary.

          • z-k

            “Those layoffs were based on movies being pushed back in the schedule.”

            Not to sound too leading, but what’s your take on why this kind of rescheduling normally happens, especially in television.

            “And if you think Dreamworks is dumb enough to send their proprietary software to the pirating capital of the world, you don’t understand how this system works.”

            Putting aside Katzenberg’s recent rubbing of elbows in the political sphere: Perhaps Dreamworks being a competing entity on the open market would be reason enough to assume they’d guard their internal interests as you suggest, more carefully than, say, gov’t entities or nations. But (if William Langewiesche and Sibel Edmonds are correct) it’s worth keeping in mind how Pakistan apparently got ahold of its nuclear capabilities – something far more volatile and potentially important than an animation company’s stock. Corporate espionage isn’t too far removed from its geopolitical counterpart; it tends to have the same starting point – namely, short sighted gain by surprisingly few in-house players.

      • barney miller

        Yeah, exactly. You should talk to all the producers, character designers, art directors, prop designers, bg designers, writers bg painters, color stylists, storyboard artists, directors, board revisionists etc. who work on animated tv shows here in this country.

  • Dana B

    Well, this is great news in terms employment in the field. I wonder if they’ll try doing traditional animation with their new projects. I would assume the new Turbo show will be 2D, given it’s coming from Titmouse?

    I can definitely see a new Rocky & Bullwinkie show coming from the studio. If done right, it can be a fresh twist on an old favorite, just as long as they don’t make the redesigns too appalling!

    (I’m probably the only one here who would like to see a Megamind TV series. Like hell that’ll ever happen, though…)

    • Appalling….

      LoL.. Dreamworks Character designs “Appalling”? Ne-ver. lol.

    • canimal

      I think Turbo would actually be really cute in 2D. I mean the 3D animation the movie used was very good and very appealing, but on a television platform 2D animation always works better. I hope you’re right.

      • ILDC

        I wouldn’t call “Motorcity with snails” cute exactly.

  • Whateva

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  • ILDC

    Even after Turbo underperformed, DWA is still franchise first, IP second.

  • Max W

    Where’s Waldo?!?!?!?!?

  • Sruli Broocker

    This means nothing if they just outsource everything to Singapore and Malaysia. For there to be viable American animation jobs, there needs to be serious incentives to keep the work here.

  • Laura Hohman

    Wow. Everyone is being a debby downer! More jobs are great. Hopefully the competition will start making other tv studios start stepping up. It’ll be awesome for the LA animation community.

  • Alex Dudley

    It’d be cool if they attempted to develop an original IP for telelvision instead of making them all based on their movies or Classic Media shows. But as someone said earlier, it’s all about building a franchise.
    Ah well, if they dig deep into the Classic Media franchise they can produce something that’ll seem new to a lot of people.

    • ILDC

      Ah, the paradox of brand recognition.

  • canimal

    where would the production studio be?

  • z-k

    Since one is more than likely a regular to be able to give a minus vote, I’d be interested to see their take on how any of the above statement isn’t true. If it’s not simply a knee jerk reaction of theirs towards open discussion about the studio’s M.O., and if the above truly is faulty, then their explanation for how DWTV actually operates, or has operated in the past, can only help everyone here, especially those who are looking to enter the field. Please, do it for the children and share: Has DWTV never done any of the above?

  • MaskedManAICN

    Well as we all know if you want to be a player in tv animation these days, you need to own a cable channel. Curious if that will be Dreamwork’s next step- buy out the HUB?

  • Derpderp

    Father of the Pride was actually really awesome, but no one really watches the channel it was put on… so… yeah.

  • Jsanti

    I for one am very excited to this come to life. Dream Works is very
    good animation studio and with that being said I would also like to see the stories they would come up with for these characters in order to make it into a TV animation. I would like to continue seeing 3D animation,in my opinion I think if the movie was in 3D then the series should stay the same to keep the character look consistent. Does any one know a release date? I also want to hear everyone’s opinion why they thought Turbo didn’t sell in the box office. I felt it was a good movie and just needed better advertising /trailers in order to build up the buzz for this movie.