Production and distribution
Universal Pictures, one of Hollywood’s “Big Five” film studios. It owns animation giants Dreamworks and Illumination, whose films it releases. All the production and distribution units listed below are under the studio’s umbrella.
- Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, the studio’s home video division. Through its Universal 1440 Entertainment banner, the unit produces direct-to-video content, including animated films based on franchises like The Land Before Time and Curious George. 1440 Entertainment also produces some theatrical projects, like the Brazilian live-action/cg hybrid Pica-Pau: O Filme, which starred Woody Woodpecker, a character that Comcast owns.
- Dreamworks Animation, one of Hollywood’s major animation studios. Dreamworks has produced around 40 features, most of them cgi, which have collectively grossed more than $15 billion worldwide and include major franchises like Shrek and Madagascar. It has also produced around as many series (see below) and dozens of short films.
- Dreamworks Animation Television, a division of the studio focused on series. The unit has thrived in the streaming age, in which it has produced dozens of shows — many of them spin-offs from Dreamworks films — for the likes of Amazon Prime and Netflix (with which it signed a groundbreaking deal in 2013).
- Dreamworks Classics, a subsidiary of the studio which owns a lot of animation-related characters and IP. Dreamworks acquired the characters in a 2012 deal to acquire Classic Media. Among its properties: Where’s Waldo, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Postman Pat, Richie Rich, Roger Ramjet, Lassie, Noddy, Felix the Cat, He-Man, She-Ra, and Mr. Magoo (along with UPA’s later tv catalog). Through Bullwinkle Studios, a joint venture with Jay Ward Productions, the company also co-manages the Jay Ward library, including Rocky and Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Also part of Dreamworks Classics: Big Idea Entertainment, known for its Christian productions. The most famous of these is its long-running franchise VeggieTales.
- Illumination Entertainment, another major animation studio. Its ten cg features include some of the most commercially successful animated films of all time, courtesy of the Secret Life of Pets and Despicable Me/Minions franchises. The latter is the highest-grossing animated franchise of all time, having taken more than $3.7 billion globally. Comcast also owns Illumination Mac Guff, the Paris-based subsidiary studio that produces Illumination’s features and shorts.
- Focus Features, the Universal-owned arthouse distribution label that released Laika’s first four stop-motion features.
Characters and franchises
Mr. Magoo, Fat Albert, Gerald McBoing Boing, Crusader Rabbit, Underdog, Felix the Cat . . . the list of classic characters owned by Comcast goes on and on. Not to mention new characters and concepts created by Dreamworks Animation and Illumination. Many decades ago, Universal Pictures produced theatrical shorts through Walter Lantz, so Comcast also own vintage Lantz stars like Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, Wally Walrus, and Chilly Willy. And not only that – Comcast owns hundreds of theatrical cartoons created by Paramount between 1950-1962, and has rights to Paramount characters like Casper, Baby Huey, Herman and Katnip, and Little Audrey. Alongside the Walt Disney Company and AT&T (which operates Warnermedia), Comcast owns one of the deepest libraries of cartoon characters.
Broadcast and streaming
Peacock, a streaming service launched by NBCUniversal in 2020. It is home to a big chunk of the conglomerate’s content library, and also has originals, including animated series like Cleopatra in Space and new Curious George episodes. Peacock’s animation strategy remains unclear — the emphasis so far is on kids — but the streamer is likely to get high-profile exclusives produced by its sister animation studios (see above), as well as creators with whom NBCUniversal has deals, like Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.
Universal Kids, a pay-tv channel dedicated to youth programming. It airs a lot of animated content, much of it from Dreamworks.
Syfy, a genre-oriented cable channel with a strong adult animation offering in the form of late-night programming block TZGZ. Its original programming includes the series Wild Life and Devil May Care.
Sky Group, a U.K.-based telecom and media conglomerate with a major presence in Europe. It airs a lot of animation across its pay-tv channels and streaming service Now: last year, it signed a long-term deal with Dreamworks for customers in the U.K. and Ireland. The company is also increasingly investing in original content, including animated titles like the film Riverdance: The Animated Adventure. Unlike the other subsidiaries in this article, Sky is owned by Comcast directly, not through NBCUniversal.
(Amid Amidi contributed research to this piece.)