The new Dreamworks Animation feels a lot like the old Dreamworks Animation.
The studio announced today that beginning in 2019, it will continue releasing at least two films per year, with the first couple being Shrek 5 and Shadows, the latter which was announced last year.
While Comcast agreed to buy Dreamworks in April for $3.8 billion, final decisions on the studio’s slate are still being made by Jeffrey Katzenberg, who remains the CEO and chairman of the company until the deal closes, which is expected to be sometime in the next month or two.
Dreamworks already has the following films on their release slate: Trolls (November 2016), Boss Baby (2017), Captain Underpants (2017), The Croods 2 (2017), Larrikins (2018), and How to Train Your Dragon 3 (2018). The 2019 additions seem to continue the trend of mixing established franchises with adaptations of children’s books and original concepts.
Two big unanswered questions remain at this point:
1.) How involved with Dreamworks will Illumination chief Chris Meledandri be after Katzenberg departs? The Hollywood Reporter published some new speculation on that topic, and the situation would still appear to be very fluid.
2.) Will Dreamworks continue producing animation in-house? It’s hard to believe that Comcast will view Katzenberg’s bloated infrastructure as cost-effective. The question might be answered with the performance of next year’s Captain Underpants, which is the first fully-Dreamworks Animation-branded feature that was animated at an outside shop. The reality is that other CG studios nowadays can do Dreamworks-quality animation (or a close enough facsimile) at a fraction of the cost. While Dreamworks will likely want to continue doing development in-house, there’s no strong economic argument for continuing in-house production at Dreamworks.
With the announcement of Shrek 5 and Shadows it appears to be business as usual for the studio. How long the stability lasts remains to be seen.