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DreamWorks Animation – What’s The Point?

Andrew Chang, Anil Ambani, Ann Daly, Anne Globe, Ari Emanuel, Ben Silverman, Clark Hallren, Craig Ring, Dan Satterthwaite, David Geffen, Dreamworks Animation, Harry Brittenham, Heather O'Conner, Holly Bario, Jeff Small, Jeff Weiner, Jeff Zucker, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jill Kennedy, John Batter, Judson Green, Khan Manka, Lew Coleman, Manka Bros., Mark Sourian, Melody Hobson, Michael Eisner, Michael J. Montgomery, Nathan Myhrvold, OnMedea, Paul Allen, Reliance ADA Group, Rich Sullivan, Richard Sherman, Roger Enrico, Stacey Snider, Steven Spielberg, Strauss Zelnick, Thomas Freston, Walt DisneyI certainly hope Jeffrey Katzenberg is actively trying to sell the company.  I mean, for a guy like him, I just don’t get why he does it.

For most people, it would be a great gig:  Produce two high quality (some at Pixar would say average quality) animated movies a year for ever and ever and ever.  But Jeffrey Katzenberg isn’t ‘most people’.  He’s a guy that wanted to build an empire and has apparently stopped trying to do that.  I can’t imagine he’s suddenly content with what he has.

When DreamWorks was formed in 1994, I was all for it.  To build a media empire from scratch is the kind of ambition that Hollywood hadn’t seen in decades (and probably won’t be seen again).  But if anyone could do it, it would be Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen - SKG.  But they couldn’t stomach the hard times.

They didn’t have the guts of a Khan Manka or a Walt Disney who were willing to mortgage everything to keep their dreams afloat.  SKG used mostly other people’s money – not their houses or art collections – and the other people started getting nervous.  SKG decided to remain rich and refined the art of risk management.

And I’m sure they’ve all had very happy lives even without a media empire.

But I think it’s time for DreamWorks to finally exit the stage.  It’s going to happen sooner or later.  Just do it now.  Why go through the aggravation of further stockholder meetings and quarterly reports to Wall Street.

Andrew Chang, Anil Ambani, Ann Daly, Anne Globe, Ari Emanuel, Ben Silverman, Clark Hallren, Craig Ring, Dan Satterthwaite, David Geffen, Dreamworks Animation, Harry Brittenham, Heather O'Conner, Holly Bario, Jeff Small, Jeff Weiner, Jeff Zucker, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jill Kennedy, John Batter, Judson Green, Khan Manka, Lew Coleman, Manka Bros., Mark Sourian, Melody Hobson, Michael Eisner, Michael J. Montgomery, Nathan Myhrvold, OnMedea, Paul Allen, Reliance ADA Group, Rich Sullivan, Richard Sherman, Roger Enrico, Stacey Snider, Steven Spielberg, Strauss Zelnick, Thomas Freston, Walt DisneyRight, Mr. Katzenberg?

Just sell (probably for a few billion), if you can, at a decent return to shareholders, set up an office on one of the studio lots and reminisce about the old days and how things might have turned out different if you’d been a little crazier.

Nearly all the movies DreamWorks Animation has produced and will produce have been and will most likely be solid hits worldwide that any film studio would love to add to their library/event film slate.  It’s a pretty simple formula – write average script, hire stars as voices, animate, market, distribute and make about $500 million worldwide (with only the occasional disappointment of something like “Flushed Away”).  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

A big studio purchase of DWA fits perfectly into Hollywood’s current mindset of accurately predicting financial results and avoiding any kind of risk.

Lucky are we to get to pay for and sit through the movies that reflect this strategy.

Andrew Chang, Anil Ambani, Ann Daly, Anne Globe, Ari Emanuel, Ben Silverman, Clark Hallren, Craig Ring, Dan Satterthwaite, David Geffen, Dreamworks Animation, Harry Brittenham, Heather O'Conner, Holly Bario, Jeff Small, Jeff Weiner, Jeff Zucker, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jill Kennedy, John Batter, Judson Green, Khan Manka, Lew Coleman, Manka Bros., Mark Sourian, Melody Hobson, Michael Eisner, Michael J. Montgomery, Nathan Myhrvold, OnMedea, Paul Allen, Reliance ADA Group, Rich Sullivan, Richard Sherman, Roger Enrico, Stacey Snider, Steven Spielberg, Strauss Zelnick, Thomas Freston, Walt DisneyJill Kennedy – OnMedea

Permanent link to this article: http://mankabros.com/blogs/onmedea/2011/03/31/dreamworks-animation-whats-the-point/

6 comments

4 pings

  1. Hollywood Producer says:

    They are definitely thinking about selling. I think there is some movement on that by the end of the year. You’re right, Jill, it’s not really what JK had in mind.

  2. dreamworks 4 ever says:

    I never really understood why the spin off of just the animation unit (other than so the owners could cash out a bit). And why did they stop building the empire? I think you’re right on the money with this blog.

  3. Bob Megamind says:

    I thought Megamind was very entertaining. How to Train Your Dragon bored me.

  4. John Tarnoff says:

    You don’t really understand Jeffrey. He hasn’t finished yet, and he’s not the kind of guy who quits mid-stream. Yes, it’s been tough to keep the stock price up and grow the valuation. But he’s constantly reinventing himself and the company, and like Richard Gere in “An Officer & A Gentleman” finally admits to Lou Gosset: “I’ve got nowhere else to go…” He could care less about a cushy production deal at another studio. He’d sooner die. Just because you can’t see where he’s going with DWA doesn’t mean that he’s stopped building. He _is_ DWA. That real estate in Glendale, the people who have been with him since he left Disney, each and every movie that goes through there – it’s all him. As driven, pragmatic and ruthless as he can be, he is emotionally bonded to DWA, even more so by the fact that he is the last brother standing from the original SKG troika. If you haven’t read it, read Nicole Laporte’s book on SKG – pretty fascinating.

    1. Jill Kennedy says:

      Hi John,

      Thoughtful post. I still think he must be looking for an exit strategy. I will definitely read that book. I am fascinated with DWA.

  5. Gary says:

    Perfectionists don’t walk away. Either they are carried out on a stretcher or fired…the latter won’t occur. And being demanding and being ruthless are not two sides of the same coin. Whom has he fired?

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