NBCU’s April 28 announcement of taking over Dream Works at $3.8 billion has not gone down too well with the animators at Dream Works. Having seen what happened with Pixar Animation Studios in 2006 when Walt Disney Co. bought it, the animators see a possible future of gloom marked by cut backs and loss of jobs.
At the staff meeting, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke assured DreamWorks Animation employees that their firm would remain in Glendale creating movies to bolster Universal’s film business.
“Are we going to continue making films here in Glendale? Of course we are – that’s the whole point of what we’re doing,” Burke said.
The purchase is about more than just the movies, though. Comcast is expected to funnel DreamWorks Animation’s robust library of characters into businesses such as consumer products and theme parks.
Burke sought to emphasize the benefits of joining the media conglomerate, including the promotional prowess DreamWorks Animation lacked as a stand-alone studio.
“You are going to be part of the company that televises the Olympics, that has Jimmy Fallon, that has 22 cable channels, that has great theme parks around the world,” Burke said.
Burke was joined at the staff meeting by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer.
Katzenberg, who has led DreamWorks Animation for more than two decades, took pains to explain to his employees why he chose to sell the studio with which his name has become virtually synonymous.
The 65-year-old Hollywood veteran had wanted to secure a future for the firm. DreamWorks Animation has launched multiple animated franchises but has struggled in recent years to consistently put out box-office hits.
“What became incredibly clear to me very quickly is, the opportunity for this company for the next five years in their hands – with their resources, with their ambition – was just absolutely beyond anything I could achieve leading the company in that same time frame,” Katzenberg said.
“I owe this to you,” he told the staff. “I owe it to you because in their hands – your future is actually greater, and filled with more opportunity, than it is in mine. I really feel I owe you that.”
DreamWorks Animation last year was forced to cut about 20% of its staff after a string of box-office flops.