Dreamworks Animation has announced it is cutting 500 jobs as CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg looks to recover from multiple disappointing box office takes. In addition to massive layoffs, the studio is also losing many of those in executive roles, including marketing head, vice chairman, and most interestingly, the chief creative officer Bill Damaschke.
Katzenberg, who joined the company just seven months ago, has defended these changes to Variety, stating that “My time and my focus needs to be on making blockbuster films. We have the people to do it. That’s where my energy is going to be focused.”
Admittedly, Dreamworks Animation has lost some of its focus recently. Over the last three years, the studio has released three films (Rise of the Guardians, Turbo, Mr Peabody & Sherman) which cost them over $150 in combined losses. Even Penguins of Madagascar, which did turn a profit, underperformed to industry standards. Katzenberg believes this drop in profits is related to a decline in quality due the studio over extending themselves.
“Feature animation is the core of our company. Getting our feature film business back on track is our number one priority. [Three films per year is] too ambitious. I want us to get back to making two great blockbuster films a year. We want to get back to basics here.”
“I think we were top heavy and given that we are right sizing the entire operation and focusing the company on the businesses we are in today, rather than businesses we imagined we might be in, this is the right sizing that we need.”
This announcement isn’t usually something we report on here at The Cultured Nerd, but these developments will mean massive changes to the release dates for many Dreamworks Animation films. This includes How to Train Your Dragon 3, which has been pushed back to June29, 2018. It also means that many of these films will have their budgets slashed down to the $120 to $150 million range.
Hopefully these changes will allow Dreamworks Animation to focus on quality rather than quantity. The flops mentioned above failed not only financially, but critically as well. With this in mind, I’m glad to hear that the studio is making a commitment to quality, but I’m not convinced they can deliver. Future films the studio has in the works are: “Kung Fu Panda 3″ (March 18, 2016), “Trolls” (Nov. 4, 2016), “Boss Baby” (Jan. 13, 2017), “The Croods 2″ (Dec. 22, 2017), “Larrikins” (Feb. 16, 2018) and “How to Train Your Dragon 3” (June 29, 2018). It’s important to note that the Golden Globe winning How to Train Your Dragon 2 was not worked on by this studio.
While Katzenberg talks a good game, it’s unfortunate that so many lost their jobs. If we’re lucky, these talented people will be able to continue to do what they love. I imagine we may be seeing several Kickstarter campaigns from those eager to work without a studio dictating their projects.