Tim here. It's not often that we come upon a movie which could be even semi-plausibly described as holding the fate of a studio in its hands, but next week we'll have just such a release, as DreamWorks Animation release its 28th feature (31 if you count their collaborations with Aardman), the sci-fi comedy Home. This comes at a perilous time for Dreamworks: after two and a half years of underperformers and outright flops, the company has been forced to slash its staff, write-off costly upcoming projects, and shutter the PDI DreamWorks studio, one of its main production hubs.
What brings a formerly prosperous studio, the biggest name in animation for a little while, just a decade ago, to such a precarious state? This week and next, we're going to try to answer that question with a little history of DreamWorks Animation, its greatest successes and its most sobering failures.
The company began when Steven Spielberg, newly-ousted Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen joined forces in 1994 to form DreamWorks SKG, an ambitious attempt to create a major movie studio right out of the gate. Katzenberg had been instrumental in overseeing the Disney Renaissance, which had just seen its biggest success in the form of The Lion King, and with animation riding high at the box office, it made sense for this new Hollywood megaforce to have a cartoon studio all its own. With Spielberg's Amblimation and the newly-acquired PDI forming the spine of DreamWorks's 2-D and CGI animation divisions, respectively, the company immediately threw itself into competing directly with Disney.
Directly with Disney.