A commenter asks:
The only false start that I can remember DWA having on television was "Father of the Pride" in 2004 , which was five years ago. What was the other DWA television flop thirteen years ago ? (Or was it a planned tv show that was never produced ?)
Well, pull up some comfy chairs, friends and neighbors, and I'll tell you of DreamWorks Animation first television studio ... located in sun-kissed Encino on fabled Ventura Boulevard a dozen years ago ...
Before there was Madagascar penguins, before there were prides and fathers and 'Vegas magicians, DreamWorks Animation ran its own teevee animation division, located in a glossy mid-Valley office building.
This was in the middle nineties, when the proprietors of of DreamWorks SKG had visions of a television animation empire dancing in their heads, and the horizons for small-screen projects seemed wide. (Mr. Spielberg, after all, had already enjoyed fine success with Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, Pinky and the Brain and others. And Jeffrey had been present at the birthing of Disney Television Animation.)
Animation for the small screen was then roaring, and top talent was pulling down good salaries at a variety of L.A. studios. DreamWorks Animation signed a sizable staff to term contractsat high wages and set about to develop new series that would knock the socks off the competition. (I walked through the facility numerous times in those early months, and morale and hopes were high.)
Word was going around that DreamWorks TV Animation was finalizing a deal to supply ABC with all its Saturday morning animated programs ... but then Disney (led by Jeffrey's former compadre Michael Eisner) swooped in and bough the network, and the rumored deal between DreamWorks and the broadcaster never happened.
DreamWorks t.v. division soldiered on, developing other projects. Toonsylvania, a comedy series produced and directed by Bill Kopp and Jeff DeGrandis, was broadcast on Fox, lasted from February to December in 1998, and was then distributed on VHS. (It's never shown up on DVD.)
Also in 1998, DreamWorks' animated mini-series Invasion America ran on the Warner Bros. in prime time. After it aired, one of the artists who worked on it told me.
"Steven Spielberg [one of the show's creators] is really unhappy with the animation and production quality, and didn't think Invasion America looked good at all. He thought the overseas studio did a really poor job" ...
After the two series, the studio in Encino slowly wound down. The staff, which had circulated a petition against one of DreamWorks TV Animation's execs and caused Jefrey Katzenberg to drive over to tamp out fires of discontent, became fatalistic about the division's chances of survival. "We know we're gone as soon as our Personal Service Agreements are up" was a major theme, and by and by the offices in Encino were closed. (The Lakeside building on DreamWorks Animation's Glendale campus, originally slated to house the television animation division, today houses feature animation staff.)
It took most of a decade before DreamWorks Animation again got seriously involved in television. Father of the Pride was a primetime misfire, but The Penguins of Madagascar has been a solid Nicktoons hit, with other series from DWA features are now in the teevee pipeline.
It took awhile, but DreamWorks Animation is now back in the television business. And now you know the rest of the story.