Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Strengths of DWA.

For years I've thought that DreamWorks Animation has had a daunting business model: Produce a hit movie, then produce another hit movie, then produce ...

This is, in Hollywood, kind of a tough act to repliacte over and over. Lately, however, DWA has performed that particular parlor trick in spades. And now its branching out:

DreamWorks Animation SKG is launching its franchise characters into new lines of business, giving the Glendale studio a chance to grow steadily and consistently even during a recession that already is slowing its DVD sales.

In their first investor conference since 2005, studio executives Thursday outlined a series of new business ventures to lessen DreamWorks' dependence on production of only two animated movies a year, which often has led to big swings in its earnings and stock price.

DreamWorks will feature the studio's popular characters in TV specials for NBC, for instance, as well as in theme park attractions in Dubai and Singapore ...

Pixar used to be the only stand-alone animation studio with a track record like DreamWorks -- better even. But Pixar is now a division of the Disney Co., while DreamWorks continues under the power of its own cash flow and profit margins.

Katzenberg said the studio, which is expanding its Glendale campus to accommodate growth, would thrive amid the economic downturn. Unlike its rivals, DreamWorks does not own a television network and thus is less dependent on fickle advertising revenue.

Katzenberg also noted that the studio had developed a more consistent track record at the box office by spending more time developing story lines and by hiring experienced directors and producers ...

DreamWorks has banked heavily on the new technology and is planning to release all of its upcoming films in 3-D, starting with its next feature, "Monsters vs. Aliens." ...

Last night I saw a 3-D preview of Monsters, and it looks spectacular. The images come right out and hover in front of you. M v. A is the Spring '09 offering out of Dreamworks' brimming treasure chest, and if it doesn't make a boat-load of money in its opening weekend and several weekends thereafter, I'll eat my front lawn.

Next thing you know, the company will be bulding their own stateside amusement park.

So, as regards my earlier doubts regarding the viability of DreamWorks Animation's business model, I gotta say ... I've had my head stuffed up my large intestine.


Anonymous said...

Ok, it pops out at you, but is the story good. THAT is what makes Pixar succeed so well. Dreamworks is less successful, although if all its future films are as good as Kung Fu Panda then Pixar will have serious competition.

Anonymous said...

Dreamworks has really come into their own. They are dependent on themselves and a good product...what a concept. No big parent company to feed them, i must say they have really impressed me lately. i dont always agree with the crudeness in their films but they sure know how to give their films the best jump off for a success.

if they can make more films like Kung Fu panda...they may move from barely number 2 to the top.

Anonymous said...

barely number 2

what a joke. pixar last 3 films should have moved them to number 2. And disney to number 4 with blue sky at number 3.

Anonymous said...

It looks like DWA is finally hitting its stride. Glad to see it. They have alot of good stuff in pipe as they say. Alot of depth that is alot of movies in development. Unlike their neighbor in Burbank.

I realize that I am going to take flak for this comment by fanboys and folks drinking the pixar kool-aid but so far I am not impressed with John and Ed and their attempt at turning Feature around in Burbank.

Perhaps the Burbank studio might get better once all of the movies that were in the pipe before the merger get made. There are two more CG movies left - Rapunzel and King of the Elves to go through before the Pixar groupthink story trust can roll up their sleeves and deliver a movie concept from scratch. For now they have to rework existing framework of movies in development. There is only so much they can do.

Anonymous said...

anon just above,

I don't think you understand the Pixar and now Disney process. They don't take an idea and make a movie, and so if the germ of a beginning idea isn't great, they're sunk.

If John and Ed are to be taken at their word that they believe all their story mantras, it's not the "story hook" that matters at all. It's in the telling. And that's based on the quality of the team, and the power of the process.

So, if you think the problem is that the germ of the stories that they inherited aren't strong enough, then you must disagree with their central story philosophy.

I also don't think you're aware of how radically a film like Bolt changed from it's forebear. Bolt couldn't have been more different from American Dog. It just goes to show you how right they are, and how a story really is all about the telling, and not the hook.

Anonymous said...

Anon just above.

I fully know the difference between Chris Sanders story and the new one.

However one thing remains the same between them. Its still about a dog who is a famous TV star who makes a journey across country. That is the framework that remained the same.

If John and Ed want to rummage through the development dumpster at Disney and pick and pull apart and frankenstein something thats fine but I would actually like to see something completely from scratch with no bits of framework from previous incarnations of the story.

I want to see Disney Feature start over at tablua rasa.

Anonymous said...

I guess I just beg to differ as to exactly how rasa that tabula was.

Princess and the Frog rasa enough for you?

I mean, when you look at Rapunzel, right there you have an idea right out of Disney history. Take a known fairy tale, and make whatever you will out of it. Change it entirely, put a new spin on it, interpret it for this generation, or take it totally classic. But that's what Disney's founded on.

If John cannot shepherd that quintessentially disney idea into a big hit, does that mean that nobody alive can run the Disney studio?

Now if you think that John and Ed are frankensteining the films that predates their running of the studio, what does that say about them and their decisions?

Don't you trust them enough that they would keep anything of value and discard anything else?

I have my own ideas as to what's not working at Disney's, and I'll not air them here in the virtual union hall, until after I've given up convincing people of it in-house.

Just chiming in that I think It's odd to excuse people for being saddled with the decisions of their predecessors, as if they didn't take on the challenge themselves, and as if they couldn't make a cleaner break if they wanted to.

Bolt really went back to square uno, with pretty much the sole exception being "Dog tv star gets lost and travels across America." I don't see how that saddled them with anything other than an insane schedule to meet a release date.

Anonymous said...

I wish Bolt did better. I just saw it an was entertained. i was really surprised to see all the 2D BG's in almost every shot after the first sequence. i wonder if that was a design call or this is what has to happen because of the new schedules.

Steve Hulett said...

Ok, it pops out at you, but is the story good.

All I know is the pieces of M v. A that I've seen, and the pieces are entertaining.

Anonymous said...

I cannot wait to read all the Pixar-basher celebrations that will be going on when MvA makes more than Up next year.

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