Co-prexy of production, DreamWorks Animation

In little more than a year’s time, DreamWorks Animation released three toons to the tune of almost $600 million at the domesitc box office — or $1.6 billion, if you’re counting international box office as well.

The secret to their success? “When we talk internally, I guess we take for granted that our films are animated movies,” says Bill Damaschke, head of both the company’s production and theatrical arms. “We talk about them in terms of being big event comedies that everyone in the family and everyone around the world can enjoy.”

So, while “Kung Fu Panda,” “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” and “Monsters vs. Aliens” feature radically different characters and concepts, they share a distinctively DreamWorks sense of humor, marked by sly pop-culture references and rat-a-tat Tex Avery-style gags.

“I think we’re looking at the world in a slightly off-center way, and people have noted our films for being irreverent or satiric,” explains Damaschke, who prides himself in DWA’s track record for picking up-and-coming comedic actors.

“We cast people at the beginning of their comedy careers who are big stars by the time the movie is released,” he says, referencing Jack Black, a relative unknown when the studio tapped him for “Shark Tale” who was happy to repay the favor by appearing in “Panda.”

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