Jeffrey Katzenberg on What Went Wrong With ‘Turbo’

Turbo Movie

The DreamWorks Animation chief attributes poor performance to larger crop of animated titles and 'a bad date'

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg is pretty frank on why “Turbo” hasn’t performed well in domestic theaters since its release July 17: “It was a bad date.”

“The film’s soft opening was a clear result of an oversaturated marketplace and difficult release date,” he said during a conference call with analysts and Wall Street to discuss the company’s strong second quarter results, thanks mostly to the success of “The Croods.”

Katzenberg called this summer an unprecedented one with a larger-than-usual number of animated titles competing for attention from kids and families — including Disney’s “Monsters University” and “Planes,” Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s “Despicable Me 2,” Sony’s “The Smurfs 2” and Fox’s “Epic” — around 50% more than last year during the same frame. It had considered an earlier release, but the subject matter of “Turbo” — about a racing snail — would have gone up against “Fast & Furious 6,” which the toon’s marketing materials reference.

“We had an unprecedented jam up of animation releases,” Katzenberg told Variety. “We’ve never had anything remotely like this before. We don’t see this again for several years, if we see it at all.”

SEE ALSO: ‘The Croods’ Rocks DreamWorks Animation’s Second Quarter Results

Still DreamWorks believes “Turbo” “will be a profitable film for us,” Katzenberg said. “It’s a hit everywhere in the world, except for one territory (the U.S.).”

Despite its snail-paced opening Stateside, the $127 million-budgeted “Turbo” “is off to an excellent start overseas,” earning more than $42 million so far, with major territories still set to open. The film, released by 20th Century Fox, has earned just $60 million from domestic theaters.

DreamWorks Animation also is looking at other revenue sources that will prop up “Turbo.”

Toys tied to the film have “outperformed expectations,” according to Ann Daly, DreamWorks’ chief operating officer. The film will also get spun off into an animated TV series for Netflix, which should “develop continued interest in the property which can drive sales,” Daly said.

During the call with analysts, Katzenberg defended “Turbo,” saying that the film’s been considered a disappointment because its pics typically earn within the $150 million to $250 million range. “In the real world, a movie that’s in the vicinity of $100 million is still considered a hit,” he said. “The beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

Toon studio spent 20% less on “Turbo” than another recent disappointment, “Rise of the Guardians,” the company said.

“It’s been tough because ‘Turbo’ was loved and beloved,” Katzenberg said, generating a rare A+ CinemaScore with kids. “This is a movie that played great for its audience but we were never able to get the attention and traction of (that) audience coming so quickly after two blockbuster sequel animated titles (‘Monsters University’ and ‘Despicable Me 2’).”

Moving forward, DreamWorks said it has a clearer focus of what 2014 and 2015 look like, and that its “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” “How to Train Your Dragon” sequel, “Home,” “The Penguins of Madagascar,” “B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations” and “Kung Fu Panda 3” are “well-positioned.”

There still is a possibility that DreamWorks Animation could face another perfect storm of releases in summer 2015 — when a growing line up of high-profile sequels are expected to blitz megaplexes.

DreamWorks Animation has skedded “B.O.O.” for June 5th, 2015, but Katzenberg believes the film will serve as counterprogramming to live action tentpoles like Marvel’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” out in May, and Fox’s “Assassin’s Creed,” after “B.O.O.’s” release. Pixar’s “Inside Out” also bows in June.

“We think we’ve programmed something that is counter to all of those movies,” Katzenberg said. “It’s a big fun ghost comedy with Melissa McCarthy and Seth Rogen. We are very conscious of what’s coming and in the face of that, we feel we have a very good release date.”

Still Katzenberg cautions that the company will “have to keep our eyes” on how that summer’s release schedule. “It’s going to be a massively competitive summer.”

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  1. Uncle Morty says:

    The Story.

    Simple.

    Pixar…invests in story development. Actors seek them out…not the other way around.

    DW…Downsizing Glendale with too many non-animation background chefs in the kitchen.

    All major story decision makers at Pixar – successful animation story tellers in their own right

    Pixar 14 for 14

    • Jeff says:

      As someone who has been a huge Pixar fan since the first Toy Story, I have to correct you. I think they were 13 for 14. Cars 2 was a very big disappointment.

  2. Judy says:

    When just a few weeks ago Mr. Katzenberg was giving his explanation for the dismal showing of “The Lone Ranger” may we expect to see more comments this fall and winter about disappointing at the box office?

  3. Juice says:

    Escargo would’ve been a better name.

  4. i like how the films weak script isn’t even part of his vocabulary. wish people were smarter so they could just continue to ignore ALL disney movies

  5. The Kingslayer says:

    Ryan Reynolds!

  6. Scott says:

    The turbo kid’s cartoon was pretty crappy all the way around. Weak characters, unbelievable premise. That’s why it bombed.

    For a cartoon made in India, it’s passable for tv, but not for a feature film.

    • benhur says:

      India didn’t have anything to do with this film.
      It was fully produced and developed in Glendale/Redwood city, California.

  7. Contessa46 says:

    I hope that you low turn out and crappy box office receipts are a reflection of you all insisting that the VFX be done any where but in Hollywood! Support the talented artists in the USA and stop being the greedy pigs you are. I for one am glad you took a bath!

  8. EK says:

    More studios are getting into the animation business and that could also create a log jam if too many of those pix are released in a particular period, mostly summer and December.

  9. UpInSmoke says:

    Hey Katzenberg – TURBO is a movie about a garden snail racing in the INDY 500. When I first saw the trailer – I thought it was one of the worst ideas for a movie ever. You fawked up DreamWorks.

    • ManVsCat says:

      A garden snail racing in the INDY 500? That’s a GREAT idea.

      • Kplan says:

        Yyyyeahhh. Not only was it an awful idea, but the character designs and cheap-looking animation were a clear signal to parents and kids to stay away. Katzenberg forgot to mention that in his remarks.

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