×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

DreamWorks grooming toons

Studio bears down with 'Panda' on slate

For the first time since it became an independent company, DreamWorks Animation has a full development slate that will help satisfy the company’s two-picture-per-year release schedule through at least 2009.

“We’re transitioning from our start-up phase,” DreamWorks Animation chief operating officer Ann Daly told Daily Variety.

As part of that transition, the company’s 2008 calendar is now set, with Jack Black vehicle “Kung Fu Panda” joining the recently announced “Madagascar 2.”

Influenced by cartoonish live-action pics like “Kung Fu Hustle,” “Panda” will star Black as the voice of a lazy panda prophesied to save the Valley of Peace.

Pic will be directed by John Stevenson and Mark Osborne. Melissa Cobb will produce from a screenplay by Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab.

A healthy development slate could soothe investors, who have soured on the public company since it overestimated sales of “Shrek 2” in homevideo and didn’t give Wall Street early warning of the problem, leading to an SEC investigation and shareholder lawsuits. Success of “Madagascar,” which has grossed nearly $500 million worldwide, has already started to improve perception of the company.

Studio’s recent pics have cost close to $130 million and execs have said they expect that trend to continue. With just two big-budget releases per year (along with one direct-to-video pic per year starting in 2008), DreamWorks Animation has a relatively risky business model compared to more diversified live-action studios, but it has the benefit of producing exclusively in a genre that tends to do well on DVD.

For 2009 and beyond, DreamWorks Animation has four potential projects in the hopper: “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Rex Havoc,” “It Came From Earth!” and “Route 66.”

“Historically, we end up producing what we develop, although we’re not irrevocably committed to the projects,” Daly said.

“How to Train Your Dragon” is based on the children’s book by Cressida Cowell in which the son of a Viking chief must capture a dragon in order to be initiated into his tribe.

Pic will be directed by DreamWorks vets Lorna Cook (“Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”) and David Soren. Adaptation is by Will Davies.

“Rex Havoc,” based on the classic horror comicbook, is about a monster hunter called upon to battle aliens who have disrupted cable TV service. Rex assembles a team of monsters to help including Ick!, Dr. Cockroach, the 50,000 Pound Woman and Insectosaurus.

Pic will be directed by Conrad Vernon (“Shrek 2”) and Rob Letterman (“Shark Tale”). Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky are penning the script.

“It Came From Earth!” is a reverse alien invasion story told from the perspective of Martians when human astronauts arrive.

Pic, which doesn’t yet have a director, is written by Josh Lobis and Darin Moiselle.

“Route 66” is the story of Mulligan, a giant golf ball statue on the side of legendary Route 66. When Betty, a giant blueberry who hovers above a produce stand on the other side of the street, is carted off one day, Mulligan steps down off his pedestal and sets off to find the love of his life.

Pic was written by Conrad Vernon (director of “Shrek 2”) and Harlan Williams from a pitch by Vernon, Williams and Rej Bourdages, the head of DreamWorks’ story department.

“Rej was my roommate at Sheraton College, where I studied animation,” said Williams, who is also a standup comic. “I waited for the right thing and this idea germinated in my head for a long time.”

All of the pics in DreamWorks Animation’s pipeline bear some resemblance to “Shrek,” with main characters that can appeal to kids but a wry sense of humor and double entendres that can amuse adults.

Next year, DreamWorks Animation releases “Over the Hedge” and “Flushed Away.” If either is a big success, studio will likely put a sequel into production for 2009, where it would be joined by one of the pics in development.

More Digital

  • Michael Uslan's U2K Becomes Asia-Hollywood Formats

    Michael Uslan's U2K Becomes Asia-Hollywood Formats Pipeline (EXCLUSIVE)

    Michael and David Uslan, the father and son producing team with credits that include “The Dark Knight” and “Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch” have struck a cluster of deals that makes them a two-way conduit for TV formats between Hollywood and Asia. U2K, a company that includes the Uslans and Jon Karas (“Believe in [...]

  • Dish Testing Flixpert Content Recommendation Service

    Dish Tests Movie Recommendations App Flixpert (EXCLUSIVE)

    Dish and its corporate sibling EchoStar have quietly been testing a movie recommendations platform called Flixpert, Variety has learned. Flixpert promises to help people find movies to watch through recommendations from friends and trusted contacts; Dish has been testing mobile apps for the service with a few hundred users. Online footprints suggest that Flixpert has [...]

  • Craig Hunegs WB

    Craig Hunegs to Exit Warner Bros. TV Group and Digital Networks (EXCLUSIVE)

    After nearly 25 years in the Warner Bros. family, Craig Hunegs is exiting his post as head of business for Warner Bros. TV Group and president of the studio’s digital networks wing. Hunegs said he has been discussing his exit with Warner Bros. chairman-CEO Kevin Tsujihara for the past several months. At a time of [...]

  • Google Placeholder

    Google Accelerates Google+ Shutdown Following New Privacy Mishap

    Google will shutter its struggling social network Google+ sooner than previously announced: The company said Monday that Google+ will shut down in April of 2019. It also disclosed a new security vulnerability that briefly exposed personal data of some 52.5 million Google+ users. The bug, which was introduced to Google+ in November, allowed developers to [...]

  • Eddie Lazarus Sonos

    Sonos Hires Tribune General Counsel Eddie Lazarus as Chief Legal Officer

    Smart speaker maker Sonos has hired former Tribune exec Eddie Lazarus as its new chief legal officer. Lazarus will be in charge of all legal, regulatory, compliance and SEC reporting issues, among other things. Prior to joining Sonos, Lazarus worked as general counsel and chief strategy officer for Tribune Media. Before that, he was chief of [...]

  • Rhapsody, Sony Music to Launch Spotify

    Rhapsody, Sony Music to Launch Spotify Competitor in Japan

    Rhapsody and Sony Music Entertainment today announced a partnership to launch what they describe as the first on-demand, high-resolution streaming music service in Japan. Rhapsody International is providing its “Powered by Napster” platform including a set of systems, tools and APIs to allow SMEJ to quickly launch and bring its on-demand service to market. The service, [...]

  • Vidcon Sarah Tortoreti

    VidCon Has a New Marketing Chief: Nickelodeon's Sarah Tortoreti

    VidCon tapped Sarah Tortoreti as VP of marketing to head up the digital-creator and video confab’s promotional strategies worldwide. Tortoreti joins VidCon from Viacom’s Nickelodeon, where she was director of marketing and brand strategy since April 2016. In early 2018 Viacom acquired VidCon, founded by veteran YouTube creators Hank Green and John Green. In the newly [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content