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Layoffs Under Way at DreamWorks Animation

The first layoffs at DreamWorks Animation are starting to take place under the new leadership of Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria as co-presidents of the studio’s feature division.

Around 150 to 400 employees are expected to be affected at the company’s Glendale and Redwood City, Calif., outposts, Variety has learned. Bill Damaschke, DWA’s chief creative officer, had already stepped down. Update: DreamWorks Animation announced Jan. 22 that it is cutting 500 Jobs and shutting PDI, with top executives Dawn Taubin and Mark Zoradi leaving the studio.

Those most likely impacted will be animators, storyboard artists and other production personnel, according to sources.

Steve Hulett, business representative for the Animation Guild, told Variety that members began reporting layoffs last week. “We began hearing from members that they were getting laid off, but the company hasn’t responded to our inquiries,” Hulett said.

The Animation Guild operates as Local 839 of the Intl. Alliance of the Theatrical Stage Employees.

DWA has yet to acknowledge the layoffs, saying, “We can’t comment on rumor and speculation.”

Any staff reduction is taking place as the studio rethinks its upcoming release strategy after a string of box office disappointments. Arnold and Soria were tapped co-presidents on Jan. 4. The two are taking a close look at the types of films with which the studio will move forward, reducing production budgets and other overhead at the company.That’s after DWA took an $87 million loss on “Rise of the Guardians,” a $13.5 million hit on “Turbo” and a $57 million writedown on “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.”

“Three of our last four films have not delivered in terms of audience turnout or financial performance,” Katzenberg told analysts in April 2014, before “The Penguins of Madagascar” also underperformed in the latter part of the year, with nearly $271 million worldwide, $78 million coming from domestic theaters.

The company has one film in theaters this year, “Home,” which Fox will release for DWA in March.

Both “Kung Fu Panda 3” and “B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations” were moved out of 2015, with the latter not yet landing on a new release date.

The third “Panda” will now join “Trolls” in 2016, with “Boss Baby,” “Mumbai Musical,” sequels to “Puss in Boots,” “The Croods” and a third “How to Train Your Dragon” also waiting in the wings beyond that.

DWA employs around 2,200.

The last major staff cut came in 2013, when DWA pulled the plug on “Me and My Shadow” and shifted release dates for its films, moving “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” to 2014, resulting in more than 350 pinkslips.

It was only last week that DWA enjoyed a now-brief morale boost when “How to Train Your Dragon 2” was nominated for an Oscar in the best animation picture race, just after winning the Golden Globe in the same category.

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