Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Large Layoffs Expected at DreamWorks
These events couldn't possibly be more of a co-ink-ee-dink for me. I recently finished Disney War and have since moved on to The Men Who Would Be King. Both were good and go well with each other. For those who aren't up on the history. Jeffrey Katzenberg (the K in DreamWorks SKG) was the head of Disney Studios from 1984 to 1994. After his falling out with Michael Eisner, he joined up with bosom chum David Geffen and (apparently) child-like airhead Steven Spielberg to form DreamWorks.
The studio was big on dreams and short on actual success for a long time. For every huge hit, they seemed to have a dozen films that didn't do very well. This situation came to a head in 2005, when the company sold itself to Paramount, but not before it spun off DreamWorks Animation in 2004.
DreamWorks Animation has tried its best to develop a solid financial foundation. The standard strategy to achieve this is to broaden the productive base outside of just movies. Most major studios rely on television shows to provide constant revenues, and DreamWorks on the whole hasn't been terribly successful with this.
Because of this, neither the studio nor its parent has ever been on terribly solid financial footing, thus triggering things like today's announcement. This is unfortunate, because frankly, we need another studio out there producing high quality animated films other than Disney. Every other studio has completely, freaking failed to do anything on the level of the two D's. Sony produces utter shit like Planet 51. Fox has Ice Age and that's about it. We have two bright spots in Illumination Entertainment -- makers of Despicable Moi -- and ILM's Rango, but other than that, nothing. Disney and DreamWorks are it.
I hope the dispossessed workers land on their feet. Even better, I hope that they pollinate out into the wider industry, triggering further evolution and development of not just the technologies and art, but of the business itself. Because one menacing shadow lurking behind the layoffs, and a point underlined in The Men Who Would Be King, is that the old business model isn't working as well as it once did. If companies don't act with foresight and innovation, the animation world of tomorrow will be dominated by names we've not yet heard of.
Come to think of it, perhaps that's not such a bad thing after all.