DreamWorks MUST Remain Independent: The 7 Reasons Why

 Via: Wikipedia

Although DreamWorks Animation is already independent, it does distribute it’s films through Paramount, who in return, collect a fee from the gross receipts. Such an arrangement has worked well until now, just one short year away from the end of the current agreement.

There has been a lot of talk about DreamWorks being either acquired or selling itself to a larger corporation as a way to ensure its survival. Of all the big guns, only Warner Bros. seemed likely as they don’t already have a theatrical animation division but the noises from inside that company suggest they are not interested. The question is: Why would DreamWorks feel the need to be part of one of the larger studios anyway? The answer is money, but instead of analysing that reason, I offer you X reasons why the studio must remain independent.

  1. Katzenberg is not a quitter. He built DW up from nothing and I doubt he would like to sacrifice his independence to be under the boot of a board of directors again. He’s taken the company this far, there are few reasons why he can’t take it further.
  2. When you’re number 2, you try harder: Yes, it’s an old Avis slogan, but it rings true. If you’re number 2 in the market, you will try harder than the leader when it comes to your products. DreamWorks isn’t quite there yet, but last year’s How To Train Your Dragon was infinitely superior to Toy Story 3.
  3. It’s been done before: Back in the late 40s, a relatively small animation studio lost their distribution deal with RKO. They managed to haul a distribution team together and form Buena Vista. A distributor I think you all should be familiar with.
  4. An independent keeps everyone on their toes: As an independent, you have to do your best every time.That means others must compete on at least the same level of quality. If one player ups their game, everyone must. Corporations have a habit of getting comfortable in their shows which can lead to a stagnation of quality.
  5. The money is in the long tail: Walt Disney himself knew it was better to create a good film that would be popular for a long than one that would be a flash in the pan. Good films make money for decades after they’ve been paid for. DreamWorks can rely on this for income provided their films are up to scratch (see point 4)
  6. It’s a tougher road , but the ultimate rewards are better: No-one likes to take the hard road, it’s more work for what appears to be less reward. However, that burden of responsibility will ultimately result in a stronger company as everyone shares in the responsibility for success.
  7. It affords more freedom to experiment: Right now, on the cusp of the digital revolution, DreamWorks has the freedom to go in directions that were never possible before. As an independent, it has the freedom to try and experiment with new distribution and sales models to see if they work. DW can has the chance to become the industry leader in the digital age, an opportunity that should not be passed up.

Five Reasons Why The Animated Film Market Isn’t Saturated

With the recent failure of Mars Needs Moms, there has been some speculation that the market has become saturated as everyone seeks a slice of the the lucrative pie that is animation (the link is behind the New York Times subscription wall so nuts to them) . While it would certainly appear this way, I doubt that that is the case. Here are the reasons why.

1. On Average, less than one animated film a week comes out

Sometimes there appears to be a deluge, but for the most part, oftentimes animated films have it all to themselves when they are released. They are more likely to have to compete against a live-action film aimed at their audience than another animated one.

2. The market is tightly controlled

The cinematic market for films is tightly controlled by both the large studios and the large cinema chains. They are the gatekeepers in terms of what can be shown and when. While competition between the studios is good, there is often agreement when it comes to when films are shown, to avoid clashes that end up splitting both films audiences.

3. The big boys have a schedule

The two most prolific animated studios, Disney and DreamWorks, have a set schedule that they do not tend to differ from. Disney has one Pixar film a year with normally at least one Disney-branded one as well. DreamWorks had hoped to to about 2.5 films a year (that’s 3 in five) but that has since been pulled back to something more manageable for Jeffrey Katzenburg’s studio. The point is that both studios don’t really differ in the amount of films they offer.

4. Standards are being raised

Arguably, ever since Pixar burst on the scene in 1995, the standard for animated films has been raised spectacularly, and I’m not talking visually here. Storytelling, character and direction have all fallen under the Pixar influence. Nowadays the audience fully expects to see films as complete and complex as what John Lasseter and Co. put out and they have become merciless if they feel disappointed. Witness the recent failure of Delgo (Elliot Cowan’s favourite film) or the relatively poor performance of Battle for Terra. The list can go on, although no studio should be under the illusion at this point that the audience will accept anything.

5. The Core Audience Isn’t Changing

Unlike the customers for other forms of films, the core market for animated films isn’t really moving. Kids that are watching these films generally aren’t the ones downloading them from the internet. That may change someday, but for now, the vast majority of parents are more than willing to take their kids to the cinema. Unlike say, an R rated film, whose potential audience may just decide to download the film from the internet before it is even released and skip themselves a heck of a lot of hassle. The point is, the market is actually growing (slowly) so until we see a rapid upswing in the number of animated films, it is highly unlikely that the market is saturated.