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4 Misconceptions About The NBC/Universal Acquisition of DreamWorks Animation

April was a fascinating month for the entertainment industry. Universal Studios took a page from Disney’s playbook and bought out DreamWorks Animation for around $3.7 billion. As fans who follow this industry know, this has been happening at Disney for years now with the acquisitions of Pixar, ABC Television, Marvel, LucasFilm and more.


What I find fascinating is there is a lot of misinformation and assumptions floating around out there. These are actual comments I saw here at Theme Park University, as well as other sites across the internet. Anything from how contracts work, to how much DreamWorks characters are worth, down to misunderstandings of who owns what seem to be hot button topics. Don’t worry, TPU is here to alleviate your stress… or make it worse as the case may be. Starting with….

1. Thank goodness DreamWorks wasn’t acquired by Comcast


Oh boy, have I got news for you. Back in December 2009, Comcast put forward a motion to be the majority owner of the NBC/Universal company which, as the title suggests, encompasses the NBC networks (and various affiliated stations like USA, Bravo and more), and Universal Studios, which includes the movie studio, music library and those theme parks we all love and adore.

Therefore, when you buy a Butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, in a roundabout way, some of that money goes into the pockets of the cable company so many people complain about because of their customer service, internet connection or just plain greediness. However, it doesn’t mean that you should complain about how slow your internet connection is to Steven Spielberg, who was Executive Producer of “Jurassic World.” Sure, you could say that he might be able to pull some strings and get you up to 100 Mbps, but really, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

It would be like going to Guest Relations at the Magic Kingdom to complain about Jodi Sweetin getting a bad score from the judges on Dancing with the Stars. Indeed, same company… but not necessarily related. It’s not easy to follow that corporate chain, but if you want to boycott all of Comcast’s products because of an issue you’re having getting reception to watch a boxing match on HBO, you’re going to have to do some homework.

2. DreamWorks Animation hasn’t produced a hit in years and has characters that are already dated

motiongate Dubai

Weeding through all the comments like, “the only thing DreamWorks did that was good is ‘Kung Fu Panda,’ everything else was crap” to “‘How to Train Your Dragon’ was the best animated movie ever and everything else sucked” means nothing to this discussion. My opinion, yours and even your dog’s doesn’t factor in to $3.7 billion trading hands.

I know, I know…. the internet and your second grade teacher made you feel like your opinion is really important. We are accustomed to airing exactly what we think all the time thanks to social media. As luck would have it, there are trained professionals who evaluate a company’s worth based on factors like revenue, market share, and even future potential growth. Their opinion of Shrek doesn’t matter either. That future potential growth factor is key here. Without question, before Disney acquired Marvel and Pixar, they were valued at far less than what they are today. Yes, there were also internet dweebs who said the only Marvel character anyone cared about was Spider-Man, Hulk, or whomever they thought was the bestest.

Will DreamWorks Animation crank out hit after hit like Marvel and Pixar? Far too early in the game to tell. However, it’s a safe bet to say that Universal spent many hours figuring out how to maximize the usage of talent at DreamWorks and how to best utilize them in their movies, theme parks, and merchandizing.

3. DreamWorks Animation will have to be pulled from theme parks and attractions worldwide


No. Here is how contracts work. DreamWorks Animation is not going away at all. They are just now owned by a much larger corporation. Those parks, hotels, cruise ships and whoever else that already have pre-existing deals with DreamWorks franchises will stay intact. Let’s use Universal and Marvel as an example again. As my website and even Bob Iger has stated, the deal between Marvel and Universal Studios that was inked prior to Disney buying them out was for perpetuity. Could Disney and Universal sit down and try to work things out where Mickey might get the rights back? Anything is possible, but I outlined why that’s not likely in my article here.

Are all the DreamWorks deals floating around out there from London to Dubai in perpetuity? I don’t have that answer, as those contracts are not always kept on public record. However, it stands to reason that some of those deals can only help the brand rather than hurt it. For example, the amount of people who would visit motiongate Dubai instead of going to Orlando (or vice versa) are an extremely minuscule crowd that have that kind of dough floating around.

4. The third Universal theme park in Orlando can’t possibly be just DreamWorks 

Shrek 4D

Things change all the time and while the new park can be all kinds of things, it certainly is possible. Make no mistake about it, Universal Orlando is seen as the destination that kids visit after they have outgrown Disney. Sure, younger kids visit the resort, but if you look at the list of attractions that have a height requirement, there isn’t a lot to do for the 7-and-under set at UO right now compared to virtually any other theme park in the area.

DreamWorks is home to plenty of kid-friendly movies that adults also find entertaining, which is something that Universal has been lacking (prior to Despicable Me entering the picture) for many years now. If your reaction to that statement is, “Disney has far more kid-friendly movies and characters than DreamWorks and Universal could ever dream of”… you’re right and spare me the comments of which one will reign supreme. This is not about a death match of which theme park resort comes out on top and which one withers away in a pile of weeds under the scorching heat of the Florida sun. This is about a company who is trying to grow and mature and run their own business. Not drive Mickey into bankruptcy.

Universal Orlando Expansion

What about that land Universal recently acquired? There are many questions about that recently that are extremely important to this conversation. As you can see from the photo above, it’s not exactly one neat little square to build on. I’ll address this and other issues in another article here at TPU, but in the meanwhile I wanted to at least clear some things up regarding to the acquisition.


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Images Copyright: DreamWorks Animation


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One Comment

  1. fan51
    Posted May 2, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know they were misconceptions. They are merely opinions that have some validity.

    1. Comcast is now the owner of DreamWorks Animation. Comcast made $18.79 billion in revenue for 1st quarter 2016. Disney made $15.24 billion in revenue for 1st quarter 2016. On the other hand, Disney has $168.48B market cap, while Comcast had $147.36B. Therefore, Comcast’s potential to rival Disney is assured.

    2. DWA’s potential was restrained as a small company. It needed a parent company with larger pockets. I do think Comcast overpaid by $1 billion based on the stock price before the acquisition. Kung Fu Panda did well. The Penquins of Madagascar ($350 million) underperformed by 50% compared with Madagascar 3 ($750 million). Turbo flopped. Other recent projects treaded water (Mr. Peabody and Sherman). Lacking a runaway hit, Mr. Katzenberg needed to cash out.

    3. DWA’s US based licenses for theme parks expired. It’s all available for Universal to use in the US market. The foreign licenses are at select parks in Dubai and Universal at Singapore and Japan so not much there to worry about.

    4. DreamWorks’ isn’t a household name like Disney. I’m not sure Universal will sell the properties as DreamWorks. The potential in theme parks is unlimited, but it needs to develop a few IP that goes beyond it’s staple of animal characters. To beat Disney, it needs to have relatable human characters like princesses and pirates… and wizards.

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