DreamWorks Animation is now owned by Comcast

(DreamWorks LLC)

Less than four months after Comcast announced its $ 3.8 billion plan to pick up DreamWorks Animation SKG, the deal is closed. The animation studio, which created franchises like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and How To Train Your Dragon, is now part of NBCUniversal’s Universal Filmed Entertainment Group — a movie-related catch-all that also includes Universal Pictures, ticketing site Fandango, and NBCU’s own Brand Development arm. The arrangement doesn’t impact DreamWorks Pictures, the sister live-action company, though it does currently has a distribution alliance with Universal Pictures.

DreamWorks began in 1994 as a collaboration between Steven Spielberg, former Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, and music mogul David Geffen. It was intended to become a rival to traditional Hollywood studios like Warner Bros. and Paramount, with the company eventually planning to build its own studio backlot on the outskirts of Los Angeles. But running a studio proved more tumultuous than anticipated, with those backlot plans eventually cancelled due to financial concerns, and the animation side of the studio — which had been racking up hits with the first two Shrek films — spun off into its own Katzenberg-led unit in 2004.

Despite initial success, DreamWorks Animation also found itself struggling due to several films that underperformed at the box office, and both SoftBank and Hasbro reportedly explored acquisitions of the studio. Last year, DreamWorks Animation reduced its annual output by a third as part of a massive restructuring that saw 500 employees laid off. (It underwent a similar round of layoffs in 2012.) Ironically, the moves happened while the studio was beginning to show sporadic signs of life, with How to Train Your Dragon 2 pulling in over $ 620 million worldwide, and Kung Fu Panda 3 nearly hitting the $ 520 million mark earlier this year.

For its money, Comcast will be getting a studio with plenty of potential hits in the pipeline. A movie based on the Trolls line of dolls is scheduled for release later this year, with new entries in the Croods, Shrek, and How to Train Your Dragon franchises currently in production.

Disclosure: Comcast Ventures and NBCUniversal are investors in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.

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