In the entertainment industry, you must keep moving forward like a shark to survive. And no one knows that better than DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, who just watched his company stock take a 12% hit Monday when “How to Train Your Dragon 2” opened to just $50 million domestic. (That’s a robust number, btw.) The story is not yet written on that film, which is one of the animation producer’s best-reviewed pictures to date, and a frontrunner for this year’s animation Oscar.
The problem is that publicly-held DreamWorks Animation’s fortunes rise and fall with each individual release. When “Mr. Peabody” disappoints overseas, the company takes a $57-million write-down. So under pressure to diversify in order to improve DreamWorks Animation’s financial performance, Katzenberg is expanding the horizons of the Glendale-based animation producer, whose films are released by Twentieth Century Fox.
In 2012, DreamWorks acquired Classic Media, now retitled DreamWorks Classic, including characters such as Casper the Friendly Ghost, Lassie, and Waldo. Last year, DreamWorks acquired some teen-focused YouTube Channels called AwesomenessTV in advance of launching its own family-oriented YouTube Channel, DreamWorksTV. And DreamWorks is contracted to produce 1,100 episodes of original cartoon programming for Netflix.
And now DreamWorks has acquired iconic Felix the Cat. Born in 1919, Felix starred in animated silent shorts through the 1920s and appeared in comics as well. Felix the Cat Productions was owned by Don Oriolo, whose father Joe acquired and updated Felix in the 1950s.
Many of us grew up on Felix cartoons. Who can forget these lyrics?
Felix the Cat
The wonderful wonderful cat
Whenever he gets in a fix
He reaches into his bag of tricks
You’ll laugh so hard
Your sides will ache
Your heart will go pitter pat
The wonderful wonderful cat!
“Felix really goes beyond evergreen status and rises to something even more uncommon, as he is a true icon,” Katzenberg said in a speech at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas Tuesday. “We plan to make him one of the most desired fashion brands in the world.” He also announced that for the coming holiday season, DreamWorks will roll out DreamHouse, a 2,000-square-foot, 42-foot-tall attraction that will add to the traditional Santa Claus children’s lap experience many of DreamWorks’ favorite characters such as Shrek. More at the NYT.