Congratulations, Universal. You’ve just acquired Dreamworks
Animation and all the Intellectual Property it controls. This is a purchase
that places you in a stronger position to compete against the Disney company,
its movie and theme park business and its massive global merchandising
Competition is good – and I wish you the best of luck in
monetizing your new assets.
Let’s review where you now stand in the animation world and
what it means for my friends who work in the industry. First off, my pals at Illumination
(Minions) are safe and secure. Their success has guaranteed Chris
Melandandri’s company’s security and that nothing will change over there.
Perhaps, with Katzenberg gone, you will meld the artists at the Dreamworks’
campus in Glendale under Melandandri’s creative oversight? Just a thought.
Over at Dreamworks – their TV deal with Netflix will keep
their downtown Glendale offices going for several more years. New movies from
the Flower Street campus, with franchise brands like Kung Fu Panda, How To
Train Your Dragon, perhaps Shrek and Madagascar, would probably continue. Sounds like a good move.
But I’m not really worried about any of that. I’m sure Shrek, Donkey and Puss In Boots will continue to mingle with the crowds at Universal City
Walk. My interests are in your plans for the animated film library and classic
cartoon properties now in your possession.
Buying DreamWorks means you’ve also bought the Classic Media
library which includes the rights to Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich
(all the Harvey Comics characters), Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing (the UPA
assets), Underdog and Tennessee Tuxedo (the Total Television library), Felix
The Cat, Little Lulu, The Lone Ranger, Lassie, Rankin Bass’ Rudolph The Red
Nosed Reindeer and Frosty The Snowman, and on and on.
You also own Woody Woodpecker, Chilly Willy and the entire
Walter Lantz library. You’ve had that for decades. Outside of a few trinkets
sold at the Universal Studios theme park – and a rumored development of a Woody
Woodpecker CGI feature – you haven’t done much with that brand.
Talk about under-developed potential. You now own hundreds
of classic cartoon stars (and their films), enough to rival the animation stables at Disney and
Warner Bros. – and these can be a gold mine, if you are smart about it.
Perhaps Illumination or Dreamworks Animation can now draw up
plans to revive select characters for the big screen. Perhaps a few would make
sense as live action movie franchises (Stumbo the Giant or Commander McBragg,
anyone?) or new TV series.
More importantly, you have immediate assets in hand to begin
a Universal Cartoons Digital Network – an over-the-top streaming service that
can provide consumers with hours of animation programming to binge watch: from
1940s Andy Panda theatrical shorts to vintage television half hours,
Rankin-Bass specials, and even your own cartoon features – from Curious George,
The Secret Life Of Pets and all those friggin’ Land Before Time sequels.
“With great power comes great responsibility” someone once
said. I say, “with great characters comes great potential for great stories,
great profits – and to have a whole lot of fun”.
You’ve just spent $3.2 billion to own ‘em. What are you
going to do with them? Do the right thing and preserve them, exploit them, and
release these classic cartoons from the vaults.
Boy, can we use them now.