The quest to improve the fortunes of DreamWorks Animation continues, with news that the purchase of the company – by Comcast’s NBC Universal – includes plans to wring more money from the Shrek franchise. NBCU will hand over a reported $3.8 billion for the struggling studio, and will quickly move to put more Shrek chapters into production.
The Shrek franchise launched in 2001 and was immediately embraced by audiences for its wonderful spin on fairytales, its great vocal performances and its heartwarming script. With Mike Myers providing the voice for the titular ogre, supported by Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy, among others, the concept became a firm fan favourite, to the tune of $484.4 million in box office receipts. Shrek 2 in 2004 built on that momentum, earning a total of $920 million in theatres.
This proved to be the peak for the franchise, however, as 2007’s Shrek The Third, and 2010’s Shrek Forever After posted diminishing returns of $799 million and $753 million respectively. Even the Shrek spinoff movie, 2011’s Puss In Boots, couldn’t pull the franchise out of its downward spiral – earning $555 million in total. Individually, these films and their earnings are not failures by any means – but in the context of the franchise as a whole, the numbers indicate dwindling interest.
So, it is, perhaps, surprising that the new owners of DreamWorks Animation might seek to invest further in a worn-out property, rather than muster up an original idea. But, this is where NBCU’s existing relationship with Illumination Entertainment comes into play. Speaking at the Guggenheim TMT Symposium in New York recently, NBCU Chief Executive Steve Burke explained that Illumination producer Chris Meledandri (the Despicable Me franchise) will be helping breathe new life into Shrek.
“He is creatively going to try to help us figure out how to resurrect Shrek.”
Whether this proves to be a foolhardy pursuit remains to be seen, but there is some logic to consolidating a fledgling business venture using existing brand recognition. Hopefully, going forward, any new Shrek sequels will bolster DreamWorks Animation enough to allow it to come up with something fresh and new sooner, rather than later.