On June 30th, some animation blogs leaked news that DreamWorks was laying off 40-50 people from their feature animation staff, saying “the studio didn’t have enough features requiring staff building front-end production elements, so employees in departments that were overstaffed were laid off and their contracts…paid out.” Of course, since How to Train Your Dragon 2 isn’t raking in the dough as heftily as many hoped/predicted, it leads to talk as to what this will mean for the future of DreamWorks animation and if our lovable Toothless is somehow to blame.
Many within the animation blogosphere are blaming the incredibly successful How to Train Your Dragon series for dealing the “final blow” to the studio’s animation department. However, I could just as easily blame oversaturation of the brand as a reason for low theater turnout, especially since the second Dragon film is so incredibly good.
DreamWorks had a worse overall run with their Mr. Peabody and Sherman (another fantastic film) from earlier this year, which only grossed a little over half of its cost, forcing DreamWorks to take a $57 million dollar write-down on behalf of the film.
Just as when Pixar downsized, I see the move as—initially—a prudent, necessary step towards solidifying the solvency of the business. It is sad whenever anyone loses their job, but DreamWorks could probably stand to be a bit more judicious with what it chooses to send to feature production. Maybe pumping out two to three films a year isn’t a winning recipe for generating excitement and turnout.
Update: DreamWorks Animation stock rose substantially on July 1st following the layoffs.