Between 1998 and 2004, DreamWorks Animation had experienced both failure and success, with one of its films being such a box office disaster1 that the studio had been completely separated from its parent, DreamWorks SKG. Since then, the studio had regained its confidence and embarked on a revolutionary strategy.
Their strategy was simple. Financially successful films would have sequels made, which would be released roughly alternating with entirely new films. In 2010 DreamWorks Animation became the first studio to release three computer animated films in a single year. This was part of their plan to make five computer animated films every two years. This raised the question over whether the increase in quantity of films released adversely affected the quality of the films that they were creating.
Beginning in 2010, DreamWorks Animation began acquiring the film rights to older, established animation series and toys. In 2010 the studio purchased the film rights to Troll Dolls, acquiring the entire intellectual property rights in 2013. In July 2012 DreamWorks Animation bought Classics Media for $155million, acquiring the rights to a vast range of cartoon characters, including those created by Filmation2, Woodland Animation, best known for Postman Pat, UPA3 and the rights to Noddy and characters in The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, including Mr Peabody and Sherman. Since then they have acquired the rights to Felix the Cat.
Below are listed DreamWorks Animations' films made during this period. Characters and actors in Bold appear in other, related films.
19. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
|Directors||Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois|
|Plot||Hiccup is a scrawny lad who lives in a Viking village continuously plagued by dragons. The weakest person in the village, though he is considered a disappointment by his father, fierce chief Stoick, he dreams of killing a dragon, until he shoots one down. After finding and taking pity on it, he learns how little the Vikings really know about the dragons, growing to love them while his father is determined to wipe them out.|
|Setting||Island of Berk, a remote Viking settlement near the Arctic Circle|
|Inspiration||The books by Cressida Cowell|
|Logo||A Night Fury's shadow briefly appears.|
The dragon Toothless was inspired by a cross between a salamander and a cat, while the shape of his face was loosely based on the face of Stitch from Lilo & Stitch (2002), a Disney film that had also been directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois.
This was the fifth most successful animated film of a very competitive year, after Pixar's Toy Story 3, Shrek Forever After, Disney's Tangled, Illumination Entertainment's Despicable Me.
20. Shrek Forever After (2010)
|Plot||Shrek, tired of the repetitive responsibility of raising a family, want to have a day of freedom to himself but is tricked by Rumpelstiltskin into wishing he had never been born. Shrek is transported to an alternate Far Far Away in which he had never existed or rescued Princess Fiona from the tower. This oppressive dystopia is ruled by Rumpelstiltskin and his witch allies. The only way Shrek can restore reality is by finding Fiona, who now leads the resistance army of Ogres, and sharing a true love's kiss before the day is over, or he will cease to exist. In this reality, though, he has never met Fiona and so she does not love him.|
|Setting||Shrek's swamp, kingdom of Far Far Away and an alternative reality.|
|Others in the Series|
|Logo||This is the first film to use an updated version of the DreamWorks logo, zooming out from the moon (on which the boy is sitting) instead of showing the boy travel to the moon by balloon.|
After the disappointing Shrek the Third comes a much stronger film, even if it doesn't reach the heights of the first two films in the series. This was the second most successful animated film of the year, beaten only by Toy Story 3 which was then the most successful animated film ever. Presumably the Rumpelstiltskin in this film is a different character to the quite different Rumpelstiltskin who briefly appeared in Shrek the Third.
21. Megamind (2010)
|Plot||After inadvertently killing Metro City's superhero Metro Man, evil villain Megamind feels his life lacks purpose. The only thing he enjoys is spending time (while disguised) with Metro Man's girlfriend, reporter Roxie Ritchie, with whom he has fallen in love. He therefore transforms Ritchie's cameraman into a superhero, only to realise he has inadvertently unleashed an unstoppable villain on the city.|
|Inspiration||A spoof of Superman|
|Music||Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe |
A fun film that strongly spoofs Superman and other superhero films, complete with the exploding home planet, Marlon Brando 'space dad' impersonation and a cast of characters with alliterative names to name but three. One of the joys of the film is spotting the in-jokes. The film was a minor box office success and received positive reviews from critics in a very competitive year for animation; it beaten at the box office by Pixar's Toy Story 3, Shrek Forever After, Disney's Tangled, Illumination Entertainment's Despicable Me and How to Train Your Dragon.
Despicable Me was a particular rival as it too dealt with a villain-turning-good plot, aided by Minion(s). After this film's disappointing box office, Jeffrey Katzenberg announced that DreamWorks Animation would not make any more film genre parodies, as Shark Tale, Monsters vs Aliens and Megamind had all had disappointing box offices, particularly in international markets.
22. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
|Director||Jennifer Yuh Nelson|
|Plot||Gongmen City is conquered by Lord Shen, who has perverted fireworks to create weapons that can defeat Kung Fu, while Po learns that he was adopted as a baby. When accompanying the Furious Five to the rescue, Po is distracted by graphic flashbacks about his separation from his family as a baby. He learns that Shen had heard a prophecy that he would be defeated by a Panda and tried to slaughter them all. Will Po be able to find the Inner Peace required in order to defeat a weapon that can destroy kung fu?|
|Setting||Valley of Peace and Gongmen City, Ancient China|
|Writers||Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger|
|Music||Soundtrack album by Hans Zimmer and John Powell|
|Others in the Series|
|Logo||Leaves blow to the moon and transform into Master Oogway|
An animated film that actually sensitively portrays Chinese culture and addresses the unanswered question from Kung Fu Panda; why is Po's father a goose? It also is confident that a sequel will be commissioned, having an open ending. As well as enjoyable action the film shows Po's emotional journey, giving all the characters from the first film a role to play.
Kung Fu Panda 2 was the first DreamWorks Animation film to be solely directed by a woman and is the most-successful animated film directed by a woman to date. On release it was the ninth most successful animated film to date and was the most successful animated film of 2011, beating Cars 2, Puss in Boots, Rio and The Adventures of Tintin.
23. Puss in Boots (2011)
|Plot||Seven years after being framed for bank robbery by Humpty Dumpty, outlaw Puss in Boots encounters him again. Dumpty claims he wishes to make amends, planning to use magic beans to climb a beanstalk to the Giant's Castle and steal the goose that lays golden eggs, in order to pay the money back, but is he really a rotten egg?|
|Setting||Fairytale world with similarities to Central America.|
|Inspiration||Traditional Fairytale Character combined with Zorro|
|Music||Composed by Henry Jackman|
|Others in the Series|
|Logo||The boy in the moon cracks his fishing rod like a whip.|
A prequel spin-off of the Shrek series, set in a fairy tale land that resembles Spain and Mexico. Although less of an ensemble then the Shrek this is still a highly enjoyable film and was the third most-successful animated film of the year after Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2.
24. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012)
|Directors||Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon & Tom McGrath|
|Plot||Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman travel to Monte Carlo to persuade the penguins and chimpanzees to fly them back to New York City, but there they attract the attentions of sinister animal control officer Chantel DuBois, who has always wanted to hunt a lion. To escape her they join a circus, claiming to be circus animals. Although their acts are terrible, they know that if they can impress a backer they will be able to go on an American tour and return back to New York.|
|Setting||Africa (briefly), Monte Carlo, the Colosseum, London and New York's Central Park Zoo|
|Music||Score by Hans Zimmer|
|Others in the Series|
One of DreamWorks Animation's most successful films. None of this film is actually set in Madagascar. In the second film in the series, Alex was reunited with his father, Zuba. However as Bernie Mac died before the Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was released, the plot of the second film is ignored. This was the second most successful animated film of the year, beaten only by Ice Age: Continental Drift.
25. Rise of the Guardians (2012)
|Plot||In a world where mythical characters exist, for 300 years Jack Frost has not known who he is or had anyone believe in him. Yet when Pitch Black the Bogeyman turns children's dreams into nightmares, he is chosen by the Man in the Moon to join Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Sandman and North, also called Father Christmas and Santa Claus, to be a Guardian and protect the children of the world. Yet Jack does not know who he is and, with only one child left still believing in magic, will the Earth be ruled by fear?|
|Setting||Across Earth around Easter in the 21st Century, including the North Pole|
|Inspiration||The Guardians of Childhood series (2011+) by William Joyce|
|Music||Composed by Alexandre Desplat|
|Logo||Jack Frost is the boy in the moon.|
Rise of the Guardians is a highly imaginative film that takes traditional mythological characters and turns them on their head, so that the Easter Bunny is Australian. While the Guardians all have tasks that keep them busy, Jack Frost is carefree and able to point out that the Guardians are so busy bringing joy to children, they don't actually make time for children. Though Father Christmas is not normally portrayed as a sword-wielding, tattooed Russian whose toys are made by Yetis, this actually works really well.
Sadly, though, the film flopped. It was beaten at the box office by Blue Sky's Ice Age: Continental Drift, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Pixar's Brave, Disney's Wreck-It Ralph, Sony Pictures Animation's Hotel Tranyslvania and Illumination Entertainment's Dr Seuss' The Lorax. It was the company's first failure since Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003). As a result of this, DreamWorks Animation underwent a restructure in early 2013 and over 300 people lost their jobs.
26. The Croods (2013)
|Directors||Kirk DeMicco & Chris Sanders|
|Plot||Surrounded by dangers, stone-age family the Croods are kept safe by the strength and fearful nature of father Grug who keeps them enclosed in a cave. After his teenage daughter Eep meets Guy, an earthquake destroys their cave and they are forced to travel to escape what they consider to be the end of the world, encountering new experiences. As Guy guides them to safety, Grug feels his role threatened by Guy, who contradicts his safety-first teachings.|
|Inspiration||Based on a script entitled Crood Awakening by John Cleese|
|Music||Composed by Alan Silvestri |
|Others in the Series|
|Logo||The DreamWorks Logo is painted on a cave wall|
Following the flop of Rise of the Guardians, DreamWorks Animation were in financial trouble and needed to release a success. This film had originally been proposed as a co-production with Aardman Animation back in 2005 as part of their partnership agreement with DreamWorks SKG, written by John Cleese who had been inspired by Roald Dahl's The Twits, however after DreamWorks Animation and Aardman parted company, the film rights were retained by DreamWorks. On release this was DreamWorks Animation's second most successful film after Kung Fu Panda, but as 2013 was a particularly competitive year for animation it was the fourth most successful animated film of the year, after Frozen, Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University. A sequel is expected with a provisional release date of 2017.
27. Turbo (2013)
|Plot||Theo is a suburban snail who dreams of being a racing car driver, much to the dismay of his sensible older brother, Chet. Mocked by the other snails, Theo is accidentally sucked into a drag racer's supercharger, and bombarded with nitrous oxide, which gives him the ability to move superfast as well as other car-like powers such as headlights and radio. Theo and Chet are exiled from their home but adopted by the snail-racing inhabitants of a neglected retail park called Starlight Plaza, especially Tito, who runs a Taco business with his older brother Angelo. Tito believes that Theo, now named Turbo, will make their business a success and with his savings and those of the others who work at Starlight Plaza, enter him into prestigious race, the Indy 5004.|
|Setting||Los Angeles and Indianapolis, America|
Conceived as 'Fast & Furious with Snails', the film was released at the same time as Despicable Me 2. The film completely flopped in America, although it did reasonably in the rest of the world. Overall, the film lost approximately $15 million and was beaten at the box office by Frozen, Despicable Me 2, Monsters University and The Croods.
The film was made with a lot of input from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in order to make it seem as authentic as possible.
28. Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)
|Plot||Genius dog Mr Peabody has adopted Sherman as his son, but when Sherman gets in trouble at school for biting bullying girl Penny Peterson, Mrs Grunion threatens to take Sherman away. Mr Peabody hopes to resolve the problem by inviting Penny and her parents to dinner, however after Sherman shows Penny Mr Peabody's time-machine called the WABAC, they set off on an adventure that threatens the very space-time continuum.|
|Setting||21st Century America, with trips to France 1789, Egypt 1332 BC, Italy 1508 and Troy 1184 BC|
|Inspiration||Peabody's Improbable History, part of the The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (1959-60)|
|Logo||Sherman is the boy on the moon|
This was the first film adaptation made as part of the DreamWorks Classics media library. Though an enjoyable romp through time and space that sadly underperformed at the box office, possibly because the characters of Mr. Peabody & Sherman were unfamiliar to modern audiences. Mister Peabody had been created for a cartoon series from the late 1950s, appearing as a supporting part of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show - watched by the intended audience's grandparents. A film, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle produced by Universal Pictures, had previously flopped in 2000. Mr Peabody & Sherman was beaten at the box office by Disney's Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Blue Sky's Rio 2, Warner Brothers' The LEGO Movie and Penguins of Madagascar.
29. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
|Plot||Five years after dragons and Vikings united to live together on Berk, 20-year-old Hiccup is still arguing with his father, Stoick, who wants him to become the next chief while he wishes to retain his freedom and explore the world. He and Astrid encounter a dragon-trapper called Eret and learn that an insane warlord called Drago Bludvist is creating an army of dragons, but a mysterious dragon-rider is trying to stop him. While Stoick prepares for war, Hiccup is determined to try to negotiate a peace with Drago, unaware that Drago's dragon is a giant Alpha who can hypnotise and control other dragons. On his journey he discovers that the mysterious dragon-rider is, in fact, the mother he never knew.|
|Setting||Viking island of Berk, five years later|
|Inspiration||The books by Cressida Cowell|
|Others in the Series|
The second most-successful animated film of the year behind only Disney's Big Hero 6, this was a highly successful film. Very much intended to be the dark, middle chapter of a trilogy, unlike other sequels this has emotional impact and the characters have visibly aged. This was also the first DreamWorks Animation film to benefit from more advanced animation tools.
30. Penguins of Madagascar (2014)
|Directors||Eric Darnell & Simon J Smith|
|Plot||Penguins Skipper, Kowalski and Rico always look down on their youngest brother Private, considering him to be merely cute. Meanwhile an insane octopus named Dave, who disguises himself as a human called Dr Octavius, resents that when he was in a zoo the penguins were considered cute and cuddly while he was unloved. Swearing revenge, he begins kidnapping all the penguins in the world while being tracked by an elite interspecies taskforce called the North Wind. What is Dave's fiendish plan and will the penguins and North Wind do anything other than get in each other's way?|
|Setting||Antarctica, Fort Knox, Venice, Shanghai|
|The North Wind|
|Music||Composed by Lorne Balfe|
|Others in the Series|
|Logo||Two: DreamWorks 20 Years logo, and on a glacier in Antarctica a snowfall replaced the boy on the moon with the penguins|
The film was full of joking references to famous names presumably aimed at an adult audience, however most of the film had a very slapstick, child-orientated plot. The character of Dr Brine, played by John Malkovich, is introduced with a sequence in which he walks on his hands; this was inspired by a similar sequence when Malkovich played Humma Kavula in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005). Danny Jacobs replaces Sacha Baron Cohen as King Julien and Rico has again been recast. Sadly the film was a big box office disappointment which meant that the studio lost over $50 million during 2014.
The financial situation at the end of 2014 led to DreamWorks Animations' original PDI studio closing as part of over 500 job losses. PDI, originally Pacifica Data Images, had been co-owned by DreamWorks in 1996 and bought outright by DreamWorks Animation in 2000. Although all films produced would be made under the DreamWorks Animation banner, the Redwood City based facility continued to operate while DreamWorks Animation developed their main studio in Glendale. Known as PDI/DreamWorks, the studio not only contributed to projects based at Glendale, they also continued to make their own films. The last two films that the PDI studio had made were Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Penguins of Madagascar, neither of which had been successful.
There were also constant rumours of DreamWorks Animation being taken over. DreamWorks Animation would remain an independent public company until early 2016. In April 2016 DreamWorks Animation was purchased by NBC Universal for $3.8 billion.