The Ultimate DreamWorks Animated Film Guide: 2015-2019

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The Ultimate DreamWorks Animated Film Guide
1998-2004 |
2005-2009 |
2010-2014 |
2015-2019

DreamWorks Animation is a major American animation studio founded by Steven Spielberg, former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, and music David Geffen in 1994 that is best known for films such as its Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How To Train Your Dragon series. Financially their films have alternated between highly successful hits and costly flops which have undermined their ability to remain independent. As DreamWorks Animation became increasingly aware of the unpredictable nature of relying on big film releases, in 2013 they signed a deal with Netflix to provide them with cartoon series material for their service in territories such as America and Europe while also broadcasting this on The DreamWorks Channel in Asia. Yet this was not enough to secure their independence. In April 2016 NBC Universal bought DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion1. Although the studio's founder Jeffrey Katzenberg remained head of DreamWorks New Media, the studio was now controlled by Illumination's CEO Chris Meledandri. NBC Universal hoped that the popularity of DreamWorks Animation particularly in China, a country emerging as a more important financial market than the United States, would be beneficial especially as they were constructing a Universal Studios theme park in Beijing.

A list of the films that DreamWorks Animation made between 2015 and 2019 is listed below. Also mentioned is whether the films pass the Bechdel Test. This can be summarised as whether the film involves two or more female characters who have a conversation together that does not focus on men in general or specific male characters.

31. Home (2015)

DirectorTim Johnson
PlotEarth has been invaded! A cowardly species of aliens called the Boov who are led by Captain Smek abduct everyone and take them to Australia. One girl, Gratuity 'Tip' Tucci, is left behind in America, where she encounters an outcast Boov called Oh. The Boov are hiding from a fierce alien called the Gorg who wishes to kill them all, but Oh may have inadvertently informed the Gorg where they are. Will they unite to search for Tip's mother and prevent the destruction of the Earth?
Length94 minutes
Setting21st Century Earth, particularly America, Paris and Australia
Characters
  • Gratuity 'Tip' Tucci, a teenage girl (Rihanna)
  • Oh, an unpopular, clumsy Boov (Jim Parsons)
  • Captain Smek, cowardly Boov leader (Steve Martin)
  • Lucy Tucci, Tip's missing mother (Jennifer Lopez)
  • Kyle, Boov policeman (Matt Jones)
  • Gorg (Brian Steanek)
InspirationThe True Meaning of Smekday (2007) by Adam Rex
Music
  • 'Towards the Sun', performed by Rihanna, written by Tiago Carvalho, Gary Go &Robyn Fenty
  • 'Run to Me' by Jonathan Yip, Ray Romulus, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Charles McCulloch II & Coffee Jr.
  • 'Cannonball' by Tor Erik Hermansen, Mikkel Eriksen, Kiesa Ellestad, Benjamin Hanna & Emile Haynie
  • 'As Real as You and Me' performed by Rihanna, written by Rodney 'Darkchild' Jerkins, Alicia Williams & Fenty
  • 'Dancing in the Dark' performed by Rihanna, written by Tor Hermansen, Mikken Eriksen, Ester Dean, Fenty & Maureen Anne McDonald
  • 'Feel the Light' performed by Jennifer Lopez, written by Tor Hermansen, Mikkel Erikson, Kiesa Ellestad & Emile Haynie
  • 'Only Girl (in the World)' performed by Rihanna, written by Crystal Johnson, Mikkel Erikson, Tork Hermansen, Sandy Wilhelm
Spin Off
  • Almost Home (2014) – Short film
  • Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh (2016-8) – Netflix series
Bechdel TestPass
LogoThe boy in the moon is abducted and replaced by Oh

An eccentric and visually unique take on the story of an unlikely friendship between two quite different characters. The film is full of other science-fiction film references and Jim Parsons excels as Oh, despite the unusual hit-and-miss dialogue he is given. That the film's star character is a (reasonably) realistic non-white female is also a positive step hinting at hopefully more diversity in DreamWorks Animation's films in the future.

32. Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

DirectorsJennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni
PlotWhile Po is finally reunited with his father, Li Shan, who believed he had been killed as a baby, trouble is afoot in the spirit realm. Grand Master Oogway's former friend Kai has learnt how to steal people's spirits or Chi, stealing their abilities and turning them into Jade zombies. Having defeated Oogway, Kai returns to the mortal realm seeking revenge. Learning that only a true master of Chi is able to defeat Kai, Li Shan promises to teach Po all about Chi in his secret panda village but in truth knows nothing of Chi, wishing only to keep Po safe. When this village is threatened and all Po's friends have been turned into zombies, how can Po defeat Kai?
Length95 minutes
SettingSpirit Realm, Valley of Peace and secret Panda Village, Ancient China
Characters
  • Po, a giant panda and Dragon Warrior (Jack Black)
  • Li Shan, a giant panda and Po's long-lost father (Bryan Cranston)
  • Shifu, a red panda Kung Fu master (Dustin Hoffman)
  • Mr Ping, Po's goose father (James Hong)
  • Kai, a resurrected yak who can steal the chi or spirit of those who face him (JK Simmons)
  • The Furious Five:
    1. Tigress (Angelina Jolie)
    2. Monkey (Jackie Chan)
    3. Mantis (Seth Rogen)
    4. Viper (Lucy Liu)
    5. Crane (David Cross)
  • Grand Master Oogway, a spirit tortoise kung fu master (Randall Duk Kim)
  • Mei Mei, a ribbon-dancing panda (Kate Hudson)
MusicComposed by Hans Zimmer
Others in the Series
  • 16. Kung Fu Panda (2008)
  • 24. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
  • Secrets of the Furious Five (2008) – short film
  • Kung Fu Panda Holiday (2010) - Christmas short film
  • Secrets of the Masters (2011) - short film
  • Secrets of the Scroll (2016) - short film
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness (2011-14) – spin-off television series
  • Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny (2018-19) – spin-off television series
Bechdel TestNarrow Pass
LogoPo struggles up a flight of stairs to reach the moon

Kung Fu Panda 3 was co-produced with DreamWorks Animation and Oriental DreamWorks, a company partnered with Chinese film companies based in Shanghai that had been created to open up the potentially lucrative Chinese market. This was formed when DreamWorks purchased Chinese animation studio 37 Entertainment and received investment from China Media Capital, Shanghai Media Group and Shanghai Alliance Investment to become one of the few western companies able to import Western films into China. Approximately a third of the film was made in China. This meant that the film was allowed to be shown in China, which was its biggest audience, making more money there than in the United States.

Kung Fu Panda 3 was the fourth most successful animated film of the year, behind Pixar's Finding Dory, Disney's Zootopia, Illumination Entertainment's The Secret Life of Pets.

33. Trolls (2016)

DirectorsMike Mitchell & Walt Dohrn
PlotThe Trolls are small, happy creatures that spend their time singing, dancing and hugging. Their large neighbours, the Bergen, are miserable creatures who believe that the only way they have happiness inside them is by eating a troll. 20 years after the Trolls escaped the Bergen some of Princess Poppy's closest friends are captured. She embarks on a dangerous quest to rescue them accompanied by the only troll who does not like to sing, dance or hug and is befriended by Bergen scullery maid Bridgit, who is in love with the Bergen king.
Length93 minutes
SettingTroll Village and nearby Bergen Town and Castle
InspirationTroll dolls
Trolls
  • Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick, Iris Dohrn as baby Poppy)
  • Branch, a miserable troll (Justin Timberlake, Liam Henry as young Branch)
  • Creek, a wise, zen-like troll (Russell Brand)
  • Biggie, a chubby troll (James Corden)
  • King Peppy, Troll rule and Poppy's heroic father (Jeffrey Tambor)
  • Cooper, a giraffe-shaped troll (Ron Funches)
  • Satin & Chenille, two trolls joined by the hair (Icona Pop)
  • Guy Diamond, a glittery troll (Kunal Nayyar)
Bergen
  • Bridget, a scullery maid (Zooey Deschanel)
  • Prince, later King Gristle Jnr (Christopher Mintz-Plasse)
  • Chef (Christine Baranski)
  • King Gristle Snr (John Cleese)
Music
  • 'Celebration' by Robert & Ronald Bell, George Brown, Eumir Deodato, Robert Mickens, Claydes Smith, Dennis Thomas, James Taylor and Earl Toon
  • 'September' by Maurice White, Al McKay and Allee Willis
  • 'Get Back Up Again' by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
  • 'Hair Up' by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Shellback and Oscar Holter
  • 'Move Your Feet' by Jesper Mortensen
  • 'D.A.N.C.E.' by Gaspard Augé, Jessie Chaton and Xavier de Rosnay
  • 'It's a Sunshine Day' by Stephen McCarthy
  • 'Dream A Little Dream Of Me' by Fabian Andre, Gus Kahn and Wilbur Schwandt
  • 'The Sound Of Silence' by Paul Simon
  • 'Clint Eastwood' by Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, and Teren Jones
  • 'Hello' by Lionel Richie
  • 'The Fakeover' by Eric Goldman and Michael Corcoran
  • 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart' by Jim Steinman
  • 'I'm Coming Out' by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards
  • 'Mo Money Mo Problems' by Sean Combs, The Notorious B.I.G, Mason Betha, Stevie J. (as Steven Jordan), Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards
  • '(Theme From) A Summer Place' by Max Steiner
  • 'They Don't Know' by Justin Timberlake, Savan Kotecha and Ilya
  • 'True Colours' by Tom Kelly and William Steinberg
  • 'I Feel Love' by Donna Summer, Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder
  • 'Can't Stop the Feeling!' by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Shellback
  • 'What U Workin' With' by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Peter Svensson and Ilya
Related
  • 38. Trolls World Tour (2020) - sequel
  • Trolls: Holiday (2017) - short film
  • Trolls: The Beat Goes On! (2018-19) – spin-off series
  • Trolls: TrollsTopia (2020+) – spin-off series
Bechdel TestPass
LogoA scrapbook version of the logo

Insanely happy musical film full of songs and dance with the important underlying message that cannibalism doesn't create happiness that successfully reinvents the Dam Troll dolls invented by Thomas Dam in 1959. The story is similar in places to Chicken Run, with the idea that a female protagonist wishes to profit by cooking the heroes, yet this does not detract from the film at all. There is even a nod to the fact that the story is based on a toy range.

Trolls was the ninth most successful animated film of the year, behind Pixar's Finding Dory, Disney's Zootopia, Illumination Entertainment's The Secret Life of Pets, DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda 3, Disney's Moana, Blue Sky's Ice Age: Collission Course, Illumination's Sing and Columbia's The Angry Birds Movie. A sequel, Trolls World Tour, was released in 2020.

34. Boss Baby (2017)

DirectorTom McGrath
PlotSeven year old Timothy Templeton has an ideal life with his loving parents, who work for Puppy Co, until he is told he has a baby brother. Jealous he no longer receives any love or attention, he discovers that the baby can talk and is in his house on a mission from Baby Corp to discover what Puppy Co's plans are to ensure that people love puppies more than babies. Tim and the Boss Baby agree to work together so that the Boss Baby can complete his mission successfully, which will allow him to leave Timothy's house for ever.
Length98 minutes
Setting21st Century America
InspirationThe books by Marla Frazee, The Boss Baby (2010) & The Bossier Baby (2016)
Characters
  • The Boss Baby, baby-sized imposter in Templeton house (Alec Baldwin)
  • Tim Templeton, the Boss Baby's 7-year-old brother (Miles Christopher Bakshi)
  • Francis E Francis, CEO of Puppy Co (Steve Buscemi)
  • Ted Templeton, Tim's father (Jimmy Kimmel)
  • Janice Templeton, Tim's mother (Lisa Kudrow)
  • Eugene Francis, Francis Francis' gorilla-like brother (Conrad Vernon)
  • Wizzie, a Gandalf alarm clock (James McGrath)
  • Narrator (Tobey Maguire)
MusicComposed by Hans Zimmer
  • 'Blackbird' by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
  • 'Cheek to Cheek' by Irving Berlin
  • 'Viva Las Vegas' written by Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman performed by Elvis Presley
  • 'What The World Needs Now is Love' by Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Spin Offs:
  • The Boss Baby: Back in Business - television series (2018+)
Bechdel TestFail
LogoA baby mobile

An enjoyable film based on the simple idea of having a baby talking like a managerial adult. While it is clear at all times exactly where the film is heading, this doesn't matter as the journey is so enjoyable and the use of 'Blackbird', one of Sir Paul McCartney's finest compositions, is particularly emotional. Wizzie the Gandalf alarm clock is by far the finest alarm clock in animation history, and is a reminder how actor Miles Christopher Bakshi is the grandson of Ralph Bakshi, who directed the phenomenal animated The Lord of the Rings (1979).

35. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)

DirectorDavid Soren
PlotBest friends at school George Beard and Harold Hutchins regularly draw comics and play pranks at school to bring joy to their classmates, which is otherwise forbidden by their head, Principal Krupp. Their best comic creation is a hero named Captain Underpants. When Krupp plans to separate them into different classes they hypnotise Krupp into thinking he is Captain Underpants, however whenever he gets wet he reverts to being Krupp. Meanwhile the school has a new science teacher, Professor P, who has a mad scheme to rid the world of laughter.
Length88 minutes
SettingJerome Horrowitz Elementary School, America, 21st Century
InspirationCaptain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey (1997+)
Characters
  • George Beard, pupil and comic writer (Kevin Hart)
  • Harold Hutchins, pupil and comic artist (Thomas Middleditch)
  • Principal Krupp, mean head teacher who is hypnotised into thinking he is Captain Underpants (Ed Helms)
  • Professor Pee-Pee Diarrheastein Poopypants Esq, mad professor who wants to rid the world of laughter having been laughed at as a child (Nick Kroll)
  • Melvin Sneedly, pupil without a sense of humour (Jordan Peele)
  • Edith, dinnerlady (Kristen Schaal)
  • Ms Tara Ribble, Mr Rected, Mr Morty Fyde, teachers (Dee Dee Rescher, Brian Posehn & Mel Rodriguez)
Music
  • 'Captain Underpants Theme Song' by 'Weird Al' Yankovic, Adam Anders, Peer Astrom and Theodore Shapiro
  • 'A Friend Like You' by Theodore Shapiro, Adam Anders, Peer Astrom and Andy Grammer
  • 'Saturday Song' by Adam Anders, Peer Astrom, Nathan Willett, Nicholas Stoller, Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Theodore Shapiro and Nick Baxter
  • 'Think' by Aretha Franklin and Ted White
  • 'Double Up' by Reginald Wale
  • 'Tin Can Circus' by Sylvain Quément
  • 'Oh Yeah' by Boris Blank and Dieter Meier
  • 'Hallelujah' by David Soren
  • '1812 Ofarture' inspired by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, arranged by Theodore Shapiro
  • 'Slippery Sid' by Roger-Roger
Spin Off
  • The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants (2018+) – Netflix series
Bechdel TestFail
LogoHummed by George and Harold who show their comics' logo too, Tree House Comix

This was the last film DreamWorks Animation made that was distributed by 20th Century Fox, though released after DreamWorks Animation was acquired by Universal Pictures. It has a much simpler, cheaper animation style that is quite different to other DreamWorks Animation films, yet it is stylised and similar to Pilkey's novel's artwork. The animation was outsourced to independent animation studios Mikros Image in Canada and Technicolor Animation Productions in France while DreamWorks Animation was restructured.

Jerome Horrowitz, the name of the school, was the name of Curly from The Three Stooges and the film was influenced by the films of John Hughes.

The film was DreamWorks Animation's lowest grossing since Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas in 2003. It was the ninth most successful animated film of the year, behind Illumination's Despicable Me 3, Pixar's Coco, DreamWorks Animation's The Boss Baby, Pixar's Cars 3, Warner Bros' The Lego Batman Movie, Blue Sky's Ferdinand and even behind both Sony Pictures Animation films, The Emoji Movie and Smurfs: The Lost Village. The poor performance may possibly be explained as since 1997 the Captain Underpants series has been the most complained-about book series in American libraries due to the unrelenting, explicit toilet humour content. Consequently, of the three films DreamWorks Animation had in production to release in 2018, only How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World avoided being cancelled and was delayed until 2019 instead, leaving 2018 the first year since 1999 in which no DreamWorks Animation film was released.

36. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

DirectorDean DeBlois
PlotFollowing threats from notorious Dragon Hunter Grimmel, who wants to make Night Fury dragons extinct, Hiccup decides that the people of Berk need to leave their island home and find somewhere safe where they can live with their dragons away from the rest of the world. He searches for the mythical Hidden World, a subterranean lost world at the edge of the world where dragons are said to have originally come from. His Night Fury dragon Toothless meets a female and potential mate for the very first time, yet she is intended to be a lure to help Grimmel capture all of the dragons and complete his quest to kill every last Night Fury.
Length100 minutes
SettingViking island of Berk, one year after How to Train Your Dragon 2
Characters
  • Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, dragon master Viking and village chief (Jay Baruchel)
    • Dragon: Toothless, a Night Fury
  • Astrid Hofferson, strong female warrior and Hiccup's partner (America Ferrera)
    • Dragon: Stormfly, a Deadly Nadder
  • Grimmel the Grisly, most-feared dragon hunter who wants to make Night Furies extinct (F Murray Abraham)
  • Valka, Hiccup's mother (Cate Blanchett)
    • Dragon: Cloudjumper, a Stormcutter
  • Gobber, Viking blacksmith and warrior (Craig Ferguson)
    • Dragon: Grump, a Hotburple
  • Snotlout Jorgenson (Jonah Hill)
    • Dragon: Hookfang, a Monstrous Nightmare
  • Fishlegs Ingerman, a dragon-nerd (Christopher Mintz-Plasse)
    • Dragon: Meatlug, a Gronckle
  • Tuffnut and Ruffnut Thorston, twin Vikings (Justin Rupple and Kristen Wiig)
    • Dragon: Barf and Belch, a two-headed Hideous Zippleback
  • Eret son of Eret, former dragon-trapper (Kit Harrington)
  • Stoick the Vast, Hiccup's father (Gerard Butler, flashback only)
    • Dragon: Skullcrusher, a Rumblehorn
InspirationThe books by Cressida Cowell
Others in the Series
  • 19. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
  • 29. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
  • Short Films:
    • Legend of the Boneknapper Dragon (2010)
    • Gift of the Night Fury (2011)
    • Book of Dragons (2011)
    • Dawn of the Dragon Racers (2014)
    • How to Train Your Dragon: Homecoming (2019)
  • DreamWorks Dragons - Television series (2012-2018)
  • DreamWorks Dragons: Rescue Riders - Netflix series (2019+)
Bechdel TestPass
LogoNew variation on the logo to reflect Universal's ownership

This was the first DreamWorks Animation film to be released under new owners Universal Pictures. A return to form, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was the fourth most successful animated film of the year2 behind Disney's Frozen II, Pixar's Toy Story 4 and China's Beijing Enlight Pictures film Ne Zha. How to Train Your Dragon is the first animated series in which all three films have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, although none of the series have actually won.

Following accusations of sexual assault and making fake bomb threats, TJ Miller was dropped from the voice cast and Justin Rupple was recast as Tuffnut.

37. Abominable (2019)

DirectorsJill Culton with Todd Wilderman
PlotTeenage Yi lives in a Shanghai tower block with her mother and grandmother, keeping busy since the death of her violinist father and desperately trying to raise enough money to go on the adventure her father had planned for the family. She discovers a magical Yeti, whom she names Everest, on the roof of the block and along with her neighbours Jin and Peng go on an adventure to return him home to Mount Everest. However they are pursued by Burniush, Dr Zara and goons who will stop at nothing to recapture the Yeti.
Length87 minutes
SettingChina and the Himalayas in 21st Century, between Shanghai and Mount Everest
Co-Production WithPearl Studio
Characters
  • Yi, violin-playing teenager who misses her father and longs for adventure (Chloe Bennet)
  • Peng, chubby basketball-obsessed friend of Yi's and younger cousin of Jin (Albert Tsai)
  • Jin, vain friend of Yi's and Peng's cousin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor3)
  • Burnish, wealthy former-explorer desperate to prove Yetis exist (Eddie Izzard)
  • Dr Zara, zoologist working for Burnish but secretly plans to steal the Yeti for the money (Sarah Paulson)
  • Nai Nai, Yi's grandmother (Tsai Chin)
  • Yi's mother (Michelle Wong)
MusicComposed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, with Coldplay's 'Fix You'
Bechdel TestPass
LogoPainting-like made up of wisps of clouds.

A visually impressive film with a predictable plot, it was the first film co-produced with the newly-independent Pearl Studio. This had been Oriental DreamWorks, DreamWorks' Chinese animation studio but in 2018 NBC Universal sold Oriental DreamWorks to avoid a Chinese anti-trust investigation. The Chinese government thought that the American-controlled Oriental DreamWorks was potentially too influential and threatened to dominate the Chinese market, despite having only released one film, Kung Fu Panda 3.

The film proved controversial as a brief scene at the start shows a map of China in the background which shows China's 'Nine-Dash Line'. This is a line showing how much of the South China Sea that China lays claim to despite the United Nations Convention of the Laws of the Sea's definition of what constitutes China's territorial waters, and so the film was banned in Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, countries whose territorial waters China claims with this line.

Abominable was the ninth most successful animated film of the year4 behind Disney's Frozen II, Pixar's Toy Story 4, China's Beijing Enlight Pictures film Ne Zha, DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Illumination's The Secret Life of Pets 2, United Artist's The Addams Family, CoMix Wave and Toho's Weathering with You, and Warner Bros' The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. This was despite the comparatively similar films Warner's Smallfoot (2018) and Laika's Missing Link (2019).

The Future

The 2010s ended with DreamWorks animation having regained a strong position in the animation marketplace as part of NBC Universal's media empire, yet the small degree of controversy with a Chinese-themed film was perhaps a foretaste of things to come. The following year the Covid-19 virus brought a deadly challenge no-one foresaw that disrupted the entire way of life of people all around the world. Universal NBC's response, to heavily promote home online video streaming instead of cinema, would cause controversy and calls for boycotts with cinema owners and question the very relationship between films and cinemas in the challenging years ahead.

1In comparison, Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, Marvel for $3.96 billion in 2009 and $7.6 billion for Pixar in 2006.2Excluding the live-action remake of The Lion King.3Grandson of Tenzing Norgay who climbed Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953.4Excluding the live-action remake of The Lion King.

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