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DreamWorks Animations shuts its PDI studio

MUMBAI: Ending its 14-year run, DreamWorks Animation (DWA) has shut down its California-based animation studio PDI that it had acquired in 2000, eliminating 500 jobs. The move comes in the wake of a major re-organisation within the company after several box-office failures have taken a financial toll on the network.

The studio will be shut down and consolidated into its Glendale campus, and about half of the ‘key talent’ there will be offered the opportunity to move to that area.

PDI was founded by Carl Rosendahl in 1980 as Pacific Data Images. It started as a visual effects studio, producing computer-generated graphics for broadcast networks, TV shows and commercials before moving on to films.

It later expanded into feature animation, with its first DWA collaboration, 1998’s ‘Antz’. DreamWorks acquired a 40 per cent stake in PDI in 1996, and the remaining 60 per cent in 2000 for an undisclosed price, and renamed it PDI/DreamWorks.

After hits like ‘Shrek’ and ‘Madagascar 3’, the studio suffered losses with its recent films ‘Mr Peabody & Sherman’ and ‘The Penguins of Madagascar’.

Its restructuring plan for its film business includes trimming its slate to two films per year. As part of the move, marketing chief Dawn Taubin and COO Mark Zoradi are exiting the company, while vice chairman Lew Coleman is retiring.

In an effort to bring down costs, the company has eliminated about 500 jobs or 18 per cent of its entire staff. The studio said that beginning in 2016 it will focus its efforts on one original film and one sequel per year. The studio’s next film is ‘Home’, which will be released domestically on 27 March.

As per reports, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said during a conference call, “We want to get back to basics here and just do an outstanding job on two movies a year. Much of my time and efforts in the last couple years have been focused on expanding the company into other businesses. It’s now time for me to turn my attention back to the core business.”

The newly announced line-up consists of the sequel ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’, set for release on 18 March 2016, followed by an original, ‘Trolls’, on 4 November 2016.

2017 will see ‘Boss Baby’ on 13 January 2017 and ‘The Croods 2’ on 22 December 2017. For 2018, the studio has set ‘The Larrikins’ on 16 February 2018 and ‘How to Train Your Dragon 3’ on 29 June 2018.

DreamWorks is outsourcing another project, ‘Captain Underpants’ based on the children’s novel series by Dav Pilkey, which it said “will be produced at a significantly lower cost”. It will be released in 2017 and much of the production will take place overseas.

The new slate will be overseen by Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria who were named co-presidents of DreamWorks Animation recently as CCO Bill Damaschke stepped down from his position.

“This consolidation will not only lower our cost structure, it will foster better collaboration, maximising creativity while also driving efficiency,” said Katzenberg.

The executive has no plans to look for a new theatrical distribution deal for his films, which 20th Century Fox now handles.