Ever since 1998 and into this Friday’s release of
, DreamWorks Animation has emerged as one of the dominant forces in animated storytelling worldwide, whose blend of state-of-the-art tech and raucous contemporary humor has carved their own identity in our current cartoon renaissance. Kung Fu Panda 3 Kung Fu Panda 3 inspires this week’s 24 Frames gallery, in which we explore the nearly two-decade history of DreamWorks Animation.
Antz Year: 1998
DreamWorks (founded by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg) partnered with Pacific
Data Images to produce their debut animated feature: Antz. The movie, featuring the voices of Woody
Allen and Sylvester Stallone, came out within months of similar A Bug’s Life, establishing
the “rivalry” between DreamWorks and Pixar out of the gate.
The Prince of Egypt Year: 1998
DreamWorks produced a quartet of traditionally animated films: this, Road to El Dorado,
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.
Egypt was successful enough to get a DVD-sequel but, as Disney also learned, this type of
animation was no longer profitable by the early 2000s and abandoned these projects after 2003.
Chicken Run Year: 2000
DreamWorks co-financed Aardman’s first theatrical film, Chicken Run. The film was directed by
Nick Park, the stop-motion darling who won several Oscars for his series of Wallace & Gromit
shorts throughout the ’90s.
Shrek Year: 2001
With its mix of pop culture savvy and slightly rude humor, fairy tale parody Shrek
established the DreamWorks “identity” and gave the studio its first franchise player. The film also
took home the inaugural Best Animated Feature Oscar.
Shrek 2 Year: 2004
Breaking the rule that animation sequels don’t have to be worse than their predecessors, Shrek
2 got equally good reviews and broke the box office: it doubled what Shrek made by
approaching $1 billion gross worldwide. The success of the movie formally established DreamWorks
Animation as its own operating entity.
Shark Tale Year: 2004
DreamWorks’ first Rotten movie of the CG era, Shark Tale played into the rising trend of
stunt casting celebrities as voices by modelling its character faces after stars like Will Smith and
Madagascar Year: 2005
DreamWorks found its second franchise with Madagascar. Though slightly Rotten, the movie cost
half of what Shrek 2 took to make and made over $500 million global.
Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit Year: 2005
The partnership between Aardman continued with their first feature-length Wallace & Gromit adventure,
which would also become the first (and only) stop-motion picture to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar. US box office
was a disappointment ($56 million) but did well internationally, where the haplessly heroic duo had
more popularity anyways.
Flushed Away Year: 2006
The Aardman/DreamWorks partnership fell apart with Flushed Away, the story of a posh rat who
gets sent into the sewers, once again stoking the rivalry with Pixar who were readying
Ratatouille at the time. As Aardman’s first computer animated film, it cost $150 million to
make and failed to make that back after considering marketing and promotion.
Bee Movie Year: 2007
After the very British Flushed Away, DreamWorks looked to American comic institution Jerry Seinfeld
for this movie about a litigious bee who sues humans over honey consumption.
Kung Fu Panda Year: 2008
After the rocky box office performances of their last few movies, DW Animation breathed a sigh of
relief with Kung Fu Panda, the first in the Certified Fresh series known for its stunning
action sequences and lively vocal performances.
Monsters vs. Aliens Year: 2009
DreamWorks goes to B-movie town with this monster mash-up of ’50s Hollywood sci-fi tropes.
How to Train Your Dragon Year: 2010
The studio got the highest critical marks of its existence with this adaptation of the Cressida
Crowell children’s books. Audiences were wowed by the 3D flying sequences and the story’s surprising
emotional heft and, after grossing $500 million worldwide, it was a no-brainer to fast track a movie
for the next in the book series.
Shrek Forever After Year: 2010
Shrek the Third came out in-between Flushed Away and Bee Movie, which saw
diminishing returns on the Tomatometer and box office while ballooning in budget. Shrek Forever
After was touted as the final theatrical journey to Far Far Away, though DreamWorks fortunately
by this point had several other franchises to rely on.
Megamind Year: 2010
Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt turn the superhero narrative on its head with Megamind, which sees a megalomaniacal evil genius who destroys his archnemesis and finds himself leaning towards good afterwards. This one pairs nicely with the other 2010 anti-hero animated movie Despicable Me.
Kung Fu Panda 2 Year: 2011
Though still supported by the critics, this sequel made less in the States, which in turn was completely made up for with the international box office. At $665 million, that was enough to make Kung Fu Panda 2 the highest-grossing movie directed by a woman (Jennifer Yuh Nelson) up until the release of 2013’s Frozen.
Puss in Boots Year: 2011
The Shrek franchise lives on with this spinoff starring Antonio Banderas as the fan-favorite kitty Casanova.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted Year: 2012
Madagascar has quietly become the Fast & Furious of the animation world: each subsequent entry in the series gets better and better reviews. While the original two were rated 55% and 64%, respectively, Europe’s Most Wanted was the first to go Certified Fresh and likewise has grossed the most in the series.
Rise of the Guardians Year: 2012
Despite a Certified Fresh rating and an equally positive reaction from audiences (those who actually went out to see it), the fantasy holiday-themed Rise of the Guardians was a huge writedown for the production studio and triggered hundreds of layoffs. Fantastic home-release sales created some speculation for a sequel though nothing has come to fruition.
The Croods Year: 2013
Another $500 million earner (generally the number necessary in order for an animated movie to be considered a success in today’s saturated market), the prehistoric Croods is getting a movie sequel in 2017, following a TV series that launched on Netfix last year.
Turbo Year: 2013
This, along with 2014’s Mr. Peabody & Sherman, were considered box office disappointments, representing another valley in DreamWorks fantastically up-and-down trajectory.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 Year: 2014
Taking flight once more and soaring to new heights, this sequel improbably matched the critical and financial success of the original. Part 3 hits theaters in 2018.
Penguins of Madagscar Year: 2014
After a busy 2014 that saw Mr. Peabody & Sherman and the second How to Train Your Dragon, DW closed the year with this spinoff of Madagascar. A true Madagascar sequel is in the works but with no release date yet.
Home Year: 2015
Original property Home, starring Rihanna and Jim Parsons as a lonely young girl and the hyperactive alien she befriends, was a surprise success, opening to $50 million its first weekend.
After Kung Fu Panda 3, DreamWorks has one more film lined up for the year: Trolls, due out in November. (Remember Trolls? They’re back! In movie form.)