A Lassie animated movie? A new Casper cartoon? It’s all speculation, but DreamWorks has just purchased licensing company Classic Media for $155 million. Classic Media, which was founded by ex-Marvel CEO Eric Ellenbogen and ex-Broadway Video’s John Engelman in 2000, has long been one of the biggest behind-the-scenes media entities, amassing a huge library of, yes, classic characters including the Harvey and Gold Key comics libraries, in addition to The Lone Ranger, Lassie, Where’s Waldo, and many many more.
DreamWorks was among at least six bidders for Classic Media, an $82-million-a-year company that owns more than 450 family titles, including “Frosty the Snowman,” “George of the Jungle,” “Rocky & Bullwinkle” and contemporary bestsellers such as “VeggieTales.” Founded in 2000, the company is owned by Boomerang Media Holdings, part of the portfolio of private equity firm GTCR, which sources said had been eager to cash out its investment.
Via the purchase, DreamWorks now owns a bunch of iconic comics characters, including the Harvey library, which it purchased from Jeffrey Montgomery in 2000. Classic Media also controls a bunch of former Gold Key properties (Ellenbogen once worked at Golden Books) including Magnus, Doctor Solar and, even Little Lulu. They also own old Filmation (He-Man, Fat Albert) and Rankin/Bass (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) programs. In short, Ellenbogen and Engelman have been very smart about picking up fallow characters over the years.
The purchase gives DreamWorks a solid IP library of perennial characters—while it doesn’t match the Disney and WB behemoths, it does give them a bunch of very strong legacy characters—and in a world where pre-awareness is priceless, they may have just gotten a bargain.