Insiders have been whispering that Hasbro the toy making giant, may buy Dreamworks Animation. The two companies would definitely find some of what they’re missing in one another.
A combination of the two companies could accelerate efforts at each to move beyond their core businesses. DreamWorks Animation has expanded into consumer products in recent years but lags behind Walt Disney Co. , and Hasbro had just changed tack on its entertainment business, selling off some of its stake in the Hub cable network withDiscovery Communications Inc. Hasbro, which has been contemplating such a deal for years, has clout with big retailers that DreamWorks could benefit from too, the person familiar with the talks said.
Hasbro has been pretty heavily involved in animation, despite the Discovery/Hub sell-off, so you can see why they’d want a full fledged animation studio. They just launched Allspark Pictures, a film division, which is already working on Jem and the Holograms ad My Little POny movies. Dreamworks Animation has been trying to get acquired, and a deal with Japanese telecom SoftBank Corp. fell apart just weeks ago.
Now its obvious what Hasbro brings to the deal: G.I. Joe, Transformers and My Little Pony. But Dreamworks has its own huge portfolio of characters: the Classic Media library which it purchased two years ago, including all the Harvey Comics characters, including Casper the Friendly Ghost, the Lone Ranger, Lassie, He-Man and She-Ra, Gumby, Voltron, AND all the Gold Key heroes, currently licensed to Dynamite. A huge list of characters, many of them still ripe for reboots, something HAsbro would probably be eager to do.
Scott Mendelsson at Forbes, has an interesting analysis of the move, pointing out that DreamWorks has been the victim of a lot of sky is falling reporting. As soon as one of their movies open at a mere $60 million, reporters say it’s a bomb even if it is a worldwide hit:
This has been a pattern for the animation giant. They have had a major film that opened perhaps somewhat below expectations or below unrealistic expectations which caused analysts to proclaim failure and DWA stock to take a hit, with few mea culpas being offered when said films went on to worldwide box office glory after the fact.
Shrek Forever After was written off as a stunning disappointment after it opened to “only” $70 million in May of 2010. Yes, that was far below the $122m debut of the third Shrek film, and that time I was absolutely among the guilty in presuming an eventual financial disappointment. Shrek Forever After displayed strong legs over the summer and eventually earned $238m domestic (still larger than any non-Shrek DWA feature) and $752m worldwide (DWA’s third biggest global grosser and 55% larger than the $484m worldwide cume of the original Shrek). Kung Fu Panda 2 was written off over Memorial Day 2011 when it “only” debuted with $66m over its Thurs-Mon debut (Kung Fu Panda opened with $60m over its Fri-Sun debut in 2008). Yet even as the film earned $165m domestic, well-below the $215m cume of the first film, it went on to earn $665m worldwide, above the $631m cume of Kung Fu Panda and still DreamWorks’ second-biggest non-Shrek film after 2012′s Madagascar: Europe’s Most Wanted ($746m).
So yeah, maybe a little Disney whispering there. If Hasbro does buy Dreamworks Animation, this could possibly jeopardize their deal with Disney/Marvel to make toys, as Disney and Dreamworks are rivals, with Dreamworks having been founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg after he stormed away from Disney in a huff long ago.
Obviously this is all still in the talking stages. Dreamworks stock is up, Hasbro is down since rumors surfaced; consider this a REAL life version of Convergence/Secret Wars!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.