The Hollywood Reporter:

NBCUniversal to Acquire DreamWorks Animation in $3.8B Deal

Comcast’s NBCUniversal made things official on Thursday, unveiling a deal to acquire DreamWorks Animation in a deal that puts an equity value of $3.8 billion on the studio, or an enterprise value of $4.1 billion when including debt.

Comcast said the deal was ”a great opportunity to strengthen NBCU’s film animation business, build its consumer products business, expand its theme park attractions and enhance its position in the kids TV space.” As such, it would create a bigger competitor to Walt Disney in the lucrative family entertainment space.

Jeffrey Katzenberg (the “K” in “Dreamworks SKG”), who was also the driving force behind the Disney Renaissance in the 1990s, will continue on as a consultant, mostly through Dreamworks’ digital companies.

But, what bang does NBCU get for it billions of bucks?

Well, the Dreamworks movies, of course.  Shrek. Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and many more.

dreamworks family portrait

But while that’s a good chunka, there’s another part that most people don’t know about: Dreamworks Classic, formerly known as Classic Media. Dreamworks Animation paid $155 Million for the company in 2012. What did they get?

Here’s a visual scorecard. Some are owned outright, others are partnerships involving licensing or distribution deals. You might recognize a few friends from your childhood…

Created by Dr. Seuss, and winner of an Academy Award.
Mr. Magoo, another Academy Award winner (twice!)

…and other United Productions of America properties, including an additional 11 Oscar nominees.

Via Broadway Video, they own a huge video library of rights including:

Art by Paul Coker, production designer on many R-B productions, and one of MAD Magazine’s “Usual Idiots”.

Rankin-Bass, pre-1974 productions. Rudolph. Frosty. Heat Miser. Francesca. (1974-onward? Warner Brothers.)

The Lone Ranger (briefly owned by Disney, so they could acquire the Disneyland Hotel!) Also Sgt. Preston and Lassie!

Total Television‘s cartoon creations.

Other properties acquired, either completely, or in partnership:

Big Idea Entertainment, LLC
Filmation, which includes licensed properties, plus original works like Isis, Ark II, and the Super 7 .
Woodland Animations (Postman Pat and friends)
Tell-Tale Productions
Jay Ward Productions Tribute” by Dave Nimitz

[You know, with Jay Ward and Total Television, NBCU could create a franchise with General Mills or Quaker Oats characters!]

…and many more! [via Wikipedia]

But what’s this got to do with comics?  A. LOT.

Dreamworks owns Harvey Entertainment, home of Caspar, Richie, Wendy, Dot, Lotta, Audrey, Huey, Stumbo (but not Sad Sack).

Not pictured? Harvey’s superheroes (which aren’t part of the catalog.)

Ironically, Universal once owned the rights to the (pre)Harvey cartoons, which were originally created by Paramount PicturesFamous Studios.

Formerly published by Valiant, currently licensed by Dynamite.

Remember Gold Key Comics? They were part of Western Publishing/Golden Books, which also owned Broadway Video. In 2001, during a bankruptcy auction, Classic Media got the media and merchandising rights, and Random House got the publishing properties.

So, what does this mean?

Well… Universal Studios gains a lot of new properties to add to their theme parks! (Some of the characters mentioned above are already there!) Universal could make a deal with Disney… Universal gives up their Marvel rights, with a ten-year moratorium on Disney building any attractions (but allowing meet-and-greets). Universal then replaces that segment in Islands of Adventure with Dreamworks franchises (although some of them might be under contract to other attractions). NBCU already owns the Minions (via Illumination Entertainment)…could you imagine a “dark ride” through Gru’s house and into the underground laboratory? Lord Farquaad’s castle perpetually mocking Cinderella’s? Kung Fu Panda? Madagascar? (Or Universal could sign a deal with CBS and Paramount and create a Starfleet Experience to compete with Star Wars Land.)

Universal gets another animation studio (along with Illumination) led by Chris Meledandri, which can better compete with Disney. Which, incidentally, puts more pressure on Warner Animation Group and Sam Register, which has been slow to follow up the success of The Lego Movie in 2014. It could be argued that WAG is #4, behind Fox’s Blue Sky Studios (Peanuts, Ice Age).

NBC Universal is already the largest media conglomerate, so interesting times are ahead. Universal Studios has been consistently profitable, even in years where they didn’t have a blockbuster like Jurassic World. If you want to check what NBCU owns, click here. They’re completely owned by Comcast.



  1. It might already be time for NBC Universal to showcase its newly-expanded animated properties on a separate cable network and maybe bring animation back to USA Network on Sunday mornings to help showcase those animated properties. Soon, it might be time to debut ‘NBC Kids on USA’, every Sunday morning, 7:00 a.m. ET to 12:00 p.m. ET and Woody Woodpecker might help spearhead this block, along with Casper, Shrek, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Fat Albert, The Archies, etc. I can also see CGI Voltron being a part of this block, too. However, that block will thrive with animated originals in the future, should it happen- it can’t hurt to look into that!!!

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