The Comcast-owned Universal Pictures movie studio intends to sell the stake it owns in animation group Oriental DreamWorks after strategy disagreements with China Media Capital, the other main backers of the firm. According to sources China Media Capital has had discussions with Warner Brothers with a view to having the studio owned by Time Warner replace Universal Pictures in the animation group.
Universal Pictures inherited a 45% interest in the Chinese animation group after its acquisition of Dreamworks Animation last year at a price of $3.8 billion. Differences over vision between China Media Capital, owned by Li Ruigang, however, soon emerged.
“… I am focused more on China and less globally while they want to make films in China for the world. Today, the priority of Universal is a theme park in Beijing,” Ruigang said in an interview with the Financial Times.
This will not be the first time that Ruigang will be dealing with Warner Brothers having jointly started Chinese film venture firm, Flagship Entertainment, with the studio two years ago. If an agreement is not reached with Warner Brothers to have the studio take the stake of Universal Pictures in Oriental DreamWorks, the animal group’s future will remain unclear. Earlier in the year about 40 animators were laid off by Oriental Dreamworks.
Universal’s stake in Oriental DreamWorks is not critical since the studio already has other consumer products and film distribution operations in China. In October last year authorities in China started an antitrust investigation into the acquisition of DreamWorks Animation by Comcast. In China the government is empowered to conduct investigations of foreign deals even when Chinese firms are not involved.
Some of the projects that DreamWorks Animation has in its pipeline have been re-evaluated. This includes Larrikins and The Croods 2 which were cancelled. The two projects were supposed to have the voices of Naomi Watts and Hugh Jackman starring. The cancellation of the two projects comes in the wake of Kung Fu Panda 3 not doing as well in theatres as had been expected.
Some of DreamWorks Animations’ productions expected to be released in the next four years include The Boss Baby 2 which is expected to be released on March 26, 2021 and Trolls 2 which is slated for release on October 10, 2020. How To Train Your Dragon 3 is expected to be released on March 1 in 2019.