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Dreamworks Buys He-Man

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Dreamworks Buys He-Man

and Fat Albert, Gumby, Casper the Friendly Ghost

By Robert T. Trate     July 23, 2012
Source: Entertainment Weekly

There are dozens of pop culture references that could be used to start this story.

We could go with a Fat Albert-esque question: “Hey, hey, hey… guess who just bought a huge portfolio of classic kids’ titles?”

And answer it He-Man and She-Ra style: “DreamWorks Animation… has… THE POWER!”

Or there’s the Lassie route: “What’s that, girl…? A company called Classic Media found a bunch of family entertainment characters down in a well? And now they’ve all been scooped up by Jeffrey Katzenberg?”

On Wall Street, they’re just saying it straight: Classic Media, an entertainment firm that has been amassing rights to a huge library of beloved-but-languishing family-friendly characters since 2000, was acquired today by DreamWorks Animation, which paid $155 million to own the titles. (Michelle Kung of The Wall Street Journal first reported the sale Sunday.)

Think of DreamWorks Animation CEO Katzenberg as the ultimate collector who just bought someone’s massive toy box on eBay.

In a peculiar quirk, the deal now puts DreamWorks Animation directly into business with Walt Disney Studios, Katzenberg’s old home and current rival. One of the characters owned by Classic Animation is The Lone Ranger, which was licensed to Disney for Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer’s upcoming western adventure, due in theaters July 3, 2013.

Classic Media co-CEOs Eric Ellenbogen (a former Marvel Entertainment chief) and John Engelman (an executive with Broadway Video) founded the company to acquire characters that previously enjoyed strong followings but had fallen out of the active pop-culture zeitgeist. They will remain in charge of the newly branded DreamWorks Classics division.

The nearly 450 titles in Classic’s rights portfolio include Gumby, Pat the Bunny, Dick Tracy, Lamb Chop the puppet, Where’s Waldo?, and the old superhero Shazam cartoon show.

Classic had a longstanding partnership with Jay Ward Productions, which made the Rocky and Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle, and Dudley Do-Right cartoons, and the DreamWorks Animation deal means Katzenberg and chief creative officer Bill Damaschke will also have access to those and several other companies’ characters, including:

– The Harvey Comics catalog, including Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, Wendy the Good Little Witch, and Hot Stuff.

– Filmnation’s cartoon shows He-Man, She-Ra, and Fat Albert.
–  the Rankin/Bass animated holiday specials Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.

Since DreamWorks Animation didn’t buy these rights to let the characters languish on a shelf, fans will likely see these characters return in new movies and TV shows, as well as home entertainment and digital releases, consumer products, and theme parks.

Classic Media didn’t let the characters lie fallow either, so some of its titles, such as The Lone Ranger, have already been licensed for active projects. Last year, Relativity Media announced it was developing a movie based on the Classic Media character Voltron, about a group of giant, robotic tiger vehicles that form a massive intergalactic warrior.

DreamWorks Animation itself previously licensed content from Classic: It is producing an animated feature film based on the time-travel cartoon Mr. Peabody and Sherman, due in late 2013 with Modern Family’s Ty Burrell voicing the genius canine.

Assorted other pre-existing deals and partnerships will occasionally limit what DreamWorks can do with some of these properties, and existing agreements will remain unchanged. But as the license holder, the animation studio can now work to capitalize on these various projects in new ways. 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 19
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DarthBob 7/23/2012 8:49:52 AM

Yes to a He-man movie and no to an new Fat Albert movie!

redhairs99 7/23/2012 9:19:27 AM

 Hopefully, they follow the 2000 He-Man animated series if they go with a new live action movie.  That series was great!

swisshammer 7/23/2012 9:57:45 AM

If the new He-Man movie (if there is one) takes place in Eternia, then it could be amazing. If it takes place on Earth, then I'll skip it.

swisshammer 7/23/2012 10:01:41 AM

Oh wait, so this is ONLY for the animation? Well, that's not that important to me at all. I'd rather have a live-action He-Man than get the same old animated version.

redvector 7/23/2012 10:21:43 AM

I'd be down with a cgi animated movie version of He-Man. Dreamworks Animation did awesome work on How to Train your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda 1/2.

InnerSanctum 7/23/2012 11:07:22 AM

 I'd say "no" to all three.  I'd be as excited about a He-Man movie as I would a Power Rangers movie. 

keithdaniel 7/23/2012 11:30:54 AM

Swisshammer, I'm with you about the idea of  a He-man movie taking place on Earth...that would be a very bad idea and although I may be wrong I don't think that the next producers would be dumb enough to go back down that road.  I would like to think that they've seen the last Masters of the Universe movie (and a very very bad one I would add!!!) from 1987 and saw how really, really bad that turned out. 

Shogunn2517 7/23/2012 12:56:14 PM

Did anyone ever read the He-Man script, "GREYSKULL: THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE" that was writen just prior to the strike a few years ago?

It was damn good!

Anyone interested?

swisshammer 7/23/2012 2:06:56 PM

Keithdaniel: I agree. Anyone who would be making the next Masters of the Universe live-action film would most likely have seen the first one. And if they're worth anything as producers, or even film enthusiasts, or shit, even PEOPLE, they would know to distance themselves from that hunk of crap as best they can.

Inner: You can't possibly be equating He-Man to Power Rangers. I'll pretend that you were just using a hyperbole to add spice to your comment.

vitieddie 7/23/2012 3:50:30 PM

Yes to Voltron.

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