Television

DreamWorks Animation to cease India operations early next year?

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MUMBAI: A pall of gloom has been cast over the Indian animation industry. Late last evening,  an announcement was made in the Technicolor facilities in Whitefiled, Bengaluru which house the DreamWorks Dedicated Unit (DDU) by general manager Damien de Froberville. Sources say that de Frobeville addressed the 300-odd assembled artists and animators and regretfully announced that the DDU would be ceasing operations come early -2017. At least that’s what he had been informed by the company’s headquarters in the US.

Shock went through those in attendance for some of the artists and animators worked on Puss in Boots, Penguins of Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda 3 and the recently released Trolls. And on some other popular TV shows which DreamWorks Animation churned out from its Bengaluru outpost.

The highly anticipated animated feature film The Boss Baby that’s set to release on 31 March, 2017 is one of the projects being worked upon currently at DDU. It’s said that the employees have been told to wrap up the project they have been currently working on.

It was on 22 August 2016 that the company’s acquisition by Comcast NBCUniversal was completed and the company now functions as a division of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. Initial reports were that after the take over Jeffrey Katzenberg would cede control of the studio to Illumination Entertainment CEO Chris Melendandri and the two studios would focus on producing four animation features between them. However, that did not come to pass, and the two remained independent with Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria being retained as presidents of the DreamWorks Feature Animation division with Margie Cohn leading the television animation division.

Folks have been expecting change to happen at the studio ever since Jeffrey Katzenberg exited DreamWorks Animation with the acquisition. But no one expected it to happen so suddenly. It was not too long ago that DreamWorks Animation had announced that it would be lopping off 200 jobs from its Glendale unit. And now the news has emerged that the Indian dedicated DreamWorks Animation unit would get the axe.

The exact date of the cessation of the DDU’s operations is not known but speculation is that it could be either 31 January 2017 or 2 February 2017.

DreamWorks Dedicated Unit, studio manager, Adi Shayan said that he was not the right person to say anything. “However all I can say is it’s not that black and white and there’s more to it,” he stated.

We tried reaching out to de Froberville on several occasions telephonically. Late at night, he responded with a short but curt message: "DDU is not shutting down. I do not have any comments."

Only time and a rolling out of announcements will reveal whether this is true, but sources at the meeting, insist that the unit is being wound up. It's possible that some of the artists could be absorbed by Technicolor, it’s “partner” in India.

On 20 December 2007, Technicolor India partnered with DreamWorks Animation to assist in the recruitment, training and development of top-tier animation talent. From producing just animated commercials to TV specials to first full-length feature Penguins of Madagascar, DDU had come a long way.

Portions of the financially successful movie Kung Fu Panda 3 were also worked upon by the Bengaluru artists which included work mainly on the Panda village and market sequences. Animation, character FX, FX and lighting were the key areas worked upon by them.

Source indicated that the Indian Technicolor management was awaiting official word from Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Dreamworks’ headquarters before deciding on the way forward.

In the past, DreamWorks Animation used to renew its contract every three years, sources told AnimationXpress.com. “So three rounds of contracts had been renewed,” says an industry veteran. “But this time DreamWorks did not reach out to Technicolor, so even the renewal of the contract is yet to be initialed by the two parties.”

We reached out to Technicolor, country head, Biren Ghose to no avail. He chose not to comment on any queries. ”We will be making our announcement either tomorrow or next week,” is all he expressed.

This article was first published in Indiantelevision.com's sister publication Animationexpress.com

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