The new John Lasseter?

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As widely reported, DreamWorks Animation has been purchased by Comcast’s NBCUniversal for $3.8b USD. Comcast is out to challenge Disney in the family film space, with Universal Filmed Entertainment Group Jeff Shell hailing Chris Meledandri as “the new John Lasseter”.

NBCUniversal intends to retain both the DreamWorks and Illumination animation brands (much as Disney has retained both Disney Animation and Pixar under Lasseter’s creative stewardship), with Meledandri reportedly being offered latitude over DreamWorks Animation’s business along with his ongoing leadership of Illumination.

Given that Illumination’s films outperform Pixar’s in mainland China, Meledandri appears well qualified to reinvigorate not only DreamWorks Animation but Oriental DreamWorks as well, adding fuel to the fire in what will soon be the world’s biggest content market.

Jeffrey Katzenberg is now effectively relegated to an advisory role as a consultant to NBCUniversal and chairman of the newly-minted DreamWorks New Media, with oversight of AwesomenessTV and Nova, but no further authority over DreamWork’s film and television operations. Helping the medicine go down will be the more than $400m USD that Katzenberg stands to earn from the buyout of his stake in DreamWorks.

At an all-hands meeting at the company’s Glendale headquarters, Jeffrey reassured everyone that: “The next chapter of our company’s historic journey begins today, and as I’ve said many times, there is no doubt that the best days for DreamWorks lie ahead.”

No doubt for the corporate entity, but those people affected by the layoffs at Disney Animation in the years following the Pixar acquisition (including many folks now currently employed at DreamWorks) know that there are other shoes yet to drop.

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