On the back of Rise of the Guardians under-performing (though it's still taken almost $300 million worldwide - hardly a failure), DreamWorks have a string of unpleasantness on the horizon, and none of today's developments are good news for animation fans.
The studio was originally going to be releasing three animated features this year, The Croods in March, Turbo in July and Mr. Peabody and Sherman in November, but the latter has been pushed back to next year. The film, based on the Rocky and Bullwinkle shorts starring a super-smart dog and his adopted boy, stars the voice of Modern Family's Ty Burrell and The Amazing Spider-Man's Max Charles and is being directed by The Lion King helmer Rob Minkoff; it's dropped back from a 1st November, 2013 release, to a 7th March, 2014 one. It's a shame - particularly given how exciting the film sounds; in fact it was the DreamWorks film I was most looking forward to this year - but delays are nothing new where animated films are concerned, and we can only hope that the delay will allow the film to be even better.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter about the delay, DreamWorks' Chief Marketing Officer Anne Globe said:
"Our distributor, who has had great success in March with their Ice Age franchise, has recommended we move Mr. Peabody & Sherman to the spring of 2014, which we totally agree is a much more advantageous release window. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is now the first of our three-picture lineup for next year."
DreamWorks' Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said "We believe the best strategy for DreamWorks Animation in the long run is to ensure that every one of our films has an optimal release date with the biggest opportunity to succeed at the box office," before ominously adding "The move of Mr. Peabody & Sherman means that we will now release two films in 2013, and we are adjusting our operating infrastructure costs accordingly."
A definite downside to the move of Mr. Peabody and Sherman to 2014 is that wipes another exciting DreamWorks project off the map for the time being. Me and My Shadow, a CG/hand-drawn hybrid which was being directed by Alessandro Carloni, is now to "return to development", meaning we won't be seeing it any time in the immediate future. Again, sad news, particularly given how exciting a premise the film has and how different it had the potential to be; the film isn't cancelled, so it's not gone indefinitely, but it's definitely disheartening news.
The immediate effect of this film-restructuring will not be a pleasant one. It means there's less jobs to be done at the studio right now, which is leading to "sizeable" layoffs in the coming weeks; Cartoon Brew says that that may be between 20 and 25% of DreamWorks' 2200 plus staff and Deadline reports that it may be as many as 500 people company-wide.
It's such a massive shame to think of all those talented artists and filmmakers going without work and it's sad that it comes on the back of a film which was such good fun - but is apparently resulting in a write-down of as much as $96 million. Here's hoping things aren't all as dire as they seem.
In 2014 DreamWorks will release How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Happy Smekday! alongside Mr. Peabody and Sherman.