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The inarguable success of Marvel Studios has Hollywood’s attention. In an industry forever nervous about new ideas, the strategy impulsively becomes how to duplicate it.
DreamWorks Animation’s $155 million purchase of Classic Media was inspired, at least in part, by the record-shattering performance of Marvel’s The Avengers, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told Reuters. And similar to Marvel’s pre-Iron Man days, Katzenberg sees this as a strong opportunity to farm out the newly acquired characters to other studios for adaptation. Aside from its Mr. Peabody & Sherman 3D movie already in the works, DreamWorks has no plans to create new live-action features based on the Classic Media characters. But the small screen may be another matter: The studio is setting up its own television or Internet channel, but whether this is to re-run classic episodes, like Cartoon Network does with Boomerang, or for new series is still unknown.
“A channel is one of the many opportunities we see for combining the DreamWorks brand with this extraordinary library of characters,” Katzenberg said. “It could be a domestic cable channel, international, even an Internet channel.”
But more immediately, the purchase provides DreamWorks additional leverage as it negotiates to renew its distribution deal with Paramount Pictures.
All of this studio-driven activity around comic book properties sounds great, but where does that leave the comics themselves? Will DreamWorks open a comics publishing company? Will Doctor Solar be reunited with the recently revived Valiant Universe? Will The Lone Ranger vanish from Dynamite Entertainment’s line-up? What about Ape Entertainment’s Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich relaunches? Will the world finally get a new Fat Albert comic?
News broke earlier this week at DreamWorks Animation submitted a bid for Classic Media, a production company that’s not that well known outside of Hollywood. However, it has bought an amazing number of properties over the years that make this auction something to watch. In addition to favorites like Casper the Friendly Ghost and The Lone Ranger, its library includes Dick Tracy, Little Lulu, Richie Rich, and a big portion of the Gold Key/Valiant characters (Doctor Solar Man of the Atom, Magnus Robot Fighter, Turok and others). Heck, Classic Media even owns Where’s Waldo? According to some estimates, Classic Media is the third-largest comic books rights holder, after DC and Marvel.
While I don’t see DreamWorks starting a comics company in the near future (in the near future), the company already does a good deal of licensing to comic publishers like Dark Horse and APE Entertainment. This potential business deal could have ripples that hit comic shelves years down the road.