DreamWorks is a collaborative studio formed by three of the greatest minds in modern Hollywood: Jeffery Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, and David Geffen. Formed in the mid 1990s, the studio has produced films, records and television shows with varying success. DreamWorks Animation has become a major player in the field of animated features, and is often considered the main competition of Pixar, although most critics feel that Pixar remains the superior force.
In 1994, Jeffery Katzenberg left his position at The Walt Disney Company and quickly formed a partnership with Spielberg and long-time collaborator David Geffen. With considerable funds from their own enterprises and an enormous investment from Microsoft, DreamWorks, also called DreamWorks SKG or LLC, was formed. The company had many initial interests in media, including video games and music production. Success quickly became focused on their film capabilities, particularly when the studio won three Best Picture Oscars in a row, for 1999’s American Beauty, 2000’s Gladiator, and 2001’s A Beautiful Mind.
Despite the success of their film efforts, many other DreamWorks ventures have not been successful and have been sold from the main company after several unprofitable years. The music production unit was eventually sold to the Universal Music Group before permanently closing in 2005, and the video gaming department was soon acquired by Electronic Arts. The founders have admitted that the company has survived financial troubles repeatedly, after heavy investments turned out to be failures.
One of the most successful ventures the company has undertaken is its film animation department. Despite early box office failures with The Prince of Egypt and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, the company had surprising success with its computer-generated (CGI) animated features. Chicken Run, the company’s first venture into the CGI area, was a sleeper hit, and through the skills of Hollywood writing team Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, Shrek became a box office smash of 2001. In 2008, DreamWorks animation pulled out another hit with the whimsical Kung Fu Panda which many critics consider to be a significant advance in their graphics quality as well as an entertaining film.
Compared the giants of the film industry, DreamWorks is a baby, propelled by the genius of three modern visionaries. For such a young studio, they have proved themselves consistently capable for producing both quality and successful films, despite the occasional miss. Despite its acquisition by Paramount in 2005, the studio continues to operate as an independent production house, and maintains a roster of significant work.