Animation

Pixar vs. DreamWorks

2016.12

Pixar vs. DreamWorks (2016)
Animation
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I. Introduction: a divergent Pixar and DreamWorks

Pixar, the creators of the world’s first 3D animated film, Toy Story, and DreamWorks, the creators of beloved Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, seem to be on diverging paths.

  • Pixar collaborated with Disney to produce the popular film Frozen (2013) and has since continued its success streak with such movies as Inside-Out (2015) and Finding Dory (2016).
  • DreamWorks’ Shrek and Kung Fu Panda series have fallen flat, and the studio has failed to produce box office hits in a while.

What is the cause of this divergence? What are the fundamental elements of the animation industry?


II. Pixar: a studio that focuses on perfecting the fundamentals of animation

Pixar leaves Lucasfilm and grows in the field of animation film production under Steve Jobs.

  • Pixar began in 1979 as the Graphics Group, a part of the Lucasfilm computer division.
  • Steve Jobs, who had recently been fired from Apple, bought the Graphics Group for $5M, seeing tremendous potential in the group’s graphic-friendly, high-tech computer hardware/software.
  • Jobs invested a total of $50M, making him the majority shareholder. He understood Pixar’s potential in the growing animation department and decided to sell the company’s hardware division in 1990.
  • In 1995, Pixar released its first animated film Toy Story, which went on to gross more than $362M worldwide. Since then, Pixar has produced only one film per year, totaling 17 films including its most recent, Finding Dory.
  • Walt Disney acquired Pixar in 2006 for $7.8B in an all-stock deal. Steve Jobs, who owned 50.1% of Pixar’s shares, automatically became the largest individual shareholder of Walt Disney at 7%.

Pixar’s philosophy is to produce pieces that have creative and touching storylines, and the studio focuses on creating films that are faithful to the essence of the studio.

  • Pixar’s philosophy: Pixar reflects Steve Job’s obsessive pursuit of integrating storytelling, design, and tech into an innovative idea.
  • Pixar’s creative cycle: Pixar has only released one film per year, each taking an average of four years to complete.
  • Pixar’s creative direction: Pixar focuses on original material rather than sequels of existing movies (Toy Story, Cars, and Finding Nemo have been Pixar’s only movie series so far). Even then, there might be a long break between sequels (for example, Finding Dory was featured close to 10 years after the release of Finding Nemo.)
  • Pixar’s creative methods: In order to develop original stories and foster creativity, Pixar rarely engages in a service contract with external businesses and maximizes internal capabilities.
  • Pixar’s biggest hits: Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Monsters Inc., Inside-Out, and Frozen (in collaboration with Disney).

Pixar continues to enjoy its status as a production company that creates box office hits without compromising their cinematic quality.

  • None of Pixar’s films thus far has been unsuccessful (Pixar’s 17 films have grossed a minimum of $300M and a maximum of $1.1B).
  • All of Pixar’s movies have received an A on CinemaScore.
  • Pixar maintains its fan base with their novel and deeply moving storylines.

III. DreamWorks: a studio that focuses on commercial potential

DreamWorks is a business born out of the collaboration between film industry giant Steven Spielberg and former Walt Disney Company CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

  • In 1994, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen (Disney’s Musical Director) founded DreamWorks SKG.
  • In 1998, DreamWorks worked with PDI to create the animated film Antz, and in 2000, worked with Aardman Animation to produce Chicken Run.
  • Afterward, DreamWorks SKG created a branch called DreamWorks Animation that focused on producing solely animated films. In 2001, DreamWorks Animation topped charts with its hit movie, Shrek.
  • In 2004, DreamWorks Animation separated from DreamWorks SKG. Since then, the studio has partnered with a variety of companies and has established itself as a comprehensive entertainment company capable of JV, M&A, content production, and content distribution.
  • NBCUniversal acquired DreamWorks Animation in 2016 for $3.5B.

DreamWorks has operated based on a principle of maximizing business potential.

  • DreamWorks’ philosophy: to produce satire, parodies, and comedy-focused animated films.
  • DreamWorks’ creative cycle: DreamWorks punches out 2-3 films per year and has a quick turnover (each film must take under two years to make). In order to accomplish this, DreamWorks frequently collaborates with external companies.
  • DreamWorks’ creative direction: If a movie becomes a box office hit, the studio quickly follows the movie up with sequels in order to maximize its commercial potential (e.g. Shrek: 4 sequels, Kung Fu Panda: 2 sequels).
  • DreamWorks’ creative methods: Unlike Pixar, which strives to tell creative and moving stories, DreamWorks’ places emphasis on movies that contain humor and satire, and offer comedic relief. By cooperating with external forces and purchasing IP, DreamWorks produces movies with expediency (an example of humor/parody in their film: in Shrek, the “true love’s kiss” results in Fiona becoming the ogre, rather than Shrek becoming human).
  • DreamWorks’ biggest hits: Antz, The Prince of Egypt, Chicken Run, Shrek (1, 2, Tale, 3, Forever After), Madagascar (1, 2, 3), Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Over the Hedge, Flushed Away, Bee Movie, Kung Fu Panda (1, 2, 3), Monsters vs. Aliens, How to Train Your Dragon (1, 2), Megamind, Puss in Boots, Rise of the Guardians, The Croods, Turbo, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Home, and Trolls

But ironically, DreamWorks has neither mastered the art of animation nor have they been all that popular. This causes viewers to slowly forget about DreamWorks.

  • There have been large fluctuations in popularity among DreamWorks’s movies.
  • DreamWorks has released a handful of box office hits (Shrek and Kung Fu Panda) but is overly reliant on these to continue their success, and their smaller hits too suffer from a barrage of sequels that diminish the value of the original movie.
  • DreamWorks’ pieces are certainly entertaining to watch, but they are also forgettable.
  • Viewers criticize DreamWorks for having lost its creative spark, and talent within the company move on to other studios.

These are the fundamental reasons fueling the growing gap between two of the world’s largest animation studios.

  • A dedication to creativity and the fundamentals of animation vs. an emphasis on maximizing commercial potential
  • Originality, technical perfection, and a moving storyline vs. comic storylines reliant on shallow humor
  • A studio enjoying continued success and attracting creative talent vs. a studio losing value along with its creative talent

What, then, makes Pixar the studio that it is?


IV. The Pixar Way

When asked the question, “What kind of animation do you want to make?” Pixar can confidently explain its vision and how it has been incorporated into the production process.

  • Steve Jobs has infused his desire to “create things that will change people’s lives” into Pixar.
  • Pixar steadfastly focuses on its sole tenet, that “quality is the best business plan.” Thus Pixar’s products are able to speak on behalf of the company’s value.
  • It takes 4 to 5 years to finish one Pixar film. The animators and filmmakers at Pixar will not cease to fine tune their creations.

In addition, rather than relying on any one individual (e.g. Steve Jobs) for creative vision, Pixar encourages teamwork to realize its creative visions.

  • Teamwork: Pixar will go at lengths to raise the quality of its movies. Pixar’s managerial team encourages cooperation and willingly listens to employees’ ideas.
  • Communication: Employees constantly communicate their ideas and their work’s progress, endorsing a culture of feedback (Pixar calls this process “plusing”).
  • Freedom: Rather than assigning tasks and evaluating performance, each member is given a mission and a challenge, compelling them to think on their feet and maximize their potential.
  • Challenge: Even if the outcome of some challenging endeavor is not successful, employees are still encouraged and negative critiques are kept at a minimum.

Pixar’s management structure has solidified into a doctrine of sorts, leading companies from around the world to mimic Pixar’s organizational style.

  • Set a shared vision for all members.
  • Provide the necessary information but allow for as much freedom as possible when setting schedules and budgets.
  • Regardless of where you fall on the hierarchy, motivate individuals with a culture of independence while also streamlining communication among members.
  • All members must concentrate on pursuing and attaining Pixar’s long-term growth goals.
  • Encourage genuine respect and trust for one another.

Which animation studio do you prefer? What are your favorite animated films? What are the reasons for the growing gap between Pixar and DreamWorks? What is the state of Korea’s animation studios?

Please share your opinions with your Ringle Tutor and work to improve your English simultaneously.

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