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DreamWorks Axes Ardaman

30 Jan, 2007 By: Jessica Wolf

DreamWorks Animation has nixed its exclusive partnership with London-based animation house Aardman Studios, forgoing the creation of another two movies covered under the companies' original 1999 production deal.

The partnership's last two releases, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Flushed Away, underperformed in theaters and on DVD. The first and only other collaboration came in 2000, with the much better received Chicken Run.

DreamWorks Animation executives said earlier this year they would be evaluating the partnership as Flushed Away hit theaters in November. That film earned $63.4 million in 2006, slightly better than the 2005 Aardman release, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which garnered critical acclaim during its theatrical run, but just $56.1 million at the box office.

Since Were-Rabbit's home video release in the first quarter of 2006, the film shipped approximately 5.1 million units through the third quarter of 2006, according to DreamWorks third-quarter financial report. Flushed Away arrives on DVD Feb. 20.

Other DreamWorks Animation properties perform significantly better on DVD, such as Madagascar, which by the end of 2006's third quarter had shipped 20.4 million units.

Meanwhile, DreamWorks is gearing up for the release of the third theatrical installment of its popular Shrek franchise this summer. The company also has a Madagascar-themed sequel as well as a Shrek spin-off, Puss In Boots, on the production slate.

DreamWork's most recent DVD release Over the Hedge debuted at No. 2 on DVD sales charts after its Oct. 17 release and after earning $325 million in global box office, placing it No. 8 on the top-grossing movies for 2006.

It seems DreamWorks's intent is to focus on those high-profile box office and DVD deliverers, rather than the stylistic Aardman offerings.

“Today, DreamWorks Animation is focused on producing two computer animated movies per year, with a full film slate laid out into 2010. While I will always be a fan and an admirer of Aardman's work, our different business goals no longer support each other,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation

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