When Jeffrey Katzenberg got fired from Disney, after the unexpected death of Frank Wells and a power struggle between himself and Michael Eisner, he would strike back by collaborating with two powerhouses (David Geffen and Steven Spielberg) and form DreamWorks, the first new full-fledged movie studio since United Artists. A key component of this new endeavor was DreamWorks Animation, a fiefdom ruled over by Katzenberg and designed to challenge Disney’s dominance in the marketplace and cultural zeitgeist. It would come close a few times, but DreamWorks Animation has also had a famously rocky history and was recently purchased, wholly, by Universal (one of three different studios who have distributed DreamWorks Animation features over the years). As of now, the future of DreamWorks Animations seems both assured (with a number of sequels to high-profile originals in development, beginning with Trolls World Tour) and uncertain (they now reside in the same corporate portfolio as Illumination Entertainment, famous for making wildly successful films at a fraction of the cost of DreamWorks Animation features).
Over the past 25 years, DreamWorks Animation has had a huge impact on feature animation, for both good and ill, and have created a house style as easily identifiable (and marketable) as Disney or Pixar. (It’s worth noting that a recent attraction was opened at Universal Studios Hollywood that is physically modeled after the studio’s rambling Glendale, California headquarters.) While three separate studios have released their movies over the course of two-and-a-half decades, “DreamWorks Animated Movie” is shorthand for a certain type of animated movie – irreverent, modern, and with a cast full of starry celebrities.
In celebration of this anniversary, and the release of the truly brilliant Trolls World Tour, we look back at the staggering amount of films released by DreamWorks Animation – all the hits, the misses, and the what-were-they-thinkings. Settle in. Fart jokes ahead.
And for another definitive list, check out our ranking of every Disney animated movie.