Rise of the Guardians box-office failure leads to 350 lay-offs at DreamWorks Animation

Rise of the GuardiansThe box-office failure of DreamWorks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians caught everyone by surprise during the final quarter of 2012. Now, the full repercussions of the family film’s disastrous Christmas performance is being realised with the animation giant being forced to layoff 350 staff members, and effectively start from scratch.

Here’s the scoop from Deadline:

I can’t remember a time when I’ve heard DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeff Katzenberg sound so down on an earnings call — and it’s mostly due to the red ink for Rise Of The Guardians. Even when an analyst congratulated him for the Oscar he just picked up for his charitable work he said that “we have good days and bad days.” This apparently was one of the latter ones. Guardians “was the first movie of ours in 17 in a row that didn’t work,” he told analysts. “And when that happens it makes you rethink everything.….We’ve done a reset and we’ve done it across the board.” It led to the decision to make substantial layoffs – 350 during the year, Deputy CFO Richard Sullivan said — in which “many valuable members of the DreamWorks family will be leaving”, Katzenberg said.

This is a tragic development and a shining example of the harsh nature of the movie industry, in particular, the immense pressure placed on big-budget movies to consistently exceed all financial expectations.

It is easy to blame the film’s poor performance on the voice actors or the marketing campaign, but ultimately the fault stems at the very beginning of pre-production. The premise was clearly unsuitable for children and it’s Easter setting instantly led to question marks about behind the relevance of its Christmas release.

The movie itself was generally entertaining for teenagers and adults, but this was a film that failed to appeal to its core demographic, families. Rise of the Guardians had no competition from similar movies over the Christmas period and its failure to capitalise on this will be deemed as a major missed opportunity and one that DreamWorks Animation cannot afford again.

The studio’s next animated venture is The Croods, which is due for release in the US and UK on 22nd March 2013. After the failure of Guardians, the financial pressure surrounding The Croods will undoubtedly be increased tenfold. It does seem like a safe bet that it will satisfy the family demographic and perform well, but whether it will meet the now lofty expectations remains uncertain.