Yesterday's announcement that DreamWorks Animation SKG will be producing "Shrek the Halls," a new holiday special for ABC, caught a number of animation professionals by surprise.
Not so much because this Glendale-based animation company was looking to move into television. As DreamWorks Animation's 2004's television series "Father of the Pride" as well as its recently announced Nickelodeon deal (Which will place TV spin-offs of "Madagascar" and "Kung Fu Panda" on that Viacom-owned cable channel) prove, this company is anxious to have a presence in that arena.
Nor is it all that surprising that DreamWorks Animation would agree to sell the rights to initially air "Shrek the Halls" to ABC. After all, this Disney-owned network currently holds the broadcast rights to "Shrek 2." Which -- FYI -- will be airing on ABC on Friday, November 24th.
No, what caught a lot of people off guard was the fact that DreamWorks Animation will be handing "Shrek the Halls" off to ABC (Which hopes to turn this new holiday special into a perennial. Something along the lines of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town") for airing in 2007. Just as the theatrical arm of that company is readying Shrek for his Broadway debut AND as DreamWorks' feature animation unit is pushing ahead with active development of "Shrek 4" (Which is currently slated to hit theaters in 2010).
In the past, whenever a character and/or film franchise that had initially been introduced on the big screen shifted over to the small screen ... Well, that usually indicated that that character's parent company felt that this franchise was creatively tapped out. That it was now time to cash in.
Whereas with Shrek ... DreamWorks clearly doesn't think that this franchise is tapped out. Hell, Jeffrey Katzenberg -- CEO of DreamWorks Animation SKG -- is already talking about yet another "Shrek" -related theatrical release, "Puss In Boots." Which had initially been envisioned as a direct-to-video title but is now being readied for theatrical release in 2013.
Copyright 2007 DreamWorks Animation SKG
And it's not like DreamWorks Animation is actually planning on stinting on "Shrek the Halls." The original vocal cast of the "Shrek" film franchise (I.E. Mike Myers as Shrek, Cameron Diaz as Fiona, Eddie Murphy as Donkey and Antonio Banderas as Puss In Boots) have already agreed to take part in this TV project. Which -- by the way -- will be directed by WDFA vet Gary Trousdale.
Meanwhile, the Shrek-re-envisioned-as-a-Broadway-musical project is zooming right along. Late last month, Dreamworks Animation & Neal Street Productions announced that a staged reading of this still-in-development project will be held in NYC in February of 2007. Featuring music by Jeanine Tesori (Who is probably best known to Disney fans for her work on "Mulan II" & "Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch has a Glitch." More importantly, Ms. Tesori is prepping the score for Glen Keane's eagerly awaited "Rapunzel") as well as book & lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, "Shrek the Musical" will be directed by Jason Moore of "Avenue Q" fame.
So I guess what I'm saying here, folks, is please don't mis-interpret DreamWorks Animation's decision to have Shrek star in his first holiday special as a sign that this studio now thinks that its ogre's career is over. If anything, DreamWorks is looking to make even more green off of this big green monster for many years yet to come.