NBCUniversal's Dreamworks Animation will continue to play a passive role in a huge entertainment complex currently under construction in Shanghai, despite Hong Kong media reports that the animation company had pulled out.
The South China Morning Post reported Wednesday that DWA was no longer part of the day-to-day management of an ambitious $2 billion cultural and business attraction being built on the banks of the Hangpu river that was set to heavily feature its vast cast of characters from the Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and Madagascar franchises.
NBCU told The Hollywood Reporter that DWA's role in the project had always been as a background partner and nothing had changed.
The project that was championed heavily by founder Jeffrey Katzenberg as a means to capitalize on the popularity on some of its intellectual property in China. Katzenberg left his role as CEO of DWA after the company's $3.8 billion takeover by NBCUniversal in April 2016. The project is currently under construction and set to open in 2018.
Confusion arose on Wednesday when Hong Kong developer Lan Kwai Fong Group, one of the key partners in the project, emphasized the passive role DWA was taking in the Shanghai Dream Center. "The 'Dream' in Dream Center doesn't necessarily have to do with DreamWorks. You have the China Dream, too. It just so happens that DreamWorks was there when we named it. It's a good name, so we will keep it," Lan Kwai Fong Group chief Allan Zeman had said to the SCMP.
Katzenberg along with China Media Capital chairman Li Ruigang had vociferously supported the huge mixed-use project that includes offices for the likes of tech giant Tencent, a state-of-the-art 500-seat Imax theater, a theme park as well as the HQ for DWA's China subsidiary Oriental Dreamworks.
NBCUniversal, however, isn't shying away from the theme parks business in China and Asia more generally. Universal is building a park near the capital Beijing, and it already has parks in Singapore and Japan. "We want to expand our theme park business around the world," NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said in September 2016 when announcing NBCU had purchased a 51 percent stake in Universal Studios Japan for $1.5 billion.
May. 3, 7:45 p.m. Updated with additional details and comment from NBCU.