Dreamworks Animation has reportedly pulled out of an ambitious $2 billion cultural attraction being built in Shanghai that was set to heavily feature its vast cast of characters from the Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and Madagascar franchises.
The South China Morning Post reported Wednesday that DWA was no longer part of the day-to-day management of 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. It is not clear if Comcast, which owns both DWA and NBCUniversal, has completely pulled the plug on the Hangpu riverside project that is currently under construction and set to open in 2018.
THR has reached out to NBCU for comment.
Hong Kong developer Lan Kwai Fong Group, one of the key partners in the project, confirmed that DWA was no longer part of Shanghai DreamCenter, although the name will stay in place. "The 'Dream' in DreamCenter 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," said Lan Kwai Fong Group chief Allan Zeman 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.