Paramount threw its hat into the cartoon ring on Wednesday by launching its own animation division.
The move seemingly frees the studio from its role as DreamWorks Animation's distributor, allowing Paramount to own the animated films it releases outright instead of settling for a small cut of DreamWorks Animation’s profits.
Paramount CEO Brad Grey declined to discuss any possible extension of the studio's distribution pact with DreamWorks, which expires in 2012, but he did talk to TheWrap about his goals for the new division, the future of 3D and the role Nickelodeon will play in driving the studio’s animated offerings.
You say that you are producing animated movies for $100 million. That’s cheaper than lots of animated films made by DreamWorks and Pixar. Are you trying to position yourself as more economical?
That's a price point we think is a smart business. The global market is vibrant for family fare, particularly if we stick to that price range.
As technology and great minds continue to invent better ways to do computer-generated animation, the price points will go down. I’m a big fan of “Despicable Me,” and that was made for a much lower price point than “Cars.” So we think that $100 million is a comfortable budget for us.
You set 2014 as the date for your first release. Do you have your first film in production already?
No we do not. We have a few possibilities, but we announced that date to give us ample time to plan.
Do you know who will head the new division?
There are a handful of candidates that we are talking to, and more have presented themselves today. We’ll make a decision swiftly and begin to build toward producing one picture a year for the long term.
I know “Rango,” your first animated release, was not a 3D film. Will the animated movies you make be in 3D?
When it's appropriate. When the picture lends itself to 3D we will.
There’s been a lot of criticism that 3D is being too widely used. Do you think Hollywood needs to show more restraint in case it kills audiences’ excitement for 3D?
I wouldn’t suggest what Hollywood should do. I can only tell you what Paramount should do. We are going to be selective in terms of where we deploy 3D. It needs to be with the right story teller, the right project and the right director.
We’ll take it case by case. But as we showed with “Transformers” last weekend, there’s still a global appetite for 3D movies.
Will Nickelodeon and other Viacom properties play a role in developing the content you guys produce?
We will build our animation division hand in glove with Nickelodeon. They make great family movies, so it makes a lot of sense to work with them and with Viacom's consumer products division to build this into a global film business.
The criticism of Paramount has been that you guys are great at distributing other people’s films, but you don’t make enough of your own movies. Does today’s announcement signal that is changing?
I don’t know about that. Just look at numbers. We’ve been wildly successful. We have a great team and the Paramount brand is vibrant around the world. I can’t speak to what other people are saying, but if you look at our margins and our manpower, you can see we have had enormous success.
When I got there six years ago, the cupboards were bare. It's taken a lot of hard work from all of us to get us to a place where we control our own destiny.