First a little History. Dreamworks was founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg after his ‘resignation’ from Disney, although it is widely stipulated that he was fired. Naturally Katzenberg was very bitter. That’s all the History needed.
Katzenberg hates Disney and this is seen in his films. The first Dreamworks film was Antz (1998) This is a fantastic film starring Woody Allan and Slyvester Stallone, I recommend it wholeheartedly. Now you may remember another film came out at around this time. A Bugs Life, Pixar’s second film. Now both of these films these films focuse on the insect world and it is here the concept of dueling is introduced. Dueling refers to when one company releases a product and another company tries to copy it thereby copying any success the other film may have. This is recurring theme throughout the Disney and Dreamworks movies:
A Bugs Life -Antz
The Emperors New Groove-The Road to El Dorado
Shark Tale-Finding Nemo
Now Katzenberg worked on both Hercules and Aladdin. Both these movies base the majority of their humour on cultural references, Aladdin especially. The cultural reference formula is seen throughout the Dreamworks films. The film with the most cultural references, though, is certainly the Shrek franchise. These films are just a straight up attack on Disney. Mel Brooks once said that to successfully parody something you have to love what you are making fun of, Shrek was born out of hatred rather than love but nevertheless was still very successful. There are so many references to Disney in these films. The fairytale creatures are almost all part of one Disney movie, the city of Dulock, excuse poor spelling, is a parody of Disneyworld, with the giant head guy. Then we have the creme du la creme. The icing on the cake, the piece d’ resistance. The Dulock song. This is such a blatant parody of the song its a small world it actually stings to hear it. The entire franchise is just a scathing attack on the corporation who Katzenberg gave his life to and they tossed him aside. Nowadays Dreamworks seen to be pulling away from vengeance and concentrating on good movies such as How to Train your Dragon which I hear was phenomenal in 3D, exceeding even Avatar, Megamind and Monsters Vs Aliens. These films do seen to be made through love of what they are parodying rather than sheer unbridled hatred. Kung Fu Panda is based on martial arts movies, Monster vs Aliens is based on B-Movies, Megamind is based on superhero movies and How to Train your Dragon is based on Fantasy movies. Lets hope Dreamworks keeps making more like these.
Now I did promise that I’d look at, albeit briefly, the most successful Dreamworks film and the least successful Dreamworks film. We’ll start at the top. Not surprisingly the most successful Dreamworks animated film is Shrek….2. This was such a highly anticipated film and was incredibly succesful, grossing over $900,000, making it the 15th most successful film of all time. It is actually a really good film and I’d say its worthy of the original. Its funny, the plot and premise are excellent and I love the whole concept of Far, Far away with the Fairy Godmother having her own business. And then there’s that shady bar when the most infamous fairytale villains hang out. A great movie and while I consider it to be great I still prefer the first.
The least successful film is the road to El Dorado, grossing only around $70,000. Two conmen, Tulio and Miguel played by Kelvin Kline and Kenneth Branagh respectfully, discover a map to the city of El Dorado eg the city of gold. The film centres around their journey to the fabled city and the difficulties faced when they arrive there, such as being mistaken for Gods. Now this film does have some good points. Firstly I like the differences between the 2 main characters. Miguel is calm, sensible and downright sceptical of the existence of the city while Tulia is more laid back and energetic. This creates some good, but not great, moments. I like the look of the movie and the animation does look quite impressive, once again not great. However there are many problems. The characters are bland and the plot lacks substantially, the songs are also very forgettable despite Elton John’s best efforts. There are far better movies if you want to see this kind of animation.
Shrek 2: 8/10
The Road to El Dorado: 4/10