$4 Billion is a lot of money to sink into a company, just ask Disney and Universal, as they've both made investments at or near that level in the past decade. But while Disney sunk that much money on both Marvel and Lucasfilm, Universal's parent company, Comcast, chose to invest that much into the ailing Dreamworks Animation brand. Obviously, with an investment that great, a blockbuster franchise is pretty much essential. To that end, Universal is looking at reviving the green cash cow that is Shrek in the coming future.
Deadline picked up on these ambitions through a discussion that Steve Burke, the chairman of NBCUniversal, had with a gathering of investors. Specifically, Burke's plans are to up Universal's animated film output to four films a year, and to tie into the resulting properties through TV and theme park tie-ins. Presumably, the output would be split in some fashion through both Dreamworks Animation and Universal's current animation partner, Illumination Entertainment. Creative control over the Shrek revival will go to Illumination's founder and CEO, Chris Meledandri.
On one hand, you really can't blame Universal for doing exactly what Disney did when they bought Lucasfilm, Marvel, and even Pixar to a certain extent. All of those companies had a relationship with their would-be parent, before being adopted into the family proper, and ultimately paying off their investments in record time. However, the difference between Universal and Disney's acquisitions is that Universal's new partner isn't exactly the picture of financial solvency.
With money problems plaguing Dreamworks Animation, and box office revenues ranging from fine to modest, at best, there isn't a silver bullet that could put Universal on the fast track to that green valley just yet. While Shrek is a well-known property, it does need to be said that the property has more than a fair coat of dust on its person. The last sequel to be produced was 2010's Shrek Forever After, and six years can do a lot to distance a fan base from a property that doesn't have "Star" in the title. Not to mention that after Shrek The Third, the franchise kind of took a turn for the worse, so it's not like the series ended on a high note.
However, there is one chip that Universal and Dreamworks Animation could cash in, and if they're wise, they'll put the wheels into motion as soon as possible. Considering this year is the 15th anniversary of the original Shrek's release, the nostalgia factor could be played upon to the point where those who loved the films as children could be reminded of their favorite moments of franchise past. Even if it's just an anniversary re-release in theaters for a limited run, the fandom could be awoken into such a frenzy that a fifth film could work out perfectly.
For now though, the revival of Shrek is just a notion under discussion, so we'll have to wait and see where things go. But as soon as we have some new information, you'll be the first to know!