DreamWorks has established itself as one of the Hollywood’s top animation studios, but how much have they had to spend to get there?
DreamWorks Animation was established in 1994 as part of the larger DreamWorks Pictures studio— but by 2004, the animation division had become its own public company. Since its original creation, DreamWorks Animation has produced 38 feature films and has won three Academy Awards for Best Animated Picture.
With such a large lineup of movies, DreamWorks has certainly shelled out a lot of money for all that animation— but the individual budgets for each project have varied greatly. All given budgets and box office tallies listed below come from the website Box Office Mojo, and are not adjusted for inflation. In addition, only one movie per franchise is included on this list in order to make things more interesting.
Cheapest: Shrek — $60 Million
The film that really established DreamWorks Animation as a brand to reckon with, Shrek also managed to be the fifth-cheapest film the studio has ever created. Presenting a satirical take on the many tropes of the fairy tale genre, Shrek follows the life of the titular ogre as he tries to rescue a princess and befriends a talking donkey along the way.
Shrek was a massive success for DreamWorks and even earned the honor of winning the first-ever Best Animated Film Oscar. It also launched a successful franchise that includes film sequels, holiday specials, and even a live stage musical.
Most Expensive: Kung Fu Panda 2 — $150 Million
After the critical and commercial success of its predecessor, DreamWorks felt emboldened to spend an additional $20 million in the making of sequel Kung Fu Panda 2. This time, the film followed Po as he gets in touch with his past in order to grow strong enough to defeat a powerful new villain.
The extra budget spend paid off, as the film went on to earn over $650 million at the global box office. In addition, it became the highest-grossing animated feature film of 2011, a rare instance of DreamWorks outperforming Disney and/or Pixar for year-end box office tallies.
Cheapest: Chicken Run — $45 Million
Chicken Run is DreamWorks Animation’s first stop-motion film in addition to their first partnership with Aardman Animations. The excellent film— loosely a parody of The Great Escape— follows a group of chickens who must figure out a way to escape the farm they call home when they learn that they’re going to be turned into pot pies.
As Chicken Run went on to become the highest-grossing stop motion film of all time, it’s safe to say that the movie’s modest budget was money well spent.
Most Expensive: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa — $150 Million
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is another DreamWorks Animation film sequel that saw a major budgetary increase after the success of the previous film— only this time, that meant literally doubling what they spent between the first movie and the second.
The highly anticipated sequel follows the animals from the first film crash landing in Africa after escaping their New York zoo. The film was a commercial success and would subsequently become a trilogy, as well as see several television spin-offs.
Cheapest: Antz — $42-60 Million
Though DreamWorks Animation was founded in 1994, they didn’t release their first feature film until 1998 when Antz hit theaters. Coincidentally, Disney/Pixar also released an bug-themed film the same year, though both managed to fare well with audiences.
Antz centered on Z, a worker ant who falls in love with a princess and also must figure out a way to take down General Mandible, who is threatening the working ant population. It’s sort of forgotten in terms of DreamWorks animated movies, but most who remember it do so fondly.
Most Expensive: Bee Movie — $150 Million
With a budget of $150 million, Bee Movie ties with several other films to land itself on the list of most expensive DreamWorks animated films of all time— although, unlike the other two, it didn’t spawn any sequels and isn’t part of a franchise of any kind.
The film follows Barry the Bee (Jerry Seinfeld) as he befriends a human (Renée Zellweger) who reveals to him the truth about humans stealing and selling honey. It is the only major film role for Seinfeld— who also wrote it— as he typically appears in movies as himself or in a minor cameo role.
Cheapest: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie — $38 Million
Coming in second place for the cheapest DreamWorks Animated film ever is 2017’s Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. The kid-friendly superhero made the leap from children’s books to the big screen in this film which centers on two young boys who accidentally convince their principal into thinking he’s a superhero.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is DreamWorks’ cheapest computer animated film so far, with only a stop-motion movie— more on that one shortly— having a cheaper price tag.
Most Expensive: How To Train Your Dragon — $165 Million
Released in 2010 with a budget of $165 million, How To Train Your Dragon is loosely based on a children’s book series of the same name. The story centers on Hiccup, a young Viking who befriends a rare dragon whom he names Toothless.
The film was an all-around hit for DreamWorks, earning $500 million worldwide at the box office as well as universal acclaim. The success led to the start of a new franchise that includes several film sequels, television spin-offs, and more.
Cheapest: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit — $30 Million
At only $30 million, fairly cheap for a modern animated film, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is among the least expensive animated movies to ever come from Dreamworks. The 2005 feature was a stop-motion animated film which, while very time-intensive, makes for a cheaper production budget than a movie that uses hand-drawn and/or computer animation.
This first— and so far only— feature-length Wallace & Gromit film was a success for DreamWorks and earned the studio its second Academy Award win for Best Animated Film.
Most Expensive: Monsters Vs. Aliens — $175 Million
With a budget of around $175 million, DreamWork’s Monsters vs. Aliens is the animation studio’s most expensive film to date. The 2009 film centers on Susan Murphy, a human who accidentally gets transformed into a giant and is sent away to live in a secret compound with other monsters. When a robot starts threatening Earth, Susan and the rest of the monsters are enlisted to help save the planet.
Part of Monsters vs. Aliens’ monstrous budget came from the fact that the movie was the first DreamWorks film to be produced in a 3D format, which added significant expense.
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