UPDATE, 11:16 AM: “Sizable” layoffs are coming. It’s just a matter of how many, and when. DreamWorks Animation may cut up to 500 employees in the next few months, sources tell Deadline. That’s potentially 23% of its 2200-strong animators, tech, and support staff, axed in the wake of a flop and key release date changes for Mr. Peabody And Sherman (moved off the 2013 calendar and into 2014) and Me & My Shadow (sent back into development). Those calendar shifts created a workload deficit for the studio, which will have to trim production staff as a result. Just last month, DreamWorks Animation made Fortune’s Best Companies To Work For list.
PREVIOUSLY, TUESDAY PM: On Tuesday, distributor Fox delayed DreamWorks Animation’s 3D pic Mr. Peabody and Sherman to spring 2014, reducing the company’s 2013 slate from three wide releases to two. At the same time, Me & My Shadow, an animation planned for 2014 featuring the voices of Kate Hudson, Josh Gad, and Bill Hader, was taken off the schedule altogether and reverted into development. “[We] are adjusting our operating infrastructure costs accordingly,” CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said in a statement. That “adjustment” will hit an unspecified number of employees across the board as the studio tightens its belt, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Reps from DWA declined to comment on the job eliminations.
Last holiday season, DreamWorks Animation suffered a blow when Rise Of The Guardians performed below expectations, dropping shares and shaking investor confidence going into 2013. Lazard Capital Markets’ Barton Crockett predicted a $96 million write-down for the studio as a result. The company’s Q4 earnings report is slated for February 26.
Tuesday’s release date tectonics left DWA scrambling to adjust operating costs to match their reduced upcoming lineup. Once Fox pushed Mr. Peabody And Sherman from November 1, 2013, to March 7, 2014, DWA only had two releases to fill out the coming year: The Croods, dated March 22, 2013, and Turbo, set for July 19, 2013. The studio’s updated 2014 schedule now consists of Mr. Peabody And Sherman, How To Train Your Dragon 2 (June 20) and Happy Smekday! (November 26).