Does Disney Own DreamWorks? Exploring the Relationship Between Two Animation Giants

The relationship between Disney and DreamWorks has always been a topic of interest and speculation among animation enthusiasts and industry insiders. While Disney is known for its iconic animation studio and beloved characters, DreamWorks has carved its own niche with successful franchises like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon. But the question remains: Does Disney own DreamWorks? In this article, we will delve into the history and dynamics between these two animation giants, exploring their past collaborations and the current state of their relationship.

The Birth of DreamWorks

DreamWorks Studios was founded in 1994 by three industry powerhouses: Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen. The initials “SKG” in DreamWorks SKG represented the last names of the founders. This new venture was seen as a direct rival to Disney Animation Studios, as Jeffrey Katzenberg had famously left Disney following a falling out with then-CEO Michael Eisner.

DreamWorks aimed to create animated and live-action films that could rival the success of Disney’s beloved classics. Their ambition was evident from the start, as they brought together a team of talented animators and storytellers to create innovative and entertaining movies.

Disney’s Role in DreamWorks’ Journey

While DreamWorks may have started with the intention of challenging Disney’s animation supremacy, their relationship with Disney has been more complex than a simple rivalry. In fact, Disney played a significant role in the distribution of DreamWorks films for a period of time.

In 2009, DreamWorks entered into a distribution agreement with The Walt Disney Company. This meant that Disney would handle the distribution and marketing of DreamWorks films, bringing them to audiences worldwide. This partnership allowed DreamWorks to leverage Disney’s extensive distribution network and brand recognition.

During this partnership, Disney distributed several DreamWorks films, including notable titles like “The Croods,” “Turbo,” “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Penguins of Madagascar,” “Home,” “Kung Fu Panda 3,” “Trolls,” “The Boss Baby,” and “Captain Underpants.” These movies were released under the 20th Century Fox banner, which was acquired by Disney in 2019. However, it’s important to note that not all DreamWorks films were distributed by Disney during this period.

The Changing Landscape: DreamWorks and Universal

In recent years, the landscape of the animation industry has undergone significant changes. In 2016, DreamWorks Animation, the subsidiary responsible for beloved franchises like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, was acquired by NBCUniversal, a division of Comcast. This acquisition made DreamWorks Animation a sibling company to Universal Pictures, another major player in the film industry.

With this new ownership structure, DreamWorks Animation became part of the Universal family, while DreamWorks Studios (the live-action division) maintained its own identity. This meant that DreamWorks Animation films would be distributed and marketed by Universal Pictures, rather than Disney.

The End of the Disney Distribution Deal

As the distribution agreement between DreamWorks and Disney approached its expiration date, speculation grew about the future of their partnership. In 2015, DreamWorks’ parent company, Amblin Partners, was formed, signaling a new direction for the studio. It was around this time that DreamWorks announced its intention to end its distribution deal with Disney.

The decision to part ways with Disney was driven by DreamWorks’ desire for more independence and control over its distribution strategy. In 2016, DreamWorks entered into a new distribution agreement with Universal Pictures, marking a significant shift in their distribution landscape. Since then, Universal Pictures has taken over the distribution of DreamWorks films, with DreamWorks operating out of offices at Universal Studios.

DreamWorks and Disney: Fierce Rivals or Friendly Competitors?

While DreamWorks and Disney may have had their fair share of rivalry and competition over the years, it’s important to recognize that the animation industry is a dynamic and ever-evolving landscape. Both studios have created beloved characters and produced memorable films that have captivated audiences worldwide.

Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox and its film library does not automatically mean that Disney now owns all the DreamWorks films previously distributed by 20th Century Fox. The distribution rights for those films remain separate from the acquisition.

In conclusion, while Disney and DreamWorks may have had a complex and intertwined relationship over the years, the two studios have taken separate paths in recent times. DreamWorks is now under the umbrella of Universal Pictures, while Disney continues to dominate the animation industry with its own iconic characters and stories. As the animation landscape continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how these two giants shape the future of animated storytelling.

Additional Information

It’s worth mentioning that DreamWorks Animation and DreamWorks Studios are distinct entities. DreamWorks Animation is known for its CGI-animated films and franchises, while DreamWorks Studios focuses on live-action and hybrid films. DreamWorks Animation became a subsidiary of NBCUniversal in 2016, while DreamWorks Studios operates as an independent entity under the Amblin Partners umbrella.


In the ever-changing world of animation, the relationship between Disney and DreamWorks has evolved over time. While Disney once distributed DreamWorks films, DreamWorks has now found a new distribution partner in Universal Pictures. The rivalry between these two animation giants has fueled creativity and innovation, ultimately benefiting audiences with a wide range of animated films to enjoy. Whether they are fierce rivals or friendly competitors, there’s no denying the impact that both Disney and DreamWorks have had on the animation industry. As they continue to push the boundaries of storytelling, we can expect more exciting and captivating films from both studios in the years to come.

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