DreamWorks Enters the Third Dimension

DreamWorks Animation SKG announced today that it will produce all of its films for stereoscopic 3D presentation starting in 2009. While a number of animated features, including Disney’s Chicken Little and Sony’s Open Season, have been converted for stereoscopic projection after completion, all DreamWorks toons will be crafted for 3D from beginning to end. The studio’s first film to be built from the ground-up with 3D technology is Monsters vs. Aliens (working title), which is now in production for summer 2009 release.

“I believe that this is the greatest opportunity for movies and for the theatrical exhibition business that has come along in 30 years,” says DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. “Advancements in sound have dramatically improved the auditory experience, but there hasn’t been a corresponding breakthrough in the way we see movies until now. Stereoscopic 3D technology gives us a real opportunity to significantly enhance the theater experience.”

Stereoscopic cinema was first popularized as a B-movie gimmick in the 1950s, but proved little more than a fad that came and went, enjoying a brief revival in the ’80s with such genre offerings as Jaws 3-D, Friday the 13 Part 3 and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn. By the ’90s, the technology was limited to large-format edutainment offerings show at IMAX locations and other such venues. The average moviegoer wouldn’t get a chance to put on the special specs until 2003′s Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. The success of this film and the following year’s 3D IMAX presentation of Warner Bros.’ The Polar Express would usher in a new era for 3D cinema.

The 2005 Disney release, Chicken Little, proved highly popular in 3D, but the limited number of theaters equipped for stereoscopic projection kept the experience form reaching a wide audience. In the past two years, more and more venues have adopted digital systems capable of 3D projection and DreamWorks expects to see thousands of screens available for the roll-out of Monsters vs. Aliens. Theater owners are getting behind the technology hoping it will lure people back to theaters as improvements in home entertainment systems offer tough competition.

“I believe CG animation is in the best position to take advantage of the latest advancement in 3D technology,” Katzenberg adds. “Since our films are made digitally, it presents numerous opportunities for our filmmakers. And by moving into this area now, DreamWorks Animation is developing expertise that will differentiate our films and provide a lasting competitive advantage.”

Heading the launch of DreamWorks Animation’s stereoscopic 3D efforts are Jason Clark, who most recently served as exec producer on Monster House 3D, and Jim Mainard, who lead DreamWorks Animation’s research and development for a number of years. Stereographer Phil McNally, whose credits include Chicken Little and the upcoming Disney toon Meet the Robinsons, will supervise the 3D process on Monsters vs. Aliens.

One CG-animated feature currently being made specifically for 3D exhibition is Fly Me to the Moon from nWave Pictures and Illuminata Pictures. The film about three young flies who stow away on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission promises to offer a very different experience than movies converted to 3D as an afterthought. A good deal of the animation has been completed and the producers are working on sewing up a deal with a North American distributor. Read about the film in the latest issue of Animation Magazine.