It looks like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda will now be hanging out with Casper the Friendly Ghost and Underdog. DreamWorks Animation has acquired Classic Media, the company that owns the rights to Casper, Lassie, The Lone Ranger, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Felix the Cat, Rupert the Bear, and many other iconic animated and live-action characters, for $155 million. The all-cash deal was announced by DreamWorks Animation early Monday morning, and marks the studio’s first acquisition since it went public in 2004.
“Classic Media brings a large and diverse collection of characters and branded assets that is extremely complementary to DreamWorks Animation’s franchise business, and we plan to leverage it across our motion picture, television, home entertainment, consumer products, digital theme park and live entertainment channels,” DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg in a statement.
New York City-based Classic Media licenses many of its characters to studios, including The Walt Disney Co., which is making The Lone Ranger, the live-action movie starring Johnny Depp and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer that will be released next year. DreamWorks is also working on a CG-animated movie based on the animated characters Mr. Peabody and Sherman, due out in November of 2013.
DreamWorks was among at least six bidders for Classic Media, an $82-million-a-year company that owns more than 450 family titles, including Frosty the Snowman, George of the Jungle, Rocky & Bullwinkle and contemporary bestsellers such as VeggieTales and Where’s Waldo. Founded in 2000, the company is owned by Boomerang Media Holdings, part of the portfolio of private equity firm GTCR, which sources said had been eager to cash out its investment.
Classic Media Co-Chief Executives Eric Ellenbogen, a former CEO of Marvel Entertainment, and John Engelman will run the company, but now as a division of DreamWorks. The sale was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday night.