Where’s Waldo?! Dreamworks Animation’s $155 Million Mistake

For those clamoring for a Where’s Waldo? film adaptation by the studio that brought you the fantastic and original Kung-Fu Panda series, your picture-scavenging proclivities are soon to be satisfied.

DreamWorks Animation just announced today that they doled out $155 million to “Classic Media,” a company whose properties include Casper, Lassie, George of the Jungle and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

One of the more surprising properties in the transaction is Where’s Waldo. As Hollywood studios continue to snatch up established properties—there are only so many comic-books (The Dark Knight Rises), novels (Jack Reacher) and board-games (Battleship) to exploit for cinematic fodder—it seems that the next area to get siphoned is dated cartoons and picture books.

“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,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, Chief Executive Officer of DreamWorks Animation (www.dreamworksanimation.com).

What’s disturbing about this move is DWA’s conviction in introducing these “classic” properties to a younger generation that couldn’t care less whether a property is a “classic” or not, hence the success of Kung-Fu Panda, a completely original production.

The youth of today doesn’t give a damn about Casper, and how hard is it to create a new Christmas-themed character? Do we really have to continue enduring Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman (another property snatched up in the deal) for the remainder of our civilized existence?

This is the company that has brought us fresh, original offerings like How to Train your Dragon, Shrek and the Madagascar series. With this $155 million investment in dated and even recently failed properties (Rocky and Bullwinkle is also part of the deal; that film almost killed Robert DeNiro’s career), DWA is following in the footsteps of almost every big studio’s plan to take advantage of ready-made, built in audiences.

But really, how can reintroducing over-the-hill products back into the mainstream succeed when half of the built-in audiences are either dead or too old to give a shit. Does DWA think 60-year-olds will be jumping out of their recliners to grab a midnight showing of Lassie just for the sake of satisfying some deranged, antiquated thirst that’s been dormant in their adolescent brains since they began working and paying taxes?

As for the Where’s Waldo license, I’d be interested if Lars von Trier helmed an adaptation that followed Waldo’s family as they scowered the streets of Camden, N.J., only to find him slumped in the corner of a crack den performing oral for booger-sugar. That I’d probably watch.