Does China Own DreamWorks?

A factless Facebook post urged people to "Fact Check This!", so...

  • Published 20 February 2021
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Claim

China owns the animation studio DreamWorks.

Rating

Origin

In February 2021, a meme circulated on Facebook claiming that “Communist China” owned DreamWorks:

Since the meme urged people to “FACT CHECK THIS!”, we did, and it appears that these claims are made up out of whole cloth. 

DreamWorks Animation LLC is an American animation studio best known for making movies such as “Shrek” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” It started as a division of the movie production company DreamWorks Pictures founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen. In 2016, the company was acquired by NBCUniversal, a division of Comcast Corporation, in a deal worth about $3.8 billion.

Variety reported at the time:

NBCUniversal has set a deal to buy DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion in cash, giving the Comcast-owned media conglomerate added heft in its effort to compete with rivals like Disney, Time Warner and Viacom, all of which cater more directly to kid-and family audiences.

[…]

“DreamWorks will help us grow our film, television, theme parks and consumer products businesses for years to come,” said NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. ” We are fortunate to have Illumination founder Chris Meledandri to help guide the growth of the DreamWorks Animation business in the future.”

NBCUniversal and Comcast are both American companies. 

We’re not entirely sure where the claim that “China owns DreamWorks” originated, but it might be based on some confusion over the animation company Pearl Studios, which was formerly known as Oriental DreamWorks. While these companies do have a connection, they are two separate entities. Oriental DreamWorks was started as a joint Chinese-American venture in 2012 between Chinese investment companies and DreamWorks Animation. When Comcast acquired DreamWorks in 2016, they noted that DreamWorks Animation owned a 45% stake in Oriental Dreamworks:

DWA is also the majority owner of AwesomenessTV, a leading video destination for Generation Z and Millennial audiences, and also owns 45% of Oriental DreamWorks, a world-class animation studio in China that produces family entertainment for both Chinese and global audiences.

Two years after this deal in 2018, the Chinese investment firm CMC Capital Partners took full ownership of Oriental DreamWorks and relaunched it as Pearl Studio. Deadline reported:

A consortium led by Li Ruigang’s CMC Capital Partners has taken full ownership of Shanghai-based animation studio Oriental DreamWorks, relaunching it as Pearl Studio. Universal, which inherited 45% of the joint venture when parent Comcast acquired DreamWorks Animation in 2016, had been looking to offload its interests. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The newly-christened studio will be led by CEO Frank Zhu and Chief Creative Officer Peilin Chou. The senior executive team also includes Head of Studio Dagan Potter, Head of Ancillary Business PC Xu and Head of Operation Cindy Zhou.

Oriental DreamWorks, which launched in 2012, is the studio behind Kung Fu Panda 3 which was the first official U.S.-China animated co-production and one of the highest-grossing animated films ever when it released in the Middle Kingdom in 2016. In September last year, the studio unveiled a slate of key development projects.

A Chinese investment firm (not the Chinese government) owns an animation studio called Pearl Studio that originated as a Chinese-American joint venture called Oriental DreamWorks. In no way can this be construed as the Chinese Communist Party’s owning the American company DreamWorks.