Casper the Friendly Ghost. Fat Albert. The Lone Ranger. Lassie. For the seemingly endless revivals of classic children's media we're subjected to, the world hasn't heard much from these stalwarts of baby boomer and Gen-X childhood programming. But that's about to change.
DreamWorks Animation (DWA) announced this week that it is buying Classic Media, owners of the aforementioned characters, for $155 million. Classic Media also owns such well-known properties as George of the Jungle, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Where's Waldo?, Veggie Tales, and Olivia. Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town are coming along as part of the deal, as well.
But wait, there's more! DreamWorks will also be buying one of the world's largest comic-book archives, and the media rights to all the titles in the Golden Books library. All told, DreamWorks will get more than 450 titles out of the purchase, with 6,100 episodes of live-action and animated programming.
Lassie's Coming Home, Kids!
So how soon can we expect to see Classic Media characters popping up in our local theaters or on television, courtesy of DreamWorks? Sooner than you might have expected, even given the long turnaround and development time for animated works.
DreamWorks has been collaborating since 2006 on an animated, 3-D "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" feature film. Fans will remember Mr. Peabody and Sherman as the human-canine duo that were regular cast members of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show from the late '50s and early '60s. Look for it in theaters on Dec. 25, 2013.
Disney's (DIS) Pixar and DreamWorks are the world's two premier animation studios, and also two of the world's fiercest rivals. And while both pride themselves on "tentpole" works (that is, original franchise-building works such as Toy Story or Madagascar), this deal by DreamWorks for a full stable of classic children's characters could give it a much-needed edge.
"Classic Media brings a large and diverse collection of characters and branded assets that is extremely complementary to DreamWorks Animation's franchise business," said CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, "and we plan to leverage it across our motion picture, television, home entertainment, consumer products, digital, theme park and live entertainment channels. "
So get ready, world. Lassie, Fat Albert, and The Lone Ranger will soon be riding your way again.
John Grgurich is a regular contributor to The Motley Fool, and owns no shares in either of the companies mentioned in this column. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Walt Disney and DreamWorks Animation.