It's been just over 20 years since DreamWorks Animation burst onto the scene with Antz and The Prince of Egypt. From that confident debut, and really taking off with the 2001 blockbuster Shrek, DreamWorks became the first studio to really be able to compete compete with Disney in the world of American theatrical feature animation. However, where the Disney brand has maintained a fairly stable image over the last 80 years, DreamWorks' identity has been in constant flux. It went from making 2D epics and stop motion co-productions to being all CG all the time. Its films have gone from the irony of Shrek to the goofy sincerity of Kung Fu Panda. They've skewed older with How to Train Your Dragon and younger with The Boss Baby. Really the only constant has been a preference for celebrity voice actors and a thing for raised eyebrows.
The changes in the types of films the studio makes have in part been the result of regular changes in management. DreamWorks Animation went from being part of Steven Spielberg's original ambitious DreamWorks megastudio to being its own independent company releasing films through Paramount and Fox to being a subsidiary of Universal. Because of constant shake-ups, many films end up lost along the way. Some of them we really wish we could have seen finished. Others... we really don't. Like, really don't. 15 of the following projects are ones we wish could get off the ground. Five of them are probably better off canceled... though we must admit, one of those five we actually, secretly sort of would be curious to see.
20 WANT: TUSKER
Tusker, a film about a herd of elephants on a dangerous journey across southeast Asia, was supposed to be DreamWorks' third CGI feature film, following Antz and Shrek. Tusker was a victim of the studio's rapidly shifting identity in its early years. The company's 2004 SEC filing says Tusker "was originally envisioned as a more dramatic story and we reconceived the movie with a comedic premise," before ultimately abandoning the film.
Someone must have seen potential in Tusker, given Imagi Animation went through the trouble of buying the rights off of DreamWorks. The concept art from this time makes it seem like the revived Tusker went back to its dramatic roots, but Imagi went out of business after the failure of Astro Boy.
19 WANT: THE WANDERER
We miss traditional hand-drawn animation in American movie theaters. Even if DreamWorks only made one truly great hand-drawn film (The Prince of Egypt) out of its four 2D feature films, it was still sad when its hand-drawn animation department was shuttered in 2003.
One 2D project being worked on before DreamWorks abandoned the artform was to be titled The Wanderer. It was a movie about circus bears co-directed by Simon Wells and the Brizzi Brothers. Production went on hold when Simon Wells got the chance to make his live-action debut with The Time Machine, and when he came back, the studio had moved on.
18 WANT: TRUCKERS
DreamWorks' long in-development adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Truckers did eventually get made... sort of. One thing led to another and somehow this story about little people challenging their society's beliefs ended up transforming into Trolls, which aside from being about little people has pretty much no identifiable connection to the original inspiration.
An actual adaptation of Truckers was in and out of development from 2001 to 2011. DreamWorks brought in a lot of outside talent to try to make this happen. Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle was attached at one point but his version ended up a victim of 2008 financial crash.
17 DON'T WANT: ANTZ 2
The first Antz is actually a better movie than you might remember. It's not as cute as A Bug's Life but it's at least as funny and much more dramatically involving. Even so, it's still a movie starring Woody Allen that was at least somewhat marketed towards children. That gag reflex that comes up when you hear "Woody Allen" and "children" in the same sentence is the biggest reason it's for the better Antz didn't become a big franchise.
In addition to the Woody Allen factor, there's also the fact that this sequel was being considered as a direct-to-video release rather than a theatrical one, which doesn't show the greatest confidence in its quality. The project fizzled away when DreamWorks abandoned DTV productions.
16 WANT: INTERWORLD
InterWorld, the story of a boy meeting with parallel universe versions of himself, was initially pitched to DreamWorks as a TV series in 1996. Screenwriter Michael Reeves was an Emmy winner for his work on Batman: The Animated Series, but every studio passed on his original pitch. He ended up turning the concept into a series of books in collaboration with Neil Gaiman.
In 2007, the same year the first book was published, DreamWorks was suddenly interested again to adapt the book into a movie. This film version, however, never got off the ground. Universal Cable Productions is now in the process of developing a live-action TV adaptation.
15 WANT: ALMA
Has any individual in Hollywood announced as many cool projects that never got made as Guillermo Del Toro? From 2010 to 2012, he seemed to be shaking things up as a creative consultant and executive producer at DreamWorks. One project almost certainly chosen for DreamWorks' slate by Del Toro was Alma, based on the 2009 horror short film by Rodrigo Blaas.
What happened? Rise of the Guardians, the DreamWorks film with the greatest Del Toro influence, disappointed at the box office, and the studio retreated away from darker concepts like Alma. Del Toro's own directing project in development, Trollhunters, stopped production as a feature but eventually got revived as a successful Netflix series from DreamWorks TV Animation.
14 WANT: MAINTENANCE
Jim Massey and Robbi Rodriguez's Oni Press comic series Maintenance is about the janitors at a evil science lab. The comedic twist on sci-fi tropes is pretty much ready-made for the sensibilities of DreamWorks Animation around the time of Monsters vs. Aliens and Megamind. Someone at DreamWorks clearly thought so too, given the studio acquired the rights for a movie version.
No news has been announced about the project since the 2010 rights acquisition, so it seems safe to assume this isn't happening. Still, with Rodriguez's co-creation Spider-Gwen now a movie star, perhaps there might be a push to get this into production in the near future.
13 DON'T WANT: TORTOISE VS. HARE
This is a project which, on paper, sounds like something which could have been great. DreamWorks' other collaborations with Aardman Animation (Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Flushed Away) are some of the studio's best films. The same creative team as Chicken Run doing a comedic twist on the "Tortoise and the Hare" fable? Sounds promising.
So what puts this movie on the "don't want" side of the list? Simply put, the artists at Aardman didn't want it. Insiders called it an "unholy mess of a film." While plenty of great films have had troubled productions, when the film's director Richard "Golly" Starzak doubts it could have ever worked despite all efforts, its cancelation was probably for the best.
12 WANT: ME AND MY SHADOW
Me and My Shadow went through three directors and two visual styles before fading away. The original pitch, from Emperor's New Groove director Mark Dindal, was about the shadow of the world's most boring man trying to find a more exciting life. The humans would be CGI while the shadows would be hand-drawn.
Dindal got replaced with Alessandro Carloni, and the film kept getting pushed back in the released schedule before disappearing. In 2015 it seemed geek favorite Edgar Wright was going to get a reworked Shadows film off the ground as a live-action/CG hybrid. Two years later, however, management changes put the film in limbo once again.
11 WANT: THE PIG SCROLLS
You never know what you're gonna get with a Barry Sonnenfeld film. Sometimes you get The Addams Family or Men in Black, other times you get Wild Wild West or Nine Lives. That said, his successes are enough to forgive the inconsistency of his filmography and be curious about his attempts at working with DreamWorks Animation.
Sonnenfeld was involved with developing at least two projects at the studio circa 2009-2010. One was an original idea from writer A. Lee Martinez. The other was an adaptation of Paul Shipton's young adult novel The Pig Scrolls, a comedic adventure about a talking pig in ancient Greece.
10 WANT: FLAWED DOGS
One of the funniest pieces of trivia to throw at casual film nerds is that Noah Baumbach, the indie darling director of The Squid and the Whale and Frances Ha, co-wrote Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. No idea if he's responsible for the "CIRCUS AFRO CIRCUS AFRO" earworm which will now never leave your head again.
So yeah, Baumbach has a working relationship with DreamWorks, and in 2013 it was announced he was set to write and direct his own film for the studio based on Berkeley Breathed's book series Flawed Dogs. In the years since, not a word has been heard, so while a purely Baumbach cartoon might sound interesting, it seems unlikely to actually happen.
9 DON'T WANT: GULLIBLE'S TRAVELS
Maybe it's unfair to judge a book by its cover, or a script by its toilet-based premise. Flushed Away ended up being fun! So while a sci-fi comedy about "the planet's most gullible man" using a time-travelling porta-potty to rescue the woman he loves might not sound like the cleverest movie ever made, we accept that it could have turned out good.
The fact we've heard nothing of Gullible's Travels since DreamWorks optioned the screenplay from Steve Bencich and Ron J. Friedman in 2007, however, makes it seem like this probably couldn't end up exceeding its first impressions. The team's previous comedy credits of Chicken Little and Open Season also don't inspire confidence.
8 WANT (SORT OF): LIDSVILLE
This might honestly be for the better this didn't get made because, seriously, just look at pictures from the original Lidsville TV show and try not to have nightmares tonight. Somehow, Sid Kroft, co-creator of the original horror, said the animated version went in "a strange direction," and if it was strange by his standards, maybe we're better off without this movie.
So why do we still kind of wish it happened? Four words: Alan Menken rock opera. Yep, the composer of most of the Disney Renaissance movies was going to make a full-blown '60s-style psychedelic musical in the vein of Hair or Tommy. Even if we're not sure we want to watch this movie, we absolutely want to hear the soundtrack!
7 WANT: RUMBLEWICK
Brenda Chapman made history at DreamWorks as one of the directors of The Prince of Egypt, the first woman to hold such a job on an American animated studio film. After being kicked off her original idea Brave at Pixar, she eventually made her way back to DreamWorks.
Chapman was relucant to develop her own ideas for a major studio after the Brave experience, so instead she got to work assisting director Tim Johnson and writer Jim Herzfeld on Rumblewick, an adaptation of the children's book series My Unwilling Witch. When the project ultimately didn't make it into production, it wasn't as personal a heartbreak for her.
6 WANT: B.O.O.: BUREAU OF OTHERWORLDLY OPERATIONS
This one we want mainly because we feel sorry for its crew. To be honest, B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations doesn't sound like the most promising movie. The concept sounds awfully similar to the 2013 flop R.I.P.D. and the designs aren't anything to write home about. Also, the director went on to make The Emoji Movie.
All that said, it still truly stinks that a movie that was almost entirely finished couldn't get released! Yes, B.O.O. was only six months away from its intended June 2015 release and in post-production when it got canceled. There were already coloring books being sold on Amazon! It seems unfair if this won't ever see the light of day.
5 DON'T WANT: SHREK 5
The first Shrek was great, Shrek 2 was a solid sequel and hardly anyone likes the third or fourth films. The Puss in Boots spin-off won back some fans but that was eight years ago. Serious demand for Shrek 5 just isn't there. While the series will forever live on in our memes and memories, it exhausted itself creatively, so it's kind of a good thing the proposed additional sequel isn't happening.
What is happening instead, however, might not be such a good thing. For some reason, Shrek is getting a reboot with the same actors but now being handled by Despicable Me's Chris Meledandri. This may well be the moment where the Millennials who grew up with the Shrek movies truly feel old.
4 WANT: MUMBAI MUSICAL
Following a series of financial disappointments, DreamWorks shuttered PDI, its Redwood City studio, and significantly cut down its release slate in 2015 in preparation for selling itself to Universal. B.O.O., Puss in Boots 2 and Madagascar 4 were among the projects canceled at that time, but by far the biggest disappointment is the cancelation of Mumbai Musical.
This was an adaptation of the Hindu epic The Ramayana, told from the perspective of the monkey characters. It was to be a Bollywood musical with songs by A.R. Rahman and Stephen Schwartz. The concept art was next-level gorgeous and would have been amazing to see brought to life on the big screen.
3 WANT: LARRIKINS
Larrikins, an original musical from Matlilda songwriter Tim Minchin set in the Australian Outback, stayed on DreamWorks' release schedule for a little bit after the big 2015 culling, but ultimately the studio's new Universal overlords canned it for who knows why in March of 2017. It was less than a year away from its intended release date.
The art assets from the film were salvaged into the short film Bilby, which DreamWorks has submitted for Oscar consideration. There has been some controversy, however, over the short film not crediting the artists who designed its characters for the original Larrikins project.
2 WANT: ORIENTAL DREAMWORKS/PEARL STUDIO FILM
OK, before you scream "That looks like Zootopia!", note that this film was actually in development before Zootopia was, so no ground for plagiarism claims. The story for this film was seemingly quite different anyway, about a cat trying to be included in the Chinese calendar.
This was in development at Pearl Studio, formerly known as Oriental DreamWorks, a Chinese animation studio recently bought out from DreamWorks by Chinese Media Capital. The studio co-produced Kung Fu Panda 3 and has one release with DreamWorks later this year titled Abominable, but ran into regular financial troubles which ultimately undid this production. Oriental DreamWorks also had a more controversial project titled The Tibet Code which got canceled.
1 DON'T WANT (BUT ALSO SORT OF DO WANT): BEE MOVIE 2
According to all known laws of common sense, there is no reason Bee Movie should get a sequel. Its box office was too puny to get its weird little movie off the ground. Bee Movie, of course, was considered for a sequel anyway. Because memes don't care what humans think is impossible.
... OK, so Bee Movie 2 was really only consideration for six hours, according to Jerry Seinfeld himself. In a 2016 Reddit AMA, the star claimed "I actually did consider it, but then I realized it would make Bee Movie 1 less iconic... A lot of people that don’t know what animation is want me to do it. If you have any idea what animation is, you’d never do it."