Universal has already been keeping Disney on its toes with the wildly popular Harry Potter attractions. No wonder the parent company wants to grow its cast of characters.
Is Universal’s parent company preparing to add to its animated arsenal in the theme parks’ long-running battle against the mouse?
Comcast Corp. refused Wednesday to comment on multiple stories that it was negotiating to buy DreamWorks Animation for $3 billion, a development the Wall Street Journal first reported late Tuesday.
During a first-quarter earnings call early Wednesday, Comcast executives wouldn’t address what one called “recent rumors or speculation about any M&A transaction.”
Citing people familiar with the deal, the Journal said Comcast wanted to acquire the studio “to accelerate consumer products and theme-park businesses and expand synergies between film and television at NBCUniversal.”
DreamWorks Animation properties include Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar, and Shrek, who already appears at Universal theme parks, as well as more classic characters such as Casper the Friendly Ghost, Lassie the dog, and Olivia the pig.
No one theme park company has all the rights to DreamWorks characters, as Theme Park Insider reports, which could add complications if Comcast were to acquire the studio. An entire DreamWorks zone with 11 attractions is slated for Dubai’s Motiongate theme park, which is scheduled to open in October.
The talks come amid massive, multi-billion-dollar expansions at Universal and Disney resorts all over the globe.
Disney is opening the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Resort in June as it moves forward with lands or attractions built around its Toy Story, Star Wars, Avatar, and Frozen franchises in the United States.
Universal just opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at its Hollywood park and signed a deal last year to build a theme park in Beijing. And Comcast recently spent $130 million to acquire 475 acres of land for future development adjacent to its Florida parks.
First-quarter results for the parent company showed revenue in the theme parks division jumped 57.5 percent to $1 billion with the inclusion of results from Universal Studios Japan. Comcast became majority owner of that park late last year.
“In our theme parks, we’re delighted about our trajectory, the momentum that we’ve created, and our roadmap with new investments in new attractions and additional hotel room capacity,” chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said during the call.
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Photo credit: The Shrek ride at Universal Studios Florida shows that the company already values DreamWorks characters. Jeremy Thompson / Flickr