Dreamworks Animation (aka the poor man’s Pixar) has released their animated movie lineup for the next four years. Unsurprisingly there are further entries into tried and tested (at the box office) series’ such as Shrek and Madagascar, a sequel to the surprisingly good Kung Fu Panda, and a few original projects. They plan to produce one or two sequels and an original project every year, all of which will be produced in digital 3D.

March 10, 2010 – How To Train Your Dragon

The son of a Viking chief must capture a dragon in order to mark his passage into manhood and prove his worthiness to the tribe in directors Lorna Cook and David Soren’s adaptation of Cressida Cowell’s popular children’s book.

Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig, TJ Miller and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are on board to voice the dragon animation. It will be directed by Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois, and produced by Bonnie Arnold.

I’m not sure about the premise (sounds like a very Dreamworks-styled movie), but that cast is bitchin’. I’ll be interested to see Butler voice an animated character: With his Scottish accent and growing reputation, I’m sure Dreamworks isn’t sweating if something happens to Mike Myers…

May 21, 2010 – Shrek Forever After (previously titled Shrek the Fourth)

Nothing is known of the plot for the fourth installment in the successful animated franchise, but original cast members Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas and Eddie Murphy will return to voice the big green ogre, Princess Fiona, Puss in Boots and Donkey, respectively. It will be directed by Mike Mitchell (Deuce Bigalow, Sky High, Surviving Christmas).

I never did catch Shrek the Third, but I hear I’m not missing much. Is it just me or did this series run out of steam long ago?

November 5, 2010 – Oobermind (previously titled Master Mind)

When super villain Oobermind defeats his archrival Metro Man, the world should be his oyster. But instead, Oobermind falls into total despair. It turns out that life without a rival is life without a point for him. So he creates a new superhero rival. Unfortunately, the new hero wants to be a super villain too.

In a highlight of their lineup, Dreamworks has managed to snag Robert Downey Jr. and Tina Fey to provide the voices, with Downey playing the villainous title character and Ben Stiller executive producing. It sounds great and all (with the telling the tale from the perspective of a supervillain for a change) and I don’t know about you, but they had me at Downey Jr… It is written by Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons.

June 3, 2011 – Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom (previously titled Kung Fu Panda 2)

The sequel to the smash hit Kung Fu Panda continues the adventures of the titled Panda, this time him and his Kung Fu buddies having to go up against a new villain who has a mysterious and powerful weapon that somehow threatens the very existence of the titular martial art. Po the panda will also have to confront his past while fighting along side his Kung Fu buddies.

Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen and David Cross will return to voice the various and lovable Kung Fu characters. It will be the directorial debut of longtime story exec Jennifer Yuh Nelson, instead of being directed by Mark Osborne of the first film.

November 4, 2011 – The Guardians

Based on the not-yet-released series of books, this is described as, “a contemporary fairytale based on existing fairytale characters.”

The world’s five unlikeliest heroes – Jack Frost, North (aka Santa), Bunnymund (the Easter Bunny), Tooth (the Tooth Fairy), and Sandy (the Sandman) – must band together to stop an ancient spirit called Pitch (the Boogeyman) from plunging the world into eternal darkness.

It appears that the famous fictional figures have had their name changed slightly, with quite a bit of an overall re-imagining – Probably so they don’t get one of those pesky lawsuits coming from somewhere or other. Author of the books, William Joyce (who’s work inspired Disney’s own Meet the Robinsons), will collaborate closely on the film, and has apparently created new backgrounds for all of the well known children’s characters. There’s no word on who will provide the voices of each of the characters at this point. The first book in the series has a release date of Christmas 2010.

It’s an interesting idea to take well known fictional characters and create new backstories for them, distinguishing them from what we know while simultaneously reminding us what we’ve known of them up until now. I await tentatively to see if they make something worthwhile of the cool premise.

March 30, 2012 – Puss in Boots

“Swords will cross and hearts will be broken in this adventure starring one of the most beloved characters of the Shrek universe – Puss In Boots. It’s a swashbuckling ride through Puss’s early years as he teams with mastermind Humpty Dumpty and the street-savvy Kitty to steal the famed Goose that lays the Golden Eggs.”

Antonio Banderas returns to voice Puss in Boots in this prequel spin-off story to the Shrek series. Salma Hayek will voice the female love-interest called Kitty. No word as of yet if Shrek or any of the other characters from the series will make any sort of appearance in this spin-off (although I imagine cameos will be abound).

Is there really enough to the Puss in Boots character introduced in Shrek 2 to carry his own full-length feature film? To me it seems like he’d only have enough fuel in the tank for a short film at most. We shall see.

May 27, 2012 – Madagascar 3

“Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo, and Melman the Giraffe are still fighting to get home to their beloved Big Apple; King Julien, Maurice and the Penguins are along for the adventure. This time the road takes them through Europe where they find the perfect cover: a traveling circus, which they reinvent Madagascar style!”

Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer are all presumed to return for the third installment in the successful series, with the director of the first two, Eric Darnell, coming back for a third go at it.

I never did see either of the first two Madagascar movies, but I hear both are just a couple of fun but ultimately throwaway animated movies. Something about them just doesn’t compel me to seek them out – but clearly they made a lot of money since a third is on the way. To Disney, I guess nothing else really matters…

November 12, 2012 – A yet-to-be-chosen original project from the following trio:

The Croods:

The first option, caveman comedy The Croods, from directors Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco, was once intended to be an Aardman collaboration. It’s produced by Kristine Belson and Jane Hartwell.

Truckers – Based on the Terry Pratchet’s best-selling The Bromeliad Trilogy:

“A society of tiny beings lives in a department store, right underfoot and unseen by the humans that shop there. To them, the store is the entire universe. And when they discover that the store is slated for demolition, they must embark on an epic journey to find a new home … ultimately learning that their true home is literally out of this world!”

It will be written by Slumdog Millionaire writer, Simon Beaufoy, and with its development history within the studio, it is looking to be the most likely of the three to be chosen. It has been in development since way back in 2001, with Andrew Adamson originally tapped to direct. However, he instead went on to direct Shrek 2 for the studio, before moving on to the Chronicles of Narnia movies.

Not much is known about the third project, Super Secret Ghost Project (a tentative working title), that asks what ghosts think about humans. To quote Peter Sciretta over at /Film – “I imagine this will be DreamWorks’ attempt at copying Pixar’s Monsters, Inc.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

As I said, I find Dreamworks Animation to be a poor version of Pixar. They seem to treat their movies as products to make big bucks at the box office instead of real films in their own merit – the result is usually animated movies that leave something to be desired (of course there are exceptions, in particular last year’s delightful Kung Fu Panda).

Screen Rant will keep you up-to-date with all of the upcoming Dreamworks Animation projects mentioned above.

What do you think of the animated lineup Dreamworks has for the next few years? Which of them are looking forward to most?

Sources: /Film, Starpulse and Variety