Margie Cohn, president of DreamWorks Animation: “Shrek is stronger than ever”

Since 2019 DreamWorks Animation has a new captain in command. Margie Cohn went from running the television division of the studio of the lovable moon fisherman to becoming the supervisor of both the small screen projects and the films that would reach theaters. Who was going to tell him that in his first years at the helm of the studio the very future of cinemas would be put into question by a global pandemic. However, her films managed to weather the storm and were some of the favorite options for the family audience to return to the big screen after confinement. ‘The Croods: A New Age‘ was the 10th highest grossing film globally in damn 2020, being the most successful family animated film of the year (because there it is ‘Guardians of the night‘ as a major pandemic milestone). Y ‘the bad guys‘ has exceeded 250 million dollars in revenue this year.

Universal Pictures wanted to save one of the most precious slots in the film calendar, Christmas, for the next release of DreamWorks Animation. But it is not just any premiere. It is about the return of Puss in Boots himself. Antonio Banderas. The last time we saw him was in 2011, with the franchise ‘Shrek‘ pretty burnt. However, she did not do badly at all, with more than 550 million dollars worldwide. At that time it was already said that the swordsman pussycat would have a sequel. But we’ve had to wait eleven years to see it.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish‘ intends to continue being the representation of “A new age” at DreamWorks Animation. An era in which they will bet on greater creative freedom and to demonstrate that animation does not have to seem cloned. That is why the new adventure of Banderas’s character has a new visual style, and that is why in the film he will deal with themes as dark as death itself. To better understand the keys to this new stage in the studio, we have had the opportunity to speak with its president, who tells us what is in the oven and if the return of Puss in Boots is a prelude to the return of the charismatic green ogre from the swamp

Margie Cohn, President of DreamWorks Animation

eCartelera: Some time ago you announced that the studio was entering a new stage with you as president. What are the goals you have set for this DreamWorks 2.0?

Margie Cohn: With so much competition, the pandemic and people being reluctant to return to theaters I think it’s vital that we be as exciting and different as possible and offer things that feel fresh and new. We are trying this in various ways. We don’t have a “house style”. We can release a movie that looks like ‘The Bad Guys’ and release another that looks like ‘Puss in Boots’, and another that looks like ‘trolls‘. It can also be seen in the tone of our films. ‘Trolls’, for example, is all glitter, glitter, psychedelia and music, and then there’s ‘Puss in Boots’ in which death is a character. But you keep laughing and you keep enjoying it. We are working on another film that has a more ‘How to Train Your Dragon‘, a good adventure with high expectations. We want to continue being different and challenge ourselves to improve and innovate.

eC: ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ has traveled quite a long and complex path. It was announced shortly after the first installment but it has taken 11 years to reach theaters. It was one of the projects you saved when you joined as president of the studio. Why did you think he deserved a second chance?

MC: After what Jeffrey (Katzenberg) left, there was a short period with another person in charge and they were already collaborating with Chris Meledandri (President of Illumination Entertainment) in ‘Puss in Boots’. When I arrived there was already a script. Chris and I discussed our goals for the film and found the perfect creative team. The problem with previous versions was that the story didn’t hold up. It didn’t satisfy such a great premise. We found a team that did have a vision and great ambition for what they wanted the story to be and that was very exciting. We are only as good as our filmmakers. We select them very carefully. And this team has nailed it.

eC: The first movie with you in the lead, ‘The Bad Guys’, has been a box office success. I have the impression that computer animation wants to break the barriers that it imposed on itself due to the limitations of the technology itself. Now that technology can do just about anything, it seems filmmakers are betting on more creativity and innovation. This is the case of ‘Puss in Boots’ and its change in aesthetics. How do you see the near future of animation?

MC: I think artists are moving towards more artistic expressions because of all the CGI that’s in live-action movies.. If you look at any Marvel movie or ‘jurassicworld‘, are movies made practically with CGI. Artists can create worlds that do not exist in real life, and not imitate life, but create an impression and an environment that is satisfying on a whole other level. And this comes naturally from the artists themselves. They are the ones who want to do it, to fully express themselves. In many of the proposals that they are presenting to us, when they start talking about the art style everything is very innovative and different and I really believe that it is related to the special effects and the live action.


eC: With ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ a much-loved franchise returns to theaters. Do Shrek and the others have a place in the future of DreamWorks?

MC: Of course. We’re definitely thinking about where Shrek might be heading in the future. And there’s absolutely nothing to announce today. But she’s stronger than ever, it’s crazy. I don’t know if you saw that someone discovered that Al Pacino I had a Shrek phone case and the memes were insane. Went viral.

EC: Yes! Shrek was also discovered by a new generation of viewers during the pandemic thanks to streaming. What do you think of this new phase of Shrek as a pop icon?

MC: I thought we have to take advantage of it. That’s what I thought.

'Puss in Boots: The Last Wish'

eC: One of your goals is to release one original film and one film from an established franchise each year. Can any franchise or saga return or do you consider any of them closed?

MC: I think, one way or another, perhaps streaming movies could be ideal for those characters who didn’t quite make it to the star level of Po or the penguins of ‘Madagascar. If not everyone loves them, a specific section of the audience loves them.

“We’d love to do something with ‘Back to the Future'”

eC: Another of your hits is ‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous‘. Has there ever been a bigger project on the table, like a ‘Jurassic World’ animated movie? Or sink your teeth into another Amblin intellectual property?

MC: As for ‘Jurassic,’ I think we’ll just wait and see where the movies go next.. They are the most important part of the franchise. So we’re going to hit the pause button until we see where they go. And of course there are a lot of Amblin movies we’d like to sink our teeth into, like a lot of people. We have a great relationship with Amblin as they are part of Universal and are distributed by Universal so we like to think we would take precedence, but right now there are no plans. For example, I was going to say that we’d love to do something with’Return to the future‘, but that’s the same opinion in all of Universal.

'Jurassic World: Camp Cretactic'

eC: What do you think of traditional animation? Do you think his return would be possible in this new era?

MC: I think it all depends on the artists and their proposals. I’m not going to say no to anything, and it’s a very nice style. And we still do a lot of 2D animation on TV, some of it is CG with cell shading and some of it is hand drawn. ‘Voltron’, for example, was hand drawn and semi-anime in style, and it was beautiful. I think it would come down to us finding something exciting.. But I’m sure she’s on the horizon.

Gobber in 'How to Train Your Dragon'

eC: Long before the kiss of ‘lightyear‘, at DreamWorks you presented one of the first LGBTQ+ characters we saw in an animated film: Gobber, from ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. What plans do you have for DreamWorks in regards to representation and diversity?

MC: As I said, we tend to follow the creatives. In this regard, we have done a lot on television, based on the narrative and what seemed right to us at all times. It always looks better when it’s authentic and not shoehorned into the story, or in the background while everything else goes on.. Right now we’re also making a lot of animals and treating them like humans, but they’re not necessarily human. We are not closed to anything and we have already made successful advances in television, where the creators have created concrete plots. We also have groups of employees that help us, like one called Out and it’s made up of LGTBIQA+ employees, we have another made up of black employees, another of Asians and people from the Pacific area, another of young employees, veterans… We have some ten groups. We often call on them to help shape the characters to look like real, contemporary characters and reflect modern opinion rather than just making them a chore. It’s a long answer to tell you that we’ll be happy to cross the bridge when the opportunity arises, but we want to do it in a way that’s authentic..

‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ premieres in theaters December 21.

We want to give thanks to the writer of this article for this incredible material

Margie Cohn, president of DreamWorks Animation: “Shrek is stronger than ever”

Take a look at our social media profiles and also other related pages