DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ: DWA ) is betting on a speedy snail to win the race at the local movie house next weekend. Turbo, the computer-rendered film about a snail that is bestowed with supernatural speed and goes on the auto racing circuit, opens on Wednesday.
It's a new property for the studio that has quickly flipped hot originals into sequels. Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda have all spawned animated sequels. How to Train Your Dragon 2 hits theaters next summer.
There's big money in animation if you know what you're doing. Until the studio's Rise of the Guardians resulted in a financial loss late last year, DreamWorks Animation had rattled off 17 consecutive profitable computer-generated films.
It won't just be DreamWorks Animation hoping that Turbo is a big hit with young families in a few days. In an interesting development, Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) has secured the rights to Turbo F.A.S.T. -- a show based on the characters from the movie. The series will begin streaming exclusively on Netflix come December.
There's a lot riding on the movie. If Turbo is a hit, Netflix is going to have another hot exclusive show on its hands. It may not be House of Cards or Arrested Development, but Netflix can use the boost when it comes to magnetic kid-friendly content.
Many young families still haven't forgiven Netflix for letting its licensing deal with Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA ) , covering popular Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. shows, expire in late May. Saying farewell to SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer will get a lot easier if Turbo's a hit and subscribers flock to Netflix as the only way to see the subsequent animated series.
DreamWorks Animation and Netflix have been getting pretty chummy lately. Before the Turbo F.A.S.T. deal was announced in February, Netflix struck a partnership to stream some of DreamWorks Animation's properties. Just last month, the two parties intensified their licensing relationship by squaring away a multiyear deal that covers more than 300 hours of new programming.
None of these deals will go away if Turbo is a turkey later this month, but you can bet that Netflix will be reluctant to expand or renew its deals with DreamWorks Animation if the movie falls short of expectations and it's stuck with a poorly watched animation series later this year.
The lead character in Turbo is a snail, but speed will be the name of the game as the box-office receipts start to get tallied come Wednesday.