If your television picture appears a little greener than usual tonight, do not adjust your set.
Sure, you may find yourself rubbing your eyes for a bit. What is Shrek doing on Disney's
All the same, Shrek the Halls is kicking off tonight's prime-time block at ABC. But don't go thinking this is some last minute strike-related replacement. The half-hour holiday special has been in the works since last year, when Disney executives spoke with DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to drum up a unique Christmas special.
Katzenberg? In cahoots with Disney? That will come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the icy relationship between Katzenberg and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Katzenberg ran Disney's animation studio until he was bypassed for a promotion, following the death of president Frank Wells.
Too many burning bridges lead to Disney
Katzenberg wasn't the only executive to leave the company under Eisner's watch. Comcast
The falling-out between Eisner and Katzenberg is perhaps the most notable, culminating with Katzenberg's vindication when he was awarded a legal victory to reclaim profits from earlier animated releases.
So don't scratch your chin when you see Shrek and his endearing, curmudgeonly antics on ABC tonight. If anything, applaud the great job that current CEO Bob Iger is doing in smoothing over many of the frayed relationships that Eisner left behind.
One can argue that Disney would have more at stake financially if it dug into its own Disney and Pixar holdings to come up with a quintessential Christmas classic. It could whip up Hannah Montana and High School Musical holiday staples, for example. But being able to corral the pricey voice talent behind one of the most successful animation franchises is as huge as it is incremental.
Sure, this arrangement isn't perfect. Promoting Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey comes at a price. Disney's Florida theme parks lie just a few miles away from the turnstiles at Universal Studios Florida, a park owned by General Electric
Yet for Disney, this is still a risk worth taking. As the Writers Guild strike dries up the supply of new scripts, audiences will likely flock to ABC tonight to see something new.
Channeling Burl Ives
Shrek the Halls will need to stand the test of time to become a classic, of course. That's no cakewalk, given how the three Shrek films tend to lean on pop-culture references that may grow stale over the years.
I'm betting that tonight's show will steer clear of pigeonholing itself into 2007. Obviously, it will be free of the underhanded potshots that the original film took at both Disney and Eisner. There's too much at stake, and I'm only talking about the financial considerations here. This is a more lavish outing than the low-budget seasonal fare being whipped up at Viacom's
Disney won't buy DreamWorks Animation, though it could have tried to if Pixar had rebuffed it two years ago. However, the two companies can thrive as friends, instead of getting into bloody fistfights at the multiplex over release dates or me-too projects.
In short, Shrek won't be the only green that Disney and DreamWorks Animation want to see out of tonight's Shrek the Halls special.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys going to the movies. Sometimes, he enjoys leaving them, too. He owns shares in Disney and DreamWorks Animation. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.