January 20, 2015 / 1:07 AM / 3 years ago

DreamWorks Animation begins layoffs, number unknown

Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, arrives at the annual Allen and Co. conference at the Sun Valley, Idaho Resort July 11, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

GLENDALE, Calif. (Reuters) - DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc has begun a round of layoffs, a labor union said on Monday, while media reports indicated that up to 400 employees could be cut from the studio’s workforce.

Months after talks to find a buyer sputtered and a few weeks after high-level management changes, the studio run by Jeffrey Katzenberg intends to “significantly reduce” the size of its workforce, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

Variety said 150 to 400 employees could be affected at the Glendale and Redwood City, California campuses of the studio behind hit franchises like “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda.” DreamWorks Animation employs around 2,200 people.

A spokesman for DreamWorks Animation declined to comment on the reports.

Some DreamWorks employees told their union, the Animation Guild, last week that they had been let go.

“There are layoffs going on because I have had members call me who have been laid off,” said Steve Hulett, business representative at the Animation Guild.

He wrote an email to the company last week requesting more information, but had not yet received a reply.

Layoffs at DreamWorks Animation are expected to include animators, story-board artists and other production personnel and support, the L.A. Times and Variety reported.

The news comes two weeks after the studio appointed new co-presidents of feature animation, Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria, while its Chief Creative Officer Bill Damaschke stepped down.

Katzenberg had been in talks about a potential sale of the studio, but early discussions with SoftBank Corp in September and with Hasbro Inc in November ended shortly after they were reported.

During what are generally considered robust years for animated features, the studio has suffered from big misses on films like “Mr Peabody & Sherman,” “Turbo” and “Rise of the Guardians.”

Last week, DreamWorks Animation received a piece of good news - an Oscar nomination for best animated feature for “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”

Additional reporting by Sneha Banerjee in Bengaluru and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Diane Craft

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