DreamWorks Animation Shake-Up: Margie Cohn Named President, Chris DeFaria to Depart (Exclusive)

Margie Cohn - Publicity - H 2019
Alex J. Berliner/ABImages/Courtesy of Universal
The five-year DWA veteran will oversee both DWA's film and TV operations.

As part of a reorganization putting DreamWorks Animation’s film and television units under one executive, Margie Cohn has been named president, DreamWorks Animation, and will oversee both DWA’s film and TV operations, it was announced Wednesday by Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley, to whom Cohn will report.

Chris de Faria, who has served as president of the DreamWorks Feature Animation Group for the past two years, will be stepping down from his post in the coming months, following the worldwide release of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third film in the Dragon trilogy, which is set to open domestically Feb. 22. DeFaria, who will continue to consult with Comcast NBCUniversal, is credited with overseeing the completion of Dragon; playing a key role in integrating DWA into the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group; launching the DreamWorks Short Program; and opening the new DreamWorks Theater attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Under the new structure, film and television will continue as separate production operations, the studio said, with feature animation, which didn’t have a movie in the marketplace in 2018, expected to release two films per year, beginning this year, with Dragon followed by Abominable, about a magical Yeti, on Sept. 27. Further titles in production include Trolls World TourThe Croods 2 and The Boss Baby 2.

Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination, Universal’s other animation company, has also been working closely with Langley and the Universal team since the studio acquired DWA in 2016, serving as a strategic adviser on DWA matters. He is currently overseeing DWA’s reimagining of its Shrek franchise, while Illumination’s Latifa Ouaou is spearheading a Puss in Boots sequel for DWA.

Cohn, who joined DreamWorks in 2013, has overseen a burgeoning TV animation business, which has a multiyear output deal with Netflix, which carries such series as Guillermo del Toro’s Trollhunters, Dragons: Race to the Edge and The Adventures of Puss in Boots. DWA also has a new animated series coming based on the studio’s live-action Fast & Furious franchise. Additionally, it has deals with Amazon, which streams Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Desitiny and Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Hulu, with which recently signed a multiyear pact for features and original series. 

In announcing the moves, Langley said, “As we look to design the next chapter in DreamWorks Animation’s iconic history, we see opportunity in aligning the film and television businesses under a singular vision. Margie is a proven executive with the right creative instincts and results-oriented skill set to make DreamWorks an innovative and seamless organization where artists can create original, high-quality content for audiences worldwide. We are grateful to Chris for his contributions and insights over the last couple of years.” 

In a statement of her own, Cohn said, “Over the last five years, I’ve had the privilege to work alongside our studio’s Feature Animation Group, and I have the utmost respect for the deep worlds and endearing characters they have created. I am honored that Jeff [Shell, Universal Filmed Entertainment chairman] and Donna have given me this opportunity and I look forward to working with the greater DreamWorks creative community and Chris Meledandri, with a shared goal of creating premium family entertainment that is relevant and enduring.”

Commented Meledandri, “I look forward to working with Margie and the talented team of artists at DreamWorks Animation to help expand on the rich tradition of character creation, storytelling and artistry that people have come to associate with the studio.”