Universal Filmed Entertainment Group has recruited Warner Bros. veteran Chris deFaria to lead recently acquired DreamWorks Animation in a move to fill the shoes left by founder and former Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg.
As president of DreamWorks Feature Animation Group, deFaria will report to Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley, the company said Tuesday. In the newly created position, he will oversee all aspects of the studio’s feature animation business, including movie development, production and technology.
Universal has not yet set an official start date for deFaria, who is still wrapping up Warner Bros. projects, including Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One.” However, he is expected to move to DreamWorks in the next few months, according to a person close to the studio.
It’s the latest leadership change at DreamWorks Animation following NBCUniversal’s $3.8-billion acquisition of the Glendale company completed in August last year. Mireille Soria last month stepped down as co-president of DreamWorks Animation, leaving Bonnie Arnold in charge of the studio.
Arnold will continue in her role as president of DreamWorks, where she will focus on production aspects of the company’s business. She will report to deFaria, who will have broader oversight of the studio.
Chris Meledandri, founder and chief executive of Universal’s in-house animation partner Illumination Entertainment, will continue to work as a senior advisor to DreamWorks Animation, the company said.
Illumination has supplied numerous hits like “Sing,” “Minions” and “The Secret Life of Pets” for Universal. But Universal and its parent company, Comcast Corp., hope that the addition of DreamWorks Animation can make it a more formidable challenger to Walt Disney Co. and its Pixar unit. The next DreamWorks movie is “Boss Baby,” set to debut in March.
Katzenberg became chairman of the newly formed DreamWorks New Media after the acquisition and now oversees the firm's stakes in the YouTube teen network AwesomenessTV and the technology company Nova.
Warner Bros. was deFaria’s home for more than two decades. He most recently had a four-year run as president of animation and innovative technology for the Burbank studio. He first joined as vice president of physical production in 1996.