DreamWorks Announces Animation Slate

Five films every two years

A welter of upcoming projects were announced by DreamWorks Animation yesterday, as they set themselves a target of five animated films every two years - and laid our their plans for the next three years, mixing sequels to existing properties with all-new stories. And all of them will be in 3D, of which DreamWorks head Jeffrey Katzenberg is a leading proponent. Here's what we can expect.

How To Train Your Dragon is out first, on March 26, 2010. That stars Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera and Jonah Hill in a story set in Viking times about a loner teen who befriends an injured dragon.

Next up is Shrek 4, now titled Shrek Forever After (what's the betting that at least one poster dubs it "Shrek 4ever After"?), which comes out on May 21, 2010. There's still no word on the plot there, but we don't feel that we're going too far out on a limb when we guess that it will involve Shrek learning that being grumpy is not the appropriate response to every situation.

Following that comes the very promising Oobermind, with stellar voice casting in Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. It's due on November 5, 2010, and sees the sometime-Iron Man voice a supervillain who finds life dull and meaningless after vanquishing his superhero arch-enemy. Previously called Master Mind, the film's based on a script from Ben Stiller's Red Hour Films.

June 3, 2011, sees the launch of Kung-Fu Panda: The Kaboom Of Doom, with Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman already confirmed to return for that, and the rest of the cast presumably running through their martial arts moves in negotiations to join them.

On November 4, 2011, we'll see The Guardians, based on an as-yet unpublished book from William Joyce, who previously wrote the source novel for another animated film, Meet The Robinsons. That sees familiar kid's characters like Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny unite to save the world from a Bogeyman-type bad guy.

For 2012, first up is Puss-In-Boots, a Shrek spin-off / prequel on March 30 that pairs Antonio Banderas' Puss with a Salma Hayek-voiced love interest, Kitty. Yes, another prequel. We're thinking it'll be like X-Men Origins: Wolverine pretty much, only with more claws and less fur.

In May 2012 there will be a Madagascar 3, set in a European travelling circus as the zoo animal stars, still badly lost, continue their global trek. As long as the penguins are back, we don't mind.

And finally in November 2012 DreamWorks will release one more film, but they're not sure which of three projects currently in development it will be: options are The Croods, a caveman comedy once set to be made with Aardman Entertainment; Truckers, Simon Beaufoy's adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Bromeliad Trilogy, or the Super-Secret Ghost Project, which asks what spooks think about humans.

The line-up is further boosted by Katzenberg's plans to turn Kung F**u Panda and How To Train Your Dragon** into Cirque de Soleil-style touring arena shows.

It's certainly a bumper, and promising-sounding, slate. Oobermind sounds like it's thoroughly up our street, and Truckers is a project we've long been looking out for, but which ones stand out for you here? And do you think these films can equal Pixar or Aardman's output?