Released on March 31, “The Boss Baby” has provided a decent return for Dreamworks Animation (DWA). So far earning $300 million globally, the studio has been in need of a hit after a series of misfires and some franchises that are growing old and past their expiration date. The Dreamworks executive offices have not been the place of merriment and wonder the past few years.
Long the bane of commercials and garbage sitcoms, talking babies have a built-in puerility. However, for an animated family romp it is fitting subject matter. “The Boss Baby” was adapted from a children’s book with a wisp of a storyline. For the adaptation the studio expanded the plot to a high concept tale of an entity called Baby Corp. that dispatches executive babies to infiltrate a rival puppy company to find out why people are favoring dogs over infants.
Not obtuse enough, this toddler is voiced by Alec Baldwin who is essentially repeating his hyper-conservative corporate titan role as Jack Donaghy from the show “30 Rock.”
The biggest irony with this film is that while it features a character who displays many of the cliches of an avaricious corporate executive, the behavior being skewered has been on full display at DWA corporate. It is a classic tale witnessed frequently in Hollywood; “listen to our societal lectures - just don’t pay attention when our actions contradict our message.”
The story behind the shifting mores begins during the election campaign of 2012, where Barack Obama sought re-election against Mitt Romney. Two details of note from that period concerned Dreamworks. Romney came under fire from the Obama campaign for numerous “issues” with his history in the corporate sector. One such was the implication Romney was responsible for a woman dying of cancer. It was such an innocent time! An attempt was made, with a major assist from the press, to paint Romney as a man who ships American jobs overseas for the sake of corporate greed. The other detail of note is that Jeffrey Katzenberg, studio head of Dreamworks, was a lavish donor and bundler to the Obama campaign.
Following his re-election Obama returned the favor by making a personal appearance at the Dreamworks Animation studio facility in California. The President toured the facility, and even gave a speech in the parking lot to employees, hailing the health of the entertainment industry. “I will fix whatever problems there are, but I’m not going to abandon people.” While not the only time Obama had insisted things were opposite of what they actually were during his tenure, it was mere weeks later when hundreds of employees drove out of that very parking lot for the last time, victims of Dreamworks layoffs.
Since that time Dreamworks has gone through additional layoffs and the shuttering of a companion animation studio in California. This is due to poorly performing titles and costs getting out of control. During the restructuring, the studio did something else for the sake of the corporate health; the company sent jobs out of the country. The bulk of the animation for “The Boss Baby” took place in Canada, where employment costs are lower and tax incentives abound. Additional work was done in Asian studios.
Let’s repeat: The studio that helped Obama cast Romney as vile over job flight almost immediately resorted to outsourcing for the sake of the corporation.
To go along with that labor export mission, Dreamworks is also involved in one of those other subjects Democrats are (and the Obama administration was) fond of demonizing -- corporate welfare. Other productions underway by the studio are also being produced in another country, as France is the recipient of more outsourced work. As a result the studio will be receiving tax breaks and rebates from the French government.
So just bear this in mind if you are ever subjected to entertaining a tyke with the animated antics of an Armani-clad avaricious infant: it is a hyperbolic representation of a corporate mogul in a cartoonishly arch scenario. However for the studio that created it the film is closer to a documentary.