With news of yesterday’s DreamWorks-Disney deal, plenty of observers thought it would only be a matter of time before theme-park aficionado Steven Spielberg started turning his DreamWorks ideas into Disney attractions. But while Spielberg can licence his properties to any theme park he wants, he has a long-standing, exclusive consulting deal with Universal, meaning he can’t contribute any ideas on the development of Disney’s parks.
As we see it, this creates a major conflict of interest in DreamWorks’ Disney deal. Spielberg’s Universal consulting deal is ironclad.
Kim Masters explains for The Daily Beast: Since 1984, Spielberg has collected 2 per cent of the money from all Universal theme parks outside Southern California—Orlando, Japan, Hong Kong, etc. An executive familiar with the terms says this is a “humongous deal” for Spielberg, who is very involved with the parks and visits them and provides his notes on the attractions. The deal also includes a provision allowing Spielberg to demand that Universal buy him out altogether—meaning that Universal would have to cough up hundreds of millions of dollars.
So, it’s highly unlikely that Universal or Spielberg would end this arrangement for financial reasons, even though Universal might want nothing to do with Spielberg now. But where does this leave Disney? The Mouse House could create attractions based on his DreamWorks projects, but would Universal be ok with this? Then again, if Spielberg chose to licence his ideas to Universal, based on their longstanding relationship, how would Disney feel about their director’s movies being promoted by rides at a rival’s park? And finally, if Spielberg’s working with Disney yet still has a consulting deal with Universal, should either side be paranoid that he’d leak trade secrets to the other one? We would be.