Spielberg and Disney make an odd couple.

The big news story today is that DreamWorks — the studio co-founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen back in 1994 — will probably finalize a distribution deal with Disney in the next few days, rather than with Universal, as everyone had expected.

This is a startling turn of events for several reasons.

For one thing, Universal had seemed like a natural “fit” for Spielberg, because he got his start there back in the ’60s and because his personal production company, Amblin Entertainment, is based on the Universal lot.

Also, DreamWorks was created in the first place partly to give Katzenberg something to do after he had a really bad falling out with Disney, whose animation “renaissance” he had overseen in the late ’80s and early ’90s. So for DreamWorks to find a home with Katzenberg’s former employer, now, would be more than a little odd.

(Katzenberg currently runs the show at DreamWorks Animation, which has been separate from the regular DreamWorks for the past five years; the animated films are distributed by Paramount.)

In addition, Disney is quite possibly the only major studio for which Spielberg has never directed a film. Going through Spielberg’s IMDb page, and checking the “company credits” on each of the films he has directed since Duel (1971), his first major artistic and critical success, his releases seem to break down like so:

  1. DreamWorks
      The Terminal (2004)
      Catch Me If You Can (2002)
      Amistad (1997)

  2. Universal
      The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
      Schindler’s List (1993)
      Jurassic Park (1993)
      Amazing Stories (1985-1987)
      E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
      Jaws (1975)
      The Sugarland Express (1974)
      Savage (1973)
      Duel (1971)

  3. Universal – United Artists
      Always (1989)

  4. Universal – Columbia
      1941 (1979)

  5. Universal – DreamWorks
      Munich (2005)

  6. Columbia
      Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

  7. TriStar
      Hook (1991)

  8. Paramount
      Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
      Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
      Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
      Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

  9. Paramount – Sony – DreamWorks
      The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (2010)

  10. Paramount – DreamWorks
      War of the Worlds (2005)
      Saving Private Ryan (1998)

  11. Warner
      Empire of the Sun (1987)
      The Color Purple (1985)

  12. Warner – DreamWorks
      A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

  13. Fox – DreamWorks
      Minority Report (2002)

  14. CBS
      Something Evil (1972)

Now, Spielberg has produced many, many other films, in addition to the ones he directed, and I do know that at least one of them — Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) — was co-produced by Disney’s Touchstone division.

But still. When I hear the word “Spielberg”, the word “Disney” is just about the last thing that comes to my mind.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).