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Shrek to be focus of a new chain

LOS ANGELES — There are no new “Shrek” movies. “Shrek: The Musical” closed on Broadway. “Shrek 4-D” at Universal Studios Florida now plays second fiddle to a newer animation-based attraction: “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.”

Fade the ogre? Not if DreamWorks Animation can help it.

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The studio and Merlin Entertainments plan to announce a chain of “interactive entertainment experiences,” the first of which will open in summer 2015 in London and be called “Shrek’s Far, Far Away Adventure.” The introduction of the chain will include five similar attractions to be built in other cities over nine years, said Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks chief executive.

“We see this as a fantastic way to take our world-class characters and repurpose them into new lines of business,” Katzenberg said.

He described the envisioned DreamWorks-Merlin chain as “living theater.” Groups of 40 people will go on 90-minute walk-throughs of themed rooms, where actors — some in costume as “Shrek” characters — will perform a comedic script that includes lots of audience participation.

Katzenberg has been on a crusade for two years to diversify his independent and publicly traded animation company, which has historically relied almost entirely on two hit movies a year — a risky proposition that can lead to dramatic swings in the stock price.

Merlin Entertainments, based in Poole, England, is the world’s number two operator of themed attractions, after Walt Disney Co. Merlin brands include the Legoland parks, the Eye Ferris wheels in London and Sydney, and Madame Tussauds. Merlin wants to expand deeper into the United States.

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