The Hollywood studio that created the green ogre and the wisecracking zoo animals of "Madagascar" announced Wednesday it had agreed to license its characters, storytelling and technology for a theme park at a long-stalled and vacant megamall in the Meadowlands.
DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, in a joint statement with the mall developer, said the indoor theme park 10 miles west of New York City would create "a unique and innovative family entertainment experience."
The company says at this time its only involvement will be licensing the rights to its characters and storytelling. The American Dream mall in East Rutherford would be the first wholly themed DreamWorks park. Dreamworld, a theme park in Australia, features some DreamWorks characters but not exclusively.
The studio was looking for a U.S. presence and thought the mall site near New York would be a good fit, one that could become an international tourist attraction, a DreamWorks spokesman said. The company previously had plans for a theme park in Dubai, but that project fell through.
Mall developer Triple Five, of Alberta, Canada, said it hoped to open the mall and theme park in 2014 but was unlikely to do so in time for the Super Bowl, being held at nearby MetLife Stadium.
Spokesman Alan Marcus said financing and design work remain to be completed.
Plans for the mall, along the New Jersey Turnpike, include an indoor ice rink, ski and snowboard park, water park, movie theaters, restaurants, retail stores and a live performing arts theater.
The project has been a white elephant; originally named Xanadu, it was scheduled to open in 2007 but remains vacant and unfinished, with a multicolored and multipatterned exterior that Gov. Chris Christie has said made it one of America's ugliest buildings.
Triple Five, which owns Mall of America near Minneapolis, took over the New Jersey project in 2010. Marcus said developers are confident the entertainment additions and other planned changes will make it successful.
The overall project has already received about $1.2 billion worth of subsidies, tax breaks and exceptions. The developers have also filed initial paperwork for an additional incentive program that could bring in $200 million in public funds.
The two NFL teams that play at MetLife Stadium, the New York Jets and the New York Giants, have sued to block the project, claiming the developers are violating an agreement they had to give the teams a say in any expansion plans. They say a projected annual attendance of 55 million visitors to the new mall exceeds the scope of the original proposal and would create a "transportation nightmare."
The developers on Tuesday asked a judge to dismiss the suit. Marcus argued the developers' latest plans would ease traffic congestion by providing more parking and things for fans to do after games rather than having to drive straight home. The mall plans to provide more than 30,000 parking spots.
The New York Times was first to report the DreamWorks deal.