Still recovering from jet lag after a three-day trip to Australia, India and China, Jeffrey Katzenberg sat in a courtyard next to a duck pond at the Mediterranean-style campus dotted with oaks and olive trees.
The legendary Hollywood mogul, who created the animation juggernaut behind the "Shrek," "Madagascar" and "Kung Fu Panda" movies, wasn't eager to talk about the studio's past.
"I'm not ready to look back yet because I have to say I feel we are so much a work in progress," said Katzenberg, the 63-year-old chief executive of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. "We've come very far along, but in terms of being a broadly diversified family-branded entertainment company, I still think we're in our junior years."
Since its inception two decades ago, the Glendale company has evolved from a fledgling studio into a $700-million-a-year multimedia powerhouse with a distinct culture and expanding global footprint.
But Katzenberg is now under pressure. DreamWorks Animation is facing rising competition and restless investors after a string of box-office misfires.
The company recently reported a $43-million loss in the first quarter after taking a $57-million write-down for "Mr. Peabody & Sherman," marking the third write-down in less than two years for the studio. After its 2013 summer hit "The Croods," DreamWorks took a $13.5-million charge this year on its snail comedy "Turbo."
And last year, DreamWorks reported an $87-million write-down for "Rise of the Guardians."The flop was one reason that DreamWorks laid off about 350 employees.
The missteps have unsettled Wall Street, with investors sending the stock down 33% this year amid concerns that DreamWorks no longer dominates the animated industry the way it once did.
The company's shares closed Friday at $23.54, up 43 cents.
DreamWorks has watched as a more crowded field of competitors has muscled in on the lucrative animation business. Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. have scored some surprise box-office hits with the "Despicable Me" films and "The Lego Movie." And DreamWorks' next-door neighbor and arch rival, Walt Disney Studios, is on a roll in the wake of "Frozen," the highest grossing animated movie of all time.
Big-budget action films like "Captain America" are also competing for the same family audience.
"Before it wasn't difficult to a make a lot of money in the animated field," said Doug Creutz, a senior analyst with Cowen and Co. "Now, the competition is hugely intensive.... In a way [Katzenberg] was a victim of his own success. People saw how much money he was making and said. 'Hey, we can do that.'"
Still, analysts expect much better results at the box office in June when DreamWorks releases the sequel to its 2010 hit, "How to Train Your Dragon." They also predict long-term benefits from the company's foray into television and other new businesses.
"Jeffrey is a visionary and I think he stands out in an industry where there are a lot of big personalities," said James Marsh, an analyst with Piper Jaffray. "I don't think he can be counted out at all. He's going to figure it out."
Katzenberg, who spent a decade reinvigorating Disney with animated hits like "The Little Mermaid" and "The Lion King" and built DreamWorks into an industry leader, has vowed to get the studio back on track.
"We have been inconsistent," said Katzenberg, who launched DreamWorks after running Walt Disney Studios. "The only thing I can guarantee you is we are our harshest critics."
In a recent conference call with analysts, Katzenberg said the studio was evaluating its creative process so that movies with the broadest appeal would be selected. He also said the studio would be more strategic about release dates. Average movie budgets will be lowered to at least $125 million from about $145 million.
Meanwhile, DreamWorks is rapidly trying to diversify. Katzenberg is pushing the company to be less reliant on the fortunes of animated movies by expanding into new ventures.
For instance, DreamWorks has licensed some of its well-known characters for theme parks in Russia and New Jersey. The studio is also partnering on a project to design educational computer tablets for kids, and in February launched a publishing division called DreamWorks Press.
"It makes the company stronger that there is not one leg on the stool," Katzenberg told The Times. "Movies in the best of times are an uncertain business. We went 16 for 16 hits here. To assume that you will always do that — and now we've had a few that didn't — is foolish."