Despicable Me
The mischievous minions from Despicable Me. Their owner, Comcast's NBCUniversal is buying DreamWorks AnimationREUTERS

In a deal that could challenge animation behemoth Disney, Comcast's NBCUniversal has just gobbled up DreamWorks Animation for a cool $3.8bn (£2.6bn, €3.34)bn ). The DreamWorks company, home to such beloved creatures as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, will be absorbed in the the Universal Filmed Entertainment group.

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg will take on the role of chairman of DreamWorks New Media and consultant to NBCUniversal, reports CNNMoney. The marriage will "help us grow our film, television, theme parks and consumer products businesses for years to come," said Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal.

Katzenberg pronounced the NBCUni deal "perfect" for DreamWorks. "I rest easy in knowing that the house of dreams that we've spent the last two decades building together — the stories, the characters, the joy and the laughter — has found the best possible home," he said at meeting for DreamWorks Animation's 1,500 employees at company headquarters in Glendale, California.

He added: "This is not a deal that we needed to do, but it's the deal I'd always hoped would come along." But the New York Times sees the purchase, which will net the 65-year-old Katzenberg a $420m (£287m, €363.7m) payout, shortcircuiting his dream to reach the pinnacle of the business. Friends say he struggled with the decision to sell.

Burke acknowledged that the sale was "not an easy thing for Jeff to grapple with," noting: "It is his baby," the Times reported. The deal is a powerful one for Comcast. It's similar, though smaller, to Disney's purchase of Pixar for $7.4bn (£5.0, €6.5bn) in 2006, with theme park and merchandising elements a key, lucrative part of the purchase.

Comcast's NBCUniversal has successful animated products, most notably the Minions and the Despicable Me series, but the new combined operation could help it stand toe-to-toe with Disney, observers note. Katzenberg launched DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in 1994, and the animation studio branched off as a public company in 2004.

The deal, which will pay DreamWorks investors $41 (£28) per share, is to close by year's end.