Shrek might find a home in the swamps of northern New Jersey.
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" but he provided no other details.
Spokesman Matthew Lifson later said it would license the rights to its characters and technology but would not operate or invest in the project at the American Dream mall in East Rutherford.
The project would be the first wholly themed DreamWorks park, Lifson said. Dreamworld, a theme park in Australia, features some DreamWorks characters.
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, Lifson 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 hopes 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 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 took over the project in 2010, plans to make changes, and Marcus said developers are confident the entertainment additions will make it successful.
The two NFL teams that play at MetLife Stadium, the New York Jets and the New York Giants, claim the developers are violating an agreement they had to approve any expansion plans at the site. They have sued to block the project, claiming it would cause huge traffic problems.
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 New York Times was first to report the DreamWorks deal.