The film was announced in 2005 under the working title "Crood Awakening", originally a stop motion animated film being made by Aardman Animations as a part of a five-film deal with DreamWorks Animation. John Cleese and Kirk De Micco (Quest for Camelot (1998), Space Chimps (2008)) had been working together on a feature based on Roald Dahl's story The Twits, a project that never went into production. DreamWorks got a copy of their script and liked it, and invited Cleese and DeMicco over to take a look at the company's ideas to see if they found something they would like to work with. They chose a basic story idea about two cavemen on the run, an inventor and a Luddite, and wrote the first few drafts of the script. With the departure of Aardman in beginning of 2007, the rights for the film reverted to DreamWorks, and Cleese went on to other projects.
Before the film's release, DreamWorks Animation was suffering from major disaster box office returns and generally mixed word of mouth reception for Rise of the Guardians (2012). While the film did gross more than its $145 million budget, it still did not turn a profit for DreamWorks due to its high production and marketing costs, forcing the studio to take an $83 million write-down. This marked the first time that the studio had lost money on an animated film since Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003). As a result of this combined with other factors, in February 2013, the studio announced it was laying off 350 employees as part of a company-wide restructuring. If had The Croods (2013) bombed even worse than Guardians, the studio would lay off even more employees and might face the potential possibility of a bankruptcy. The Croods (2013) then opened on March 22, 2013 to glowing positive reviews and widely enthusiastic acclaim from audiences, eventually earning more than $186 million in the U.S. and over $583 million worldwide, earning its place to be sixth highest grossing film of the year (so far), besting Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), Pacific Rim (2013), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), and World War Z (2013). It remarkably helped DreamWorks' earnings rise higher from $162.8 million to $213.4 million in the second quarter of 2013 - one of the best financial earnings ever received in the company's history.
Chunky the "Macawnivore" started out as a bit of a joke in the art department. Artist Leighton Hickman was bored with the drab colors intended for creatures in the desert scenes, and painted the saber-tooth tiger with bright "parrot" colors. The filmmakers liked the look for the "Macawnivore" so much that it made it to the final film.
There is much resemblance to Plato's fable of The Cave, a metaphor of the mental limitations people are burdened by. Only a few people can learn to think outside the parameters of convention and "see" the vast, diverse world of possibilities outside of their "cave."
Almost all of the animals depicted in the movie never existed, nor even could have existed under the basic laws of physics and biology. They are "chimaeras," fantasy creations designed by putting together parts of extremely different animals.
In March 2007, Chris Sanders (Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Lion King (1994), Mulan (1998), Lilo & Stitch (2002)) joined DreamWorks to direct the film, with intentions to significantly rewrite the script. In September 2008, it was reported that Sanders took over How to Train Your Dragon (2010) putting The Croods on hold, and thus postponing its original schedule for a year to a then planned March 2012. The film's final title, The Croods (2013), was revealed in May 2009, along with new co-director, Kirk De Micco. In March 2011, the film got another delay, being pushed back a year to March 1, 2013, and finally settled at March 22.
The Croods (2013) had its world premiere in the out of completion section at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival on February 15, 2013; the first full-length animated feature film to be shown at a Berlin International Film Festival.