Apparently the rumors are true: Disney will buy Pixar tomorrow for $7 billion. This is probably a good move for Pixar and definitely a good move for Disney. What surprises me is all the bad buzz this is getting in the blogosphere. Apparently some people believe that the powers that be at Disney will rip Pixar apart and turn its movies into direct-to-video sequels. This is ludicrous.
John Lasseter will take control of all of Disney animation and likely help direct it to new heights. I imagine Pixar will become Disney’s computer animation division and Lasseter will reorganize the existing unit to start producing traditionally animated movies again. There were rumors that Pixar may start a traditional unit themselves, that won’t be necessary now. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Brad Bird (director of The Incredibles and The Iron Giant) takes over the traditional unit. Lasseter can guide both units to success with his focus on original storytelling, something that was lost at Disney for the last few years. If they can maintain both units and produce enough hits, maybe Disney can scale back the direct-to-video business since they have twice as many feature films to put out.
Steve Jobs will become the largest shareholder in Disney after this deal, giving him a lot of leverage in the post-Pixar Disney. If they screw things up, he will likely give them hell. It will also be interesting to see what Jobs does with his role in Disney. He could use his influence to help direct the company through the transition to digital media. I know people worry that Pixar’s culture will die when they join Disney, but I don’t think that will happen. Many people at Pixar once worked for Disney and many Disney people are Pixar fans. I think Pixar is more likely to change the culture at Disney than the other way I around.
I can’t guarantee all that will happen, but I do think the new arrangement will be successful. Now many seem upset that Pixar didn’t go it alone, but I don’t think they realize what they’re talking about. Pixar gained a lot from its existing relationship with Disney, using the companies marketing muscle to sell their great movies. If Pixar was forced to go somewhere else, they would probably end up with Warner Bros. – which would be disaster. Warner Bros. took Bird’s marvelous Iron Giant and turned it into a box office failure. That would have been a dark road for Pixar. Disney has experience selling animated movies (and all the spin-off merchandising that helped make Pixar rich). This is going to be an interesting partnership and I think it will also be a fruitful one.