Mr. Incredible May Save Mickey Mouse

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As discussions and speculation begins about the possibility of the Walt Disney Company making a play for Pixar Animation Studios, it looks like the big winners will be Steve Jobs and Disney itself.

A proposed deal for Pixar would top $7 billion and make Pixar/Apple CEO Jobs the biggest individual Disney shareholder. The Wall Street Journal also noted just how much Disney needs Pixar to save its animated film business.

Pixar’s characters parade around Disney’s theme parks, with Disney recently opening a Monster’s Inc-themed ride at its California Adventure park. Lots of Disney merchandise features the likes of Nemo, Buzz Lightyear, and Mr. Incredible. Losing Pixar’s business to another studio could be disastrous.

The Journal illustrated that last point as well, using a chart to show how films from Pixar and Disney have done as home video releases in their first quarter of availability. Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” topped the list, followed by Disney’s “The Lion King,” Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” Disney’s “Aladdin,” and Pixar’s “Toy Story 2.”

Four Disney films that performed poorly at the box office did no better with their home video releases: “Emperor’s New Groove,” “Home on the Range,” “Treasure Planet,” and “Jungle Book 2.”

Both Pixar and Disney have to confront one major issue very directly, and address it before it becomes a problem, and that’s the production schedule. The Journal observed how Pixar’s schedule lopes along at a pace of one film release every 18 months. As much as Disney CEO Robert Iger likes Steve Jobs, he may have a difficult time convincing the Disney board to keep that pace.

The outcome of pushing Pixar too hard, should they be acquired, could lead to talented people like “Toy Story” director John Lasseter and other Pixar folks ditching Disney to start a new Pixar. Enough resistance internally from Pixar may turn the proposed acquisition into an extended distribution deal. That may be all Jobs really wants.

Update: Did you know Disney could have bought Pixar for $15 million in 1986, but turned it down? More here, in a Jim Hill profile of Steve Jobs and his involvement with Pixar long before it became a media darling.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Mr. Incredible May Save Mickey Mouse
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