Michael Eisner, nemesis of animation lovers everywhere, is leaving his gig as CEO of Disney a year early. My first thought, as I’m sure it was for many others: “What does this mean for the Pixar-Disney partnership?”
The IMDb has this to say on the subject:
The selection of Robert Iger to become CEO of the Walt Disney Company immediately touched off speculation about whether he would be able to lasso Pixar chairman Steve Jobs and Miramax co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein back into the fold. Analysts generally agreed that much depended on the amount of authority Iger would be granted with Michael Eisner remaining in his position for the next six months. Jobs has previously indicated that he intended to wait until Eisner’s successor was chosen before talking to other studios about a distribution deal. Jobs had no immediate comment on Iger’s selection. But on Sunday, Harvey Weinstein issued a statement saying, “I’ve had a great working relationship with Bob Iger and think he is a terrific choice for chief executive of the Walt Disney Company.” Wall Street took a wait-and-see attitude toward the upcoming change, with Disney shares moving up slightly at midday.
I think it’s in the best interest of both Pixar and Disney to keep that relationship intact. Not from a creative standpoint, since Pixar has traditionally done their own thing without any interference from Disney, but purely from a marketing standpoint. While Pixar’s in bed with The Mouse, they get their creations featured in the Disney parks and in all manner of Disney merchandising efforts. Do they need that promotional push now as much as they did in 1995? Of course not, but when you’re producing the best animation of your generation, having the Disney name (and marketing arm) attached helps ensure some level of legacy and permanence. To most Americans, especially those over 30 or so, “Disney” and “animation” are pretty much synonymous.
That said, I know that the financial details of their current deal are skewed heavily in Disney’s favor, and that’s not fair, especially given that over the last ten years all of the most successful of Disney’s cartoon output have been from Pixar’s. It’s pretty obvious that at this point that Disney stands to benefit more from Pixar than Pixar does from Disney; let’s hope Bob Iger understands that in a way that Eisner refused to.