I was a little alarmed by the headlines today. In a recent merger, Disney will buy Pixar for $7.4 billion in stock. Under the terms of the deal Steve Jobs will take a seat on the Disney board. Pixar President Ed Catmull will serve as president of the new Pixar/Disney animation studios (which I hope will be called “Dixnar”). Pixar’s creative lead, John Lasseter, will be chief creative officer of the animation studios, and will also be an adviser in the design of new attractions for Disney theme parks around the world. Lasseter will report directly to Disney CEO Bob Iger.
This is great news for Disney, who may finally begin making creative animation again, but bad news for Pixar as it’s creative process gets mired in the politics of a vast multinational entertainment corporation. I was always peeved that Disney co-opted the creative effort of all of the earlier Pixar movies. As distributor, they slapped their logo right up front of the movies and promotion. Their prominence in the Pixar product seemed disproportionate to their creative involvement. When it looked like the partnership was going to split after Cars, it would be the beginning of a lot of bad sequels, produced in-house at Disney to squeeze out some extra money of their properties. Anyone who was seen the TV series based on Toystory, knows that Disney doesn’t know when to stop when stretching a good idea too thin. The Adventures of Buzz Lightyear is even animated in 2d! It’s the same sloppy style as all of their movie to TV spinoffs.
Putting the Pixar people in high positions in the new studios is the only good news of the deal. But redirecting the failing ways of such a huge company is going to be an enormous and frustrating effort at best. It would be great if the Pixar name could live on in the merger. Not as a producer of big-budget, mass-market schlock, but as a semi-independent house that to keep creativity, story, and the heart alive.