It's official: Pixar
has concluded discussions to extend its long-term partnership with The Walt Disney Co., and will go its own way as a potential indie powerhouse with its own strong brand identity. The Emeryville, California-based CG animation studio still has two features to deliver to Disney: THE INCREDIBLES in 2004 and CARS in 2005, but is now free to continue negotiations for a distribution deal with another studio. Last August, Pixar chairman and ceo Steve Jobs initiated talks with Fox and Warner Bros.
Yet under the current agreement, Disney maintains the rights to develop and produce sequels to the current Pixar catalog on its own, and quickly announced that it is making TOY STORY 3. This would certainly benefit Disney shareholders into the foreseeable future. But Pixar severing ties with Disney also benefits the cause of ousted Disney founding family heir Roy Disney, who is mounting a public campaign to regain control of the studio. On Tuesday, Disney took his case to the stockholders urging them to vote against the reelection of chairman/ceo Michael Eisner.
"We have had a fantastic partnership with Pixar and wish Steve Jobs and the wonderfully creative team there, led by John Lasseter, much success in the future," said Eisner. "Although we would have enjoyed continuing our successful collaboration under mutually acceptable terms, Pixar understandably has chosen to go its own way to grow as an independent company."
Pixar reportedly was seeking a new deal with Disney that would've paid the studio a flat distribution fee under 10% and would include THE INCREDIBLES and CARS as well as future films.
"After 10 months of trying to strike a deal with Disney, we're moving on," Pixar ceo Steve Jobs said in a statement. "We've had a great run together - one of the most successful in Hollywood history - and it's a shame that Disney won't be participating in Pixar's future successes."
Tom Staggs, Disney sevp/cfo, said Disney management could not accept Pixar's final offer because it would have cost Disney hundreds of millions of dollars it is already entitled to under the existing agreement, while not providing sufficient incremental returns on new collaborations to justify the changes to the existing deal.
In addition to Pixar, the Walt Disney Studios has relationships with other emerging animation producing partners, including Vanguard Films, currently producing VALIANT, and San Francisco-based Complete Pandemonium, producing THE WILD in conjunction with CORE Technologies of Toronto.
Walt Disney Feature Animation will release HOME ON THE RANGE on April 2, 2004, featuring songs performed by Tim McGraw, Bonnie Raitt and k.d. lang. Currently in production is the all-CG CHICKEN LITTLE, which is scheduled for release in summer 2005. For summer 2006 and beyond, Feature Animation is producing more 3D movies: A DAY WITH WILBUR ROBINSON, based on the beloved William Joyce book; AMERICAN DOG, directed by Chris Sanders (LILO AND STITCH
); RAPUNZEL UNBRAIDED, directed by legendary Disney traditional animator Glen Keane; and the aforementioned TOY STORY 3. Disney also has an additional 20 animated features in active development