(Put my money on the other guy.)BY BERT EHRMANN
Earlier this year contractual negotiations between Disney and Pixar broke down leading to a split between these two companies. Pixar will find another company to partner with to distribute their films and Disney will open a competing 3D animation studio to produce Disney features.
What Disney has done by letting Pixar go is kill the goose that lays golden eggs, serve it up for dinner, and then decide to make their own golden egg laying goose out of tin cans and old bottles of Sprite. (Hint, this won't work.)
If you're unfamiliar with the relationship between Disney and Pixar, here's a low-down. Pixar is the company behind hit animated movies like the Toy Story series and last year's mega-uber-big-hit Finding Nemo. Disney is the company that makes non-hit animated movies like Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet while being a corporation that's so large it puts many eastern European models of government to shame.
The original deal between Disney and Pixar can be traced back to Pixar's first movie, Toy Story. The agreement stated that Pixar would create 3D animated movies while Disney would distribute and market them worldwide. These two companies would then share in the monies that these movies made at the box office. Best of all for Disney, they would also retain the rights to any and characters created by Pixar. (More on that later.) That's why when people visit Disneyland they see Buzz Lightyear and Nemo, but Buzz and Nemo are lacking from Pixarland. These characters are as Disney owned as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. (Okay I admit it; there is no "Pixarland". I've made it up. But trust me, if it were real Pixarland would be THE place to vacation!) Pixar delivered hit after hit earning both companies a lot of money.
Pixar's Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monster's Inc., and Finding Nemo have made a combined total of something like 1.8 billion dollars at the box office. Say it with me now, "$1.8 billion." That's a lot of money in anyone's book. And when you're running a country, errr, I mean company as large as Disney this is a meaty sum indeed. (This amount of money is known as "A heck of a lot of money" in Disney corporate speak parlance.)
The box office receipts of Disney's last five animated movies; The Emperor's New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Lilo & Stitch, Treasure Planet, and Brother Bear is something like the relatively low sum of just a bit more than $440 million dollars. To put that number in perspective, Pixar's last two movies have earned a combined total of more than Disney's last five.
And a few of these Disney movies have even been duds, something a Pixar movie has never been categorized as. Think about it this way; are you familiar with Pixar's Toy Story and Finding Nemo? Are you familiar with Disney's The Emperor's New Groove or Treasure Planet? (Besides, what kind of kid would even want to go see The Emperor's New Groove, doomed to failure with the dumbest movie title of all time?)
Now it's been reported that Disney will push ahead on making Toy Story 3 without Pixar's involvement. (Remember, Disney owns the rights to the characters, not Pixar.) I suppose some Disney executive is looking at the grosses to the last Toy Story, a bit more than $240 million, and is drooling over what Toy Story 3 will make. I can hear the conversation now, "How can we go wrong? It's a guaranteed hit!"
Except it won't be.
Those Disney executives are forgetting one thing; although they own the characters they don't own the creative team that made the movies hits.
That's the thing that Disney consistently forgets. People have to sit down and make these movies. People like Andrew Stanton, John Lasseter, and Lee Unkrich who have written, directed, and/or co-directed all of Pixar's movies.
Not the lot of nine people who have directed Disney's last five animated features.
Again, have you heard of Pixar's John Lasseter? Probably. Have you heard of Disney's Ron Clements? Probably not.
Disney is so "gung-ho" about making 3D movies that they have closed most of their 2D animation studios to focus strictly on 3D work. Disney feels that since they aren't making money on 2D animated features they can make money on 3D features since everyone else is. Disney must be assuming that people would have flocked to The Emperor's New Groove if it would have only been made in 3D rather than 2D.
Movies don't improve just by switching formats they were made in. Would last year's flop Gigli have been a hit if it were animated in 3D rather than shot on location with actors? No way. Bad movies are bad movies no matter what the format.
Even though Disney and Pixar are going to go their separate ways, these two companies are still partnered up through Pixar's next two movies. The split won't occur until 2005 at the earliest. So for a while at least the cash cow that is Pixar to Disney will still be delivering the goods.
But some day in '05 it won't be. Disney will be out there all alone making their own 3D movies without Pixar's help. And that day Disney will learn that it takes more than just having the rights to a bunch of talking toys to make a hit movie.