The BLOGFlume—Hot Hot Hot!!

Disney moving closer to a Pixar deal, Roy and Stanley's lawsuit moves forward, and Diller bows out at Universal.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: June 8, 2005 at 9:27 PM

It seems that my air conditioner has decided to die at the most inopportune time as the DC area has finally reached 90 degrees for the first time this summer. Not to mention, I had the wonderful privilege of attending the Indigo Girls concert with my wife, I love her so much, so my train of thought may get derailed a few times during this week’s edition of the BLOGFlume…

Pixar Back?
CNN 6/8/05

Don’t sound the trumpets quite yet, but Robert Iger is reporting that recent talks with Pixar have been “good.” Whether this means that Disney will resolve their differences with the computer animation giant, or Pixar will choose to go their own way is unclear right now, but things are looking good in the house of mouse to perhaps bring the highly successful collaboration back together for the long term. Granted, the fact that the two companies are even talking is good news considering the bad blood that has been brewing over the end of the contract, and the likelihood of Disney sequels of Pixar films coming in the next few years. While I don’t think the two companies necessarily need each other to survive, the two obviously have a synergy that has spawned a number of contemporary classics. From Toy Story to The Incredibles, the Disney/Pixar partnership has been as close to “golden” as you can get, and keeping the two together for future endeavors benefits both companies. Not only do the two stand to gain lucrative marketing deals that can only come about through the partnership, but the presence of Pixar characters in the Disney parks is invaluable to the Pixar brand, and a presence I think that Steve Jobs sees as crucial to the success of the animation company. The only sticking point is how much of the properties Pixar will still own, and how much creative control Pixar will have on the likely franchises that will be created from just about every Disney/Pixar theatrical release. It’s pretty clear to me that the two are a perfect fit for each other, it’s just a matter of the two sides coming together and realizing it for themselves, and putting aside some monetary difficulties to realize the success that the partnership will garner in the years and decades to come.

Push Back
CNN 6/7/05

While Disney has some good news coming from the talks with Pixar, the lawsuits filed by former board members Stanley Gold and Roy Disney have gotten increasingly worse. A complicated filing in a Delaware court accuses the Walt Disney Company of fraud and breach of disclosure. It seems that Roy and Stanley seem to think that they are in control, and can pick whomever they want to lead the Walt Disney Company. Despite some positive statements made toward the selection of Robert Iger to head the company through the next decade, Disney and Gold just will not be happy unless they can control the path of the company. The two have somehow been successful in progressing lawsuits through the courts, but have yet to reach a meaningful decision. I’m not really sure what they’re trying to accomplish, other than taking over the company from the outside, since most of the primary stockholders seem to be pleased with the promotion of Iger to the top position within the company. I see nothing wrong with his ascent to the Disney throne, and actually feel that his experience from running ABC will be important in keeping the entertainment giant moving forward for a number of years to come. While he may not have experience in running theme parks, Iger sure does know how to run a business, and his decisions made so far, aside from the Monday Night Football debacle, are good for the Walt Disney Company. No, Iger was not hand-picked by the Gold/Disney team, but I think his experience and drive are well suited to achieve the long term financial goals that have been set before him.

Diller Done
Reuters 6/8/05

It looks like Barry Diller is done with Universal, and has sold his stake in Vivendi for $3.4 billion. This consolidates ownership of Universal Entertainment, now primarily owned by GE. While the exact details of the transaction have yet to be unveiled, this means that NBC/Universal will be soon transferred almost completely to GE, and can be more easily managed under one entertainment arm of the company. By 2007, complete control of the entertainment conglomerate will be managed under one company, allowing it to be streamlined. Universal has already seen some influence from its new partner NBC, with the recent debut of Fear Factor Live at the Universal parks, and one would expect crossovers to continue. The Universal brand is a powerful commodity, especially in the movie industry, and when its management is consolidated, it will most likely come out even stronger. NBC and Universal will be able to share resources, and cross-pollinate entertainment offerings between theme parks, theaters, and television. It’s still unsure who is going to head up this new entertainment giant, but if it’s managed the right way, I cannot see anything but success in the future for Universal.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on June 9, 2005 at 8:04 AM
Pixar and Disney need each other! It seems that Disney supports Pixar with money and Pixar brings out the good ideas! In my opinion, there has yet to be a bad Pixar movie. If you think of it, every movie made has had some type of attraction in the parks! This is very good for both parties. I hope they come back together!
From Kevin Baxter on June 10, 2005 at 1:32 AM
Disney only paid for half the movies, something cash-rich Pixar no longer needs. While I believe having Pixar in the theme parks is a necessity - WHATEVER theme parks those be - Pixar doesn't need Disney as much as Disney needs Pixar... at least until Pixar's first bomb. Pixar DOES need to make a deal so Disney doesn't ruin them with awful sequels to Pixar's films, and Disney needs to make a deal because you know they need all the creativity they can get. But apart from that, Pixar will be Number One or Number Two in the animation market with or without Disney, whereas Disney will do no better than Number Three or Number Four. Though they have no creative input into the Pixar films, they still need people to think they do.
From TH Creative on June 10, 2005 at 4:52 AM
Incidently, if Mr. Iger and Mr. Jobs successfully negotiate a contract, it will mean that Roy "Fredo" Disney ("You can't fire me! I quit!") and Stan Gold will now and forever be on the outside looking in.

So long, suckers!

From TH Creative on June 10, 2005 at 7:02 AM
Regardless of who needs who, I hope Disney does not make the mistake of giving away the store just to ink a deal with Pixar. Consider the words of Dennis McAlpine, president of McAlpine Associates in Scarsdale, N.Y.: "In the conversations that Pixar and Disney had before, the bombshell was not that they hated Eisner; Jobs is a little bit above that. But the terms were economically so bad for Disney that they wouldn't do it.”

This comment actually echoes what Mr. Eisner asserted at a media conference before the 2004 shareholders meeting: “If you saw the deal we were offering, you’d be killing me right now.”

One would hope that Robert Iger won’t make the mistake of signing up Pixar without securing a healthy share of the profits. After all, it’s Disney who is suddenly finding itself with a lot of creative potential. They have expanded into computer animation with ‘Chicken Little.’ They have contracted Scott Rudin to begin producing films next fall -- proving that no studio has a monopoly on creativity (Rudin jumped ship from Paramount). They have a new face at the helm of the company who has demonstrated he can attract creative people into the fold -- including a suddenly receptive Steve Jobs. They have a potential franchise in ‘Narnia’ -- check out the trailer (Wow!).

And, as Mr. Baxter himself notes, Disney does not “need” Pixar to make sequels to ‘Toy Story,’ ‘Monsters Inc.,’ ‘Finding Nemo’ or ‘The Incredibles.’ That’s four films based on proven franchises. Certainly Mr. Baxter has made a reasonable assertion (several times) that these sequels won’t boast Pixar’s creative polish. But it is certainly unreasonable to assert that Disney won’t bank millions off these films.

Then again, despite their reputation for being such creative storytellers, it should be noted the last Pixar flick (‘The Incredibles’) “borrowed” a lot of content from previous concepts. And, let’s face it, the trailer for ‘Cars’ looks like a Chevron commercial.

From Kevin Baxter on June 12, 2005 at 2:02 AM
Of course Disney could make millions off doing the sequels themselves. They made millions off all the crapass sequels they made to their own classic films? But are you so obsessed with the shareholder side of things that you don't give a rat's ass about the creative side? That's the side 99% of us on this site are interested in. While I would agree that The Incredibles was extremely unoriginal, I'd still take that over any animated film Disney has done in the past decade.

Of course the deal Pixar previously wanted was insane, but who was in the power position? When you are in that position, you ask for the moon, stars and sun and smile delightedly when the other side "only" hands over the moon and stars. This was all done for the media, who was clearly on Pixar's side. And what was Eisner's oh-so-intelligent reaction? "Fine, we'll make sequels to YOUR movies!" When threatening your opponent with your extreme crappiness is your only bargaining chip, your ass is in trouble.

As things stand now, the only thing Disney can lose in a deal is ownership of those previous films. But what could they get in return? Licensing fees? I'd have to think that the sales of Toy Story merchandise at the 100% rate would make Disney more money in the future than future sales of those films at the current rate of 50%. And what about licensing future Pixar films? Or future Pixar attractions in their parks?

Regardless of who wins between the two companies, WE are the ones who benefit if Pixar is the only one making sequels and Disney sells us their stuff.

From TH Creative on June 12, 2005 at 3:05 PM
Whatever you say Kevin (Insert, eye roll). Whatever you say.
From Kevin Baxter on June 13, 2005 at 12:51 AM
Excellent response, proving I am right. AGAIN.
From TH Creative on June 13, 2005 at 8:26 AM
As long as you're happy, Mr. B. :o)
From Ben Mills on June 13, 2005 at 11:29 AM
Ben Mills!
From Kevin Baxter on June 13, 2005 at 3:26 PM
Okay, that could be either "Steve Holt!" or "Denny Crane"... either works for me! LOL
From Ben Mills on June 13, 2005 at 3:48 PM
Tee hee...the Shat!

I was thinking more "Donkey!" but there ya go.

Speaking of all that, is BL gonna get a second season? I've heard bad things about its future, but not sure if I can cope with my weekly dose of Spader and co!

From Kevin Baxter on June 14, 2005 at 4:09 AM
Okay, I KNOW you read my endless television column since you are the ONLY one that responded. Boston Legal is ABC's fifth-highest-rated show, if you ignore football. Even higher than Alias. It was Top 30, which means HIT, nowadays. Suddenly useless Rhona Mitra and the horrible Monica Potter will be gone a few eps in (they still have five left from this season) and Ed's Julie Bowen will be added. Which is weird because now that the show isn't on after Housewives, they shouldn't need to girlie it up more - Bergen, Betty White and Kerry Washington were great additions to the useless chick brigade the show had before - but apparently David E Kelly has more Ally McBeal left in him! Perish that thought!

Didja get the Steve Holt reference?

From Ben Mills on June 14, 2005 at 6:11 AM
Yes, although it was a long time ago that I saw the episode, and it took some thinking. That's the one where they're in the school play, right?
From Kevin Baxter on June 15, 2005 at 2:00 AM
Well, that was an early ep. Didja see the one where Maeby told him her mom was really a man, and she thought his "interest" in her was sexual? That was a good one.

Wow, are we on topic on ANY of these columns???

From Ben Mills on June 16, 2005 at 2:33 PM
No, and, err... no. But then again, we ain't called "Tangents Please Immensely" for no reason. Tee hee.
From Kevin Baxter on June 17, 2005 at 2:06 AM
Tangents Please IMMEDIATELY. Considering this one went off the track faster than Big Thunder!
From TH Creative on June 18, 2005 at 1:44 PM
Did you say "thunder?" How appropriste during hurricane season. Which brings us to Jim Cantore -- is there a better weather dude any place on earth?

Top 10 Attendance

  1. Magic Kingdom
  2. Disneyland
  3. Tokyo Disneyland
  4. Universal Studios Japan
  5. Tokyo DisneySea
  6. Epcot
  7. Disney's Animal Kingdom
  8. Disney's Hollywood Studios
  9. Universal Studios Florida
  10. Islands of Adventure