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