Pixar's Lasseter tapped for Walt Disney Imagineering

January 24, 2006, 5:22 PM · It's official: Forget a new distribution deal between Disney and Pixar. Disney's bought the digital animation studio instead, for $7.4 billion.

It's an all-stock deal that makes Pixar (and Apple Computer) CEO Steve Jobs Disney's largest individual stockholder. In addition, Pixar Executive Vice President John Lasseter will be become Chief Creative Officer of the newly combined Disney and Pixar animation studios.

But the biggest news to theme parks fans is that Lasseter will also become the Principal Creative Adviser at Walt Disney Imagineering, the arm of Disney which designs the company's theme park attractions.

Under Lasseter's creative vision, Pixar's become Hollywood's biggest ATM, spitting out one nine-figure hit after another, while earning widespread critical acclaim, too. WDI has lost significant clout in recent years, as Disney turned to less elaborately themed new attractions during the last years of the Michael Eisner regime.

Will Lasseter's new role at WDI lead to a theme park renaissance? Or is it just another honorific to sweeten a deal?

Stay tuned....

Replies (8)

January 24, 2006 at 10:52 PM · "Will Lasseter's new role at WDI lead to a theme park renaissance?"

Oh dear Lord in heaven I hope the answer to this question is a resounding YES!!

January 24, 2006 at 11:06 PM · Gentlemen, we have officially entered the post-Eisner era, and dad-gum, does the air smell fresh.
January 25, 2006 at 7:29 AM · Very exciting news! Besides adding new attractions to the parks, one hopes Mr. Lasseter will encourage improving the existing attractions as well. (Example: the Haunted Mansion at WDW).
January 25, 2006 at 8:05 AM · I Don't know specifically what impact Lassiter's position will have on new attractions in general, but here's my take. They're calling his position "principle creative advisor" correct. To me that means he has a say in how the Pixar characters are used in attractions. Since so many of the current new attractions are based on Pixar characters, that means that the guy who created them actually has some say in making sure they are good attractions and not crap with a cool character.

I think most of Lassiter's attention will be spent under his other new title, "cheif creative officer of the animation studio."

January 25, 2006 at 10:28 AM · I think Iger has really placed his stamp on Disney, and with not even a year at the helm. I thought for sure they would just sign Pixar to another distribution deal, but actually buying the company, and using their obviously superior creative forces throughout the company, Disney is poised to regain its status as family entertainment juggernaut.

Dreamworks Animation may have wished Speilberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen showed more interest in their product, because it's going to be really hard now for them to make it on their own, especially with every production company under the sun creating a computer animation division.

January 25, 2006 at 10:58 AM · Lasseter's creds certainly impress. He's got the right background -- Disneyland lover and former employee, accomplished visual storyteller, commercial and critical success -- for someone to provide the creative leadership to build parks that reset the standard.

At the same time, though, the existing Disney attraction his name is most closely attached to -- It's a Bug's Land at California Adventure -- is the worst collection of attractions ever installed at a Disney theme park. I'd argue that Tuck 'n Roll's is the worst theme park attraction ever built. I can't imagine that this failure was Lasseter's fault; it smells much more like an effort that got lawyered to death after being left in critical condition by Disney-ordered budget cuts. But that brings up the essential point: All of Lasseter's creative vision won't help the company if the suits don't give him the money and freedom he needs to make his, and his colleagues', vision reality.

January 26, 2006 at 3:40 PM · I think this is a smart move on Disney and Pixar's part, but I am not entirely sure how well Lasseter will do in that position. I mean I think he will do fine, but I don't think he would make a big turnaround in park attractions. In my opinion through all of this dark time for Disney, they have done pretty well with their parks! Disney World is still pushing the envelope even with big competition from Universal and Disneyland couldn't look better! I do hope Lasseter comes up with some good ideas! It would be interesting to see what new stuff comes to the parks now!
January 27, 2006 at 10:20 AM · With Mr. Lasseter's HUGE creative credibility, it would seem reasonable to assume that he will attract even more talented people into the Disney tent.

Add to this the fact that movie producer Scott Rudin is now working for Disney studios and the future looks very promising.

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