Will Pixar Bring Magic Back to the Magic Kingdom?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 | 05:30 AM
in Film

If you missed it on Sunday, there was a terrific article on the very different way Pixar does Business in the NYT:

"Since 1995, with the release of "Toy Story," Pixar's films have reinvented the art of animation, won 19 Academy Awards and grossed more than $3 billion at the box office. But the secret to the success of Pixar Animation Studios is its utterly distinctive approach to the workplace. The company doesn't just make films that perform better than standard fare. It also makes its films differently — and, in the process, defies many familiar, and dysfunctional, industry conventions. Pixar has become the envy of Hollywood because it never went Hollywood.

More than a few business pundits have drawn parallels between the flat, decentralized "corporation of the future" and the ad-hoc collection of actors, producers and technicians that come together around a film and disband once it is finished. In the Hollywood model, the energy and investment revolves around the big idea — the script — and the fine print of the deal. Highly talented people agree to terms, do their jobs, and move on to the next project. The model allows for maximum flexibility, to be sure, but it inspires minimum loyalty and endless jockeying for advantage.

Turn that model on its head and you get the Pixar version: a tightknit company of long-term collaborators who stick together, learn from one another and strive to improve with every production. Consider the case of Brad Bird, writer and director of "The Incredibles," who spent the first decades of his career shuttling around the business as an ever-promising, never-quite-recognized animator. (He worked on "The Simpsons" and directed one feature, the critically acclaimed but commercial dud, "Iron Giant.") When Pixar recruited him, Mr. Bird went to work immediately on "The Incredibles," which went on to win two Academy Awards and a nomination for best original screenplay."

Given that most mergers are unsuccessful -- at least when measured by how much value they create for shareholders -- the big question is not whether Disney can integrate Pixar into their corporate culture, but vice-versa:  Can Disney adapt Pixar's looser style and methods to their other creative departments; can they port that formula within the company?

There are definitely risks: The upside is bringing some magic back to the Magic Kingdom; the downside is killing a terrific franchise.


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Source:

How Pixar Adds a New School of Thought to Disney
WILLIAM C. TAYLOR and POLLY LaBARRE
NYT, January 29, 2006
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/29/business/yourmoney/29pixar.html

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 | 05:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
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Pixar will do fine right up to the time that Steve Jobs' eye wanders toward his next big project. Once he leaves the animators alone to fight the Magic Kingdom bureaucracy, quality will decline.

Disney better bust its butt to keep those animators happy. They must realize that startup costs for the next Pixar are minimal. In this business its not a matter of owning the equipment or the process, but rather a matter of keeping the talent happy. This is where Eisner failed so miserably.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jan 31, 2006 8:18:21 AM

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