Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Hawaiian Shirt and the Mouse Ears

This NYT article on Disney and Pixar, ostensibly about how the two recently joined companies are total BFFs, is unintentionally funny and sad in equal measure. Brooks Barnes quickly slides past pre-merger worries that "either Disney would trample Pixar’s esprit de corps (turning Mr. Lasseter into a drone, chanting “Hi Ho” en route to Mickey’s animation mines) or that Pixar animators would act like spoiled brats and rebuke their new owner." Then he reveals how "Pixar has matured, allowing its strategic thinking to evolve inside a sprawling corporation":

For instance, some of the studio’s executives once resisted sequels and direct-to-DVD efforts, arguing that quality and the brand could suffer. While sequels were not out of the question, they said Pixar’s hot streak hinged on pushing boundaries with original material.

But at Mr. Lasseter’s presentation in April, Disney’s first such event in 10 years, he announced “Cars 2,” a 2012 sequel that will take Lightning McQueen and his pals on a tour of foreign countries. Also in the works are four direct-to-DVD movies built around Tinker Bell...

And the Pixar team, which also has oversight of Walt Disney Animation Studios and the DVD-focused DisneyToon Studios, decided that it was O.K. to outsource some direct-to-DVD animation to an Indian company, a departure from its rigid stance that outside animators could not deliver the necessary quality. (Mr. Lasseter will still closely monitor the efforts, however.)

What were those ne'er-do-wells worried about? That Disney would strongarm Pixar into the same short-term profit-extracting strategies that ultimately crushed both the art and the profit from its own once-mighty animation studio? How "immature."

At least Pixar has managed to extract some key concessions from its parent company:
[I]n the Pixar acquisition, Disney, despite its legendary corporate identity and strong will, held back. Pixar kept its e-mail system. Nobody was shipped to Walt Disney World in Florida to work a shift, part of the initiation that other executives must endure. No switchboard operators at Pixar were asked to end telephone calls with the words “Have a magical day,” as they do elsewhere in the company.

And, of course, Mr. Lasseter continued to wear whatever he wanted, Hawaiian shirts and all.

Let's keep our eyes on what's really important, after all.

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