Since Sunday's announcement that the next Disney
I couldn't disagree more.
Pixar's leaving, folks. Get used to it. It doesn't need Disney. It has the golden brand, immaculate box-office track record, and clean balance sheet that Disney can no longer offer. Flip the mentor some Mentos and move on. Pixar has earned the right to collect all of the fruits of its computer-rendered labor, so why tithe to the mouse-eared deity?
The only reason that Pixar would come back would be to collect its belongings -- the rights to the six franchises that it delivered under Disney's watch. Disney would be nuts to box those up and heave them out the window.
Unless we're talking about Disney acquiring Pixar whole -- a move that wouldn't come cheap and would naturally require the blessing of its majority shareholder, Apple's
Under the terms of the deal -- which expires after Pixar delivers Cars next year -- Disney has the right to make as many sequels as it sees fit. Pixar has the right to participate in the sequel under the same 50/50 terms as the original, but Disney knows that Pixar is likely to decline on principle. It would then be due a much smaller passive royalty, and Disney would stand to reap riches if it is able to achieve even modest success.
It's not pretty. It's not romantic. Yet it's about as happy an ending as you're going to get out of this mutually degrading relationship.
A marriage of convenience
What? You still think that Disney and Pixar could make this work? OK, show me the terms behind the handshake. Suppose they were to broker a new deal. Say Disney and Pixar split another five movies, with Disney taking in 20% of the profits above its distribution fees, and in turn, Pixar gets the rights to its existing film properties. Would it work? No. Both parties would lose.
Play with the percentages -- or the number of films to be delivered -- as you must, and you will realize that there is no happy medium in this hostage exchange. After watching Bambi move a million copies in one day earlier this month, Disney knows that owning a winning franchise can still pay off some 63 years later. Giving that up for a deal that would ultimately find the company at the same fork in the road -- only next time naked -- would be disastrous. Iger may don glasses from time to time, but that doesn't mean he is shortsighted.
Meanwhile, the recent animated feature successes that DreamWorks Animation
Pixar and Disney were never in love. It was a relationship based solely on convenience that eventually dissolved into jealousy, adultery, and a really bad prom picture. The sooner you realize that, the quicker you can toss that heart-shaped scrapbook into the imaginary embers of a fire that never burned.
Eye of the Iger
So if chasing Pixar is pointless, what should Iger do? He's in a pretty sweet spot right now. ABC is rolling along nicely for a change. The theme parks should do well, thanks to the chain-wide Disneyland anniversary celebration. Yet all of that will be discounted as the favorable tailwind that Michael Eisner left behind. If Iger expects to last for more than a few token years, he has to obliterate the mold.
In other words, he has to take that first step forward by taking two steps backwards. Did I lose you? Don't worry, I'm right behind you.
In our newsletter space, Rule Breakers represent exciting growth stocks that are challenging today's conventions by staring them down with tomorrow's eyes. Iger needs to do the exact same thing by embracing the company's past.
Iger has proved that he can turn a broadcasting network around. That's why he needs to excel elsewhere -- and do so by distancing himself from Michael Eisner's mixed tenure. That means two things: Revive the in-house animation studio, and commit to stocking Disney's theme parks with new E-ticket attractions. If he can fix Disney's California Adventure and grow Animal Kingdom to more than just a half-day park, he will be making a statement. If he can restore Disney's legacy in animation to the point where it is creating classics again -- the type that will still hold true 63 years later -- Iger will be laying down an exclamation point at the end of that statement.
That would be great because, right now, all we have are question marks.
Some more related headlines:
- Bambi sure knows how to run.
- Meg shouldn't have turned the CEO gig down if it was offered.
- Disneyland's 50th anniversary has the makings of a great year for Disney.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has owned shares of Disney since the 1980s and is at the parks often. He also owns shares of Pixar. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.