Forget last night's stellar earnings report from Pixar(Nasdaq: PIXR). You already knew the company would blow past analysts' earnings projections of $0.22 a share. In fact, it lapped that mark by just over 40%. But what else would you expect from a company that's beat the Street by an average of 36% over the past year and a half?

Last year, Pixar cashed in on the DVD and video release riches of its smash hit Monsters, Inc., but that's all in the past. The bigger question is where does the animation giant go from here?

Since the success of 1995's Toy Story, Pixar has been splitting the profits of its animated feature films with Disney(NYSE: DIS). While it has to deliver three more films under the terms of the deal, Pixar has already started talking to other studios in case Disney doesn't sweeten their 50-50 arrangement.

You can't blame Pixar. Its four theatrical releases have been trend-setting blockbusters. Meanwhile, Disney's animated film division is sputtering, with hits more rare than misses these days. Like a couple heading for a break, both companies have already started seeing other people. Disney has teamed up with a cheaper studio that specializes in computer-rendered animation, while Pixar is looking for a distributor that won't stick its fingers into the profits.

Pixar can officially shop for a new deal after handing over its spring release of Finding Nemo to Disney -- a mixed blessing. Yes, the company can finally land the payday it deserves, but what if the studio proves mortal, and Finding Nemo becomes its first dud?

Pixar already projects flat earnings growth, unless Nemo exceeds what Monsters made. That won't be easy, which has analysts scrambling to lower their 2003 profit targets. Between uncertain earnings in the near term and an uncertain distribution partner in the long term, investors don't like to be left hanging.

While Buzz Lightyear spread his wings and aimed for infinity and beyond, the market would much rather have a sure thing that is finite and within reach.