Stakes high in Disney-Pixar talks
By Claudia Eller
Los Angeles Times
HOLLYWOOD Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner is straining to make or break a deal with Pixar Animation Studios by the time the Burbank-based entertainment giant's board meets at month's end.
The difficult bargaining, under way for the past two weeks, finds Disney and its key animation supplier far apart on main issues, according to people familiar with the talks. Open points include financial terms, whether productions that are under way would be swept into the new agreement, and how Disney would coordinate the release dates of its animated films with Pixar-supplied movies in it would no longer have ownership under a new deal, the insiders said.
The stakes are unusually high: Pixar-produced films, including "Finding Nemo" and "Monsters, Inc." have generated more than $1 billion in total profit for the partners and accounted for about half of Disney Studios' operating profit in recent years.
Eisner hopes to get his board, which is scheduled to meet on Sept. 23, to approve a financial arrangement that would continue his company's 12-year alliance with Emeryville, Calif.-based Pixar or to endorse a breakoff that would leave Pixar and its chairman, Steve Jobs, free to find a new Hollywood partner.
Both companies declined to comment on the discussions. But Disney insiders have made clear that their willingness to concede ground has limits notwithstanding Pixar's extraordinary string of five consecutive hits, beginning with the release of "Toy Story" in 1995.