Disney, Reanimated

The merger between Disney and the Bay Area's Pixar will likely redraw the lines of the animation world, for better or for worse. Find...

After months of negotiation and years of speculation, Walt Disney Co. announced last week it would purchase the Emeryville-based Pixar for $6.3 billion in stock and another $1.1 billion in cash. Pixar, the computer-animation powerhouse behind a string of blockbuster movies, including The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and A Bug's Life, has won 15 Academy Awards since being founded in 1986 by Steve Jobs, Dr. Ed Catmull, and creative guru John Lassetter. With Jobs set to take the helm of Disney's board of directors, and Catmull and Lassetter poised to overhaul the company's staid animation operations, it would appear to be a boon time for the Bay Area's homegrown animation house. Although Disney and Pixar had an on-again, off-again distribution deal, the merger sent shock waves through the entertainment industry, as observers and analysts wondered whether the two very different companies would complement — or dilute — each other's best aspects. Are you an apologist for the Disney-Pixar deal? Take our quiz and find out!

1) One of the keys to Pixar's success has been its egalitarian working atmosphere, deliberately nurtured by Lassetter, wherein the lowest-rung animators are encouraged to share their views and creative input with the company's highest-level managers. Do you think Disney, a company built in the traditional model of hierarchical management, will be able to replicate Pixar's “hip” vibe?

A) Wait, doesn't the word “Disney” actually mean “boring and vaguely evil” now? I thought that had become official in the latest edition of the Webster's dictionary.

B) Animators who talk?!? I'm sorry, that's just not done. At Disney, we leave the talking to the make-believe critters.

C) Let me put it this way: Disney's idea of hip is an animated musical comedy starring a singing duck voiced by Joan Cusack. There's nowhere to go but up.

2) The San Francisco Chronicle described Pixar's Emeryville headquarters as “a prepubescent's paradise of foosball and pool tables, movie posters and cafeteria workers serving fun food.” Employees are also known to tool around on scooters through hallways filled with Chuck E. Cheese statues, and the company's “graduation” ceremonies involve workers dressing up in ridiculous cheerleading costumes. What do you think of Pixar's workplace?

A) Fun food?!? I don't even know what that means, and I'm jealous.

B) If it's a prepubescent's paradise, where are all the scantily clad female skiers? Oh, right — I didn't look in the break room.

C) I've said it before, and I'll say it again: All the coolest stuff happens in Emeryville.

3) Given Disney's long history of having a rigid corporate structure — employees who work in theme parks are required to shave their facial hair, and Walt Disney's homophobia evolved into a long-standing policy of not hiring gays — observers and analysts believe integration of the upstart Pixar will be the key to the merger's success. As Ramin Zahed, editor in chief of Animation Magazine, told Reuters: “The common feeling is that it's going to be Pixar affecting the Disney culture.” What do you think this means for Disney?

A) Looks like the ol' Mouse is gonna have to learn how to play some foosball. Game on!

B) More gay employees with beards … OK, so not that much will change for Disney.

C) Please. There's no way the Pixar folks are getting past the snipers.

4) One of Pixar's major charges in the merger is to re-energize interest in Disney's theme parks, many of which are languishing in the wake of the company's campaign to open amusement centers worldwide. What do you think Pixar, with its background in film, can do to increase attendance at Disney's theme parks?

A) Are you kidding? You couldn't save Euro Disney if you put a statue of a naked Minnie Mouse outside. (Bonus point for adding: “But it is the French we're talking about, so maybe give it a shot.”)

B) Just don't screw with the Jungle Boat ride. Or on it. We've all learned that painful lesson.

C) Here's my question: Is Michael Jackson happy or sad about this? Or has he long ago lost the capacity for human emotion?

5) What impact do you think the Disney-Pixar union will have on the animation industry, which many had feared would slowly die with the advent of computer-generated imagery?

A) OK, OK, we get it: Animators have lost many of their jobs to machines. Get in line, guys.

B) Hopefully we'll see fewer male heroes with square jaws, wavy hair, and stupid grins. And more sidekicks who employ vaguely sexual, subversive humor that only adults can truly appreciate.

C) My prediction: The Bay Area will become the center of animation in the world. And the movies will still be filled with stupid songs about finding yourself.

6) In the aftermath of the merger, Pixar CEO Steve Jobs (who also runs Apple) will become one of the most powerful figures in shaping the next generation of media. Do you think he will have too much on his plate to effectively transform Disney, or will he be an effective leader?

A) Hold on. I'm getting a text message from Steve Jobs that says I should check my e-mail to see how I should respond to that question. It also says he's just bought my wife and children.

B) I dunno … Michael Eisner set such a high bar for failure.

C) Are you kidding? Steve Jobs will be fine. The guy practically craps iPods. (Bonus point for adding: “OK, technically, he craps iDeas. But it's really the same thing.”)

7) The other key figure in the merger is Lassetter, the creative genius who modeled Pixar's initial setup and creative flow on what was in place during the golden age of Disney. The 49-year-old executive wears Hawaiian shirts at work, boasts an office full of windup toys, and has shown up at the Academy Awards in a Wienermobile. One of his favorite pastimes is visiting Disneyland. What role do you think he'll play in reanimating Disney?

A) Quitting in six months.

B) Wait a minute … how, exactly, are these people billionaires?

C) You know, someone with the class, prestige, and legacy of Walt Disney wouldn't be caught dead in a Wienermobile. He'd have to be thawed out first.

How to score:

Score zero points for every “A” answer, one point for every “B,” and two points for every “C.”

0-6 points: Here's hoping this isn't the end of creative animation as we know it … or, just let it die.

7-10 points: This just in — Michael Jackson is said to be ecstatic about the news. We think. Actually, let's just say he reacted “incoherently,” which these days is the closest he gets to joy.

11-14 points: Congratulations! You're a true apologist for the Pixar-Disney merger. And, yes, we're sure Disney animators will continue to draw characters' naughty parts that you can only see if you freeze-frame the DVD. Relax.

Tags: , , , ,

Related Stories