Pixar, Disney Trade Barbs Over Failed Partnership
By Peter Henderson and Bob Tourtellotte
Thursday, February 5, 2004; 3:08 AM
LOS ANGELES - Talk about some animated finger pointing.
Pixar Animation Studios Inc. chief Steve Jobs blasted his former film partner, The Walt Disney Co.,
Wednesday saying recent Disney animated films had bombed at the box office and questioned Disney chief Michael Eisner's movie sense.
Disney fired back in its own statement late in the afternoon saying it was saddened by Jobs' statements, which it called a mischaracterization of their relationship.
Late last week, the pair of animated movie giants -- Pixar and Disney -- ended talks on renewing a long-running film pact that yielded a string of five movie hits dating back to 1995's "Toy Story" and peaking at last year's $850 million global box office wonder "Finding Nemo".
In a conference call with financial analysts and reporters, Jobs said he walked away from the negotiating table because Disney would not agree to give Pixar full ownership of "Incredibles" and "Cars," the last two movies in the companies' current contract.
In an attempt to anticipate investor concerns, Pixar Chief Financial Officer Ann Mather asked Jobs several key questions, including whether losing Disney's marketing prowess would hurt Pixar's future films. Jobs said he did not think so.
DISNEY SEQUELS MAKE JOBS "SICK"
"Not even Disney's marketing and brand could turn Disney's last two animated films, 'Treasure Planet' and Brother Bear" into successes. Both bombed at the box office," Jobs said.
Disney has retained the rights to make a sequel to "Toy Story," and could possibly make sequels of the other movies that resulted from their collaborations.
"We feel sick about Disney doing sequels because if you look at the quality of their sequels, like 'The Lion King 1-1/2,' 'Peter Pan' sequels and stuff, it is pretty embarrassing," Jobs said, adding there had been "little creative collaboration" with Disney on the Pixar films for years.
Jobs also read from a 2003 Los Angeles Times article citing people familiar with the matter as saying Disney Chief Executive and Chairman Michael Eisner told his board "not to expect a blockbuster" from "Nemo," and that quoted Eisner as saying Pixar, "may be headed for a reality check."
"We've been told the same story by several folks at Disney. As you know things turned out a little different," Jobs said.
During the call, Jobs praised Walt Disney Studios head Dick Cook, but did not speak of Eisner in the same way. He said he and other executives were "sad" to move on and that top Pixar executives love "the original spirit of Disney."
For its part, Disney released a statement saying "it is unfortunate Steve Jobs has grossly mischaracterized" the negotiations.
"It's also sad and unfortunate that he has resorted to insults and name-calling in the wake of the disagreement. We expected better of him," the Disney statement said.
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