7.4-billion-dollar Disney-Pixar merger finalised

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The board of Pixar Animation approved its 7.4-billion-dollar acquisition by US entertainment behemoth Walt Disney Co., sealing a deal that reshapes the animated movie industry.

The much-touted deal, aimed at restoring Disney’s lustre as a leader in the animated film business, was completed just over three months after it was unveiled when the Pixar board approved the all-stock transaction.

Under the acquisition, Pixar becomes a wholly-owned unit of Disney and its chief executive Steve Jobs becomes Disney’s single largest shareholder with a stake of about seven percent and a seat on the Disney board.

Pixar is the San Francisco-area studio behind hits such as 2004’s “The Incredibles,” 2003’s underwater adventure “Finding Nemo,” 1995’s “Toy Story,” and “A Bug’s Life” from 1998.

Pixar shareholders can exchange each of their shares for 2.3 shares of Disney stock, according to a statement issued by Los Angeles-based Disney, which has shared a long development partnership with Jobs’ cutting edge firm.

“For the last 15 years, Disney and Pixar have shared one of the most successful partnerships in entertainment history,” said Disney president Robert Iger.

“From ‘Toy Story’ through ‘The Incredibles’, the success of these animated films was due to the creativity, innovation and immense talent of the phenomenal Pixar team, led by Steve, Ed (Catmull ) and John (Lasseter).”

Former Pixar president Catmull becomes president of the new Pixar and Disney animation studios, reporting to Iger and Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook, while Pixar executive vice president Lasseter becomes chief creative officer of the new studios.

Lasseter, the driving force behind Pixar projects including the upcoming Disney-Pixar movie “Cars,” will also serve as principal creative advisor at Walt Disney Imagineering, designing new attractions for Disney theme parks.

Disney and Pixar animation units will retain their current operations and locations, Iger said earlier, with Pixar coming under the Disney corporate umbrella.

“As we begin the next chapter, all of us at Disney are pleased to welcome the incredibly talented Pixar team to our Company to continue to create quality entertainment for audiences to enjoy around the world,” Iger said.

The completion of the acquisition was auspicious for Disney, coming just a month before the much vaunted partnership between Disney and Pixar was due to expire.

Disney has distributed Pixar’s films for 15 years, beginning with “Toy Story” in 1995 and went on to create a perfect record of six blockbuster hits out of six productions.

But in January 2004, Pixar announced it was pulling out of its Oscar-winning partnership with the creators of Mickey Mouse after negotiations to renew the deal broke down over Pixar’s demands for a bigger share in profits.

But since then Disney president Michael Eisner has moved on and the companies began merger talks amid fears in the market over Disney’s animation future after the end of the Pixar deal.



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