This all sounds pretty darn cool to me:
By Paul Bond of The Hollywood Reporter
Get ready for more rides based on animated Disney characters that have yet to be seen -- and having them up and running at the company's theme parks within two months of the corresponding film's release.
John Lasseter, soon to be the Walt Disney Co.'s creative head of Imagineering, unveiled his quicker movie-to-ride timeline Friday at the company's first shareholder's meeting under CEO Robert Iger.
The event, at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim near Disneyland, was a happier affair than the past two, when former CEO Michael Eisner was under the intense scrutiny of disgruntled shareholders.
In contrast, Friday's affair was free of controversy, save for a shareholder question put to Iger about whether the company would ever put the cartoon classic "Song of the South" on DVD. Iger responded that, given the film's stereotypical portrayal of African-Americans, it wasn't a good idea.
Disney said in January that it would buy Pixar for $7.4 billion, giving control of Disney's animation studio to Pixar president Ed Catmull while Lasseter becomes chief creative officer.
Of his new role at Imagineering, where Disney rides are conceived, Lasseter said: "I never understood why you wouldn't start designing a ride when you start making a film, so two months after a film comes out you have a ride."
Along those lines, Iger stressed the importance of the Pixar acquisition and of animation in general, calling it "our biggest wave-maker."
The ripples of animation "can be profound," he said. "They can be felt across all of our businesses. Animation is not just our legacy, it's vital to this company and its future."
Disney's animated characters, Iger said, "become part of our culture. That's why they create so much value."
Disney chief financial officer Tom Staggs said that the Disney-Pixar merger should close in late April or May.
Meanwhile, board chairman George Mitchell, who was under fire at recent shareholders' meetings, was easily re-elected this time, and he plans to retire at the end of his one-year term.
Disney is still seeking a replacement, and there is speculation that Steve Jobs, who will be a Disney board member and the company's largest shareholder after the Disney-Pixar merger closes, is being considered. Iger, though, dismissed such a notion before Friday's meeting when he told a reporter that Jobs has not even expressed a desire to be Disney's chairman.
Jobs, who is CEO of Pixar and iTunes parent Apple Computer, was not at Friday's meeting, though his name received rousing applause when Mitchell said he would soon be a board member. Shareholders also cheered enthusiastically for Lasseter.
"I am so proud to be part of this company ... again," said Lasseter, who was a Disney animator before joining Pixar and directing or executive producing the megahits "Toy Story," "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles."
He told of the early days of Pixar, a company named by Jobs after buying it from George Lucas.
"For the first 10 years we lost a lot of Steve's money," Lasseter recalled. He showed a clip from the upcoming "Cars," a movie he said he has been working on since 1999 and is a labor of love because his father used to manage a car sales lot.
Lasseter confided that, when he first learned that Disney wanted to buy Pixar, it didn't sit well with him -- until he got to know Iger. "Ladies and gentlemen, you are led by a great man," Lasseter said.
Shareholders elected all 13 directors with a minimum of 94% support for each, another sharp contrast to recent meetings, one of which had shareholders withholding 45% of their votes for Eisner's re-election to the board.
Iger said that ABC television shows, some of which are for sale via download at iTunes, would be offered for free viewing with commercials at ABC.com.
"The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo," Iger said, promising that Disney would aggressively embrace digital technologies.
The CEO even offered ESPN video cell phones, available for purchase for a few months now, at a 10% discount to the shareholders present at Friday's meeting.