Do you mean if Pixar and Disney had parted ways after their initial distribution deal ended, or if Pixar had been on their own from the start?
When Disney and Pixar were having their differences, and it seemed Pixar would join with another studio, the Pixar brand was firmly established. I think they'd have continued to do extremely well, esspecially since Disney's own animated offerings at the time were average at best.
I don't think we would care quite as much about Pixar if they had parted ways with Disney. There's still something special about the Disney brand, and the way the Pixar films are integrated into the parks certainly add to their specialness, even if you think that Pixar is over-represented in the parks.
Who knows how I'd feel about Pixar had they never been associated with Disney. The first Toy Story was a success in part because of Disney's contributions to the story development, the marketing, etc. Without Disney guiding them through their initial years, they may not have become the animation powerhouse they are today, but there's no way of knowing.
I would look at them like DreamWorks. I see the movies and think their pretty good but that's all, I don't collect merchandise or discuss it much or anything, but like Pixar now since it's owned by Disney and in the Parks, I collect stuff and love talking about it, etc.
Yes, I would still be just as interested in them. While Pixar in many way grew out of Disney traditions, to me, their films have their own unique "Pixar" feel to them.
HOWEVER - If Disney hadn't distributed Toy Story in the first place, I probably wouldn't have been as interested in Pixar back in 1995.
Also, if Pixar was purchased by another studio that forced them to change in such a way that I no longer enjoyed their films...well, I actually would probably still be interested in them, the way I remained interested in Disney through junk like Home on the Range and The Wild.
What I really wonder is, what would have happened if Pixar went independant, set up their own live-action department, and eventually built their own theme parks. What would they have been like?
The one thing I would miss is the castle logo at the beginning of the film, with "When You Wish Upon a Star" playing. That gets me emotional every time .
...If Disney didn't own Pixar. Would we still be as interested in the films as we all are now?
I might actually prefer it. Then questions like this of whether or not Pixar can stand on its own merits would not exist. I appreciate the contributions of the artists and creatives who've collaborated with Disney over the years. I honestly respect animation artists like Michel Ocelot or Miyazaki Hayao more, because they are always nurturing a vision and a story - not a "franchise." But they also don't make as much pointless stuff for me to buy (and throw away). Ultimately, if I'm honest with myself, the draw of the Disney machine is precisely the thing I hate about it: merchandising as experience and collecting as achievement. Disney is like smoking (and I'm a chain smoker!). I know it's bad for me and I know the satisfaction I feel from is even worse than the addiction itself, but it is an enjoyable illusion.
Still the "brand" means very little good to me, and carries a whole lot of negative baggage about consumerism, cultural insensitivity/irresponsibility and manufactured desire/need/satisfaction/happiness. Pixar doesn't have that...yet. I still can't figure out why, but I still see Pixar as artists fundamentally; while I see Disney as fundamentally corporate. Creative storytellers vs. sheep-herding accountants. And yet I Duffy - the absolute epitome of Disney branding and wanton consumption. Go figure.
With films like UP* WALL-E**, one wonders if Pixar wasn't owned by Disney, whether perhaps the marketing approach would be different. Perhaps less wasteful, trendy and manipulative. Perhaps smaller in scale and more exacting in quality and the endurance of value. One hopes.
*unapologetically not about pushing kids to ask parents to buy more crap no one needs!...I can say this because I do it, too!^^
**despite its tragically ironic overindulgent merchandising bonanza
I'm having the sudden revelation that Pixar being owned by Disney makes me think of the Pixar studio as creators and attribute all the overmarketing to "old habits" of the WDC, which now seems fresh and new because of the infusion of Pixar...tricky, tricky. And very effective. Even as I see it in print, I don't stop feeling that way. Tricky, tricky. You gotta admire their genius!^^