IT has been a cinematic partnerships to rival Laurel and Hardy, Fred and Ginger, Yoda and Vader. But like many a Hollywood double act, the off-screen relationship between Walt Disney and Pixar has been fiery, full of jealousies and perceived slights. Both sides are working hard to keep things together but in the next month it could all be over — and both sides have much to lose.
In six computer-animated films Pixar has created a universe of characters to sit alongside Disney’s classics. Since 1995, when Pixar and Disney released their first joint venture, Toy Story, the high-tech studio has seemed unable to put a foot wrong.
NI_MPU('middle');Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc, Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles — each successive Pixar film has earned more money in a record run that, film for film, makes Pixar one the most successful studios of all time.
But by Christmas, as children around the world open Pixar products from Toy Story pyjamas to Nemo DVDs, the partnership could be over, at least as far as Disney is concerned.
Apple computers mogul and Pixar chairman Steve Jobs has repeatedly threatened to end the partnership after falling out with Disney’s former boss, Michael Eisner. Last week he said Christmas was the deadline.
Until recently the Apple boss had held all the trump cards. Pixar’s record-breaking run of hits coincided with years of disappointment for Disney’s own animation studio. Now Disney is back with a hit of its own — Chicken Little. The film is the first of a series of computer-animated films from a reinvigorated Disney animation department. There had been speculation in Hollywood that this time the sky really would fall in on Chicken Little. The film got a so-so reception at a recent industry screening, but it opened this month to $40m (£23m) in its first weekend — a more than respectable debut.