How big was the news that Disney acquired Pixar for $7.4 billion? Here's one measure: The story got attention worldwide, at Websites like Aljazeera and Rediff. (Today's news about the $27 billion deal between Guidant and Boston Scientific didn't get the same kind of play.) That may be evidence of the global power of Disney.
But whether the Disney brand continues to be synonymous with creativity and great animation may now depend largely on John Lasseter (New York Times, free registration required).
Lasseter is considered a creative genius. He could restore Disney to the heights it reached in the early nineties: The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994). These films earned a total of $1.8 billion dollars at theaters worldwide (according to Box Office Mojo), and that doesn't even factor in home video and merchandise sales. The world is watching, waiting to see how Disney will change under Lasseter, not to mention Disney CEO Bob Iger and Pixar's Steve Jobs. Some say change is long overdue at the company, where creativity seems to be slumping.
Pixar should revitalize Disney, and with an animation renaissance like that of the early nineties, the merged business could be strengthened financially. There is also an opportunity to truly embrace new digital media, to be the first Hollywood studio to completely implement online distribution. If Disney doesn't accept change, if it doesn't halt its creative slide, the Disney reputation and perception worldwide will suffer.