Pixar Soaring

Pixar Animation Studios is flying high.

During the first week of May, the Emeryville, CA digital animation studio reported that its net income had tripled for the first fiscal quarter, largely on the strength of Finding Nemo, its most recent hit. Net income reached $26.7 million, compared with $8.2 million for the same period in 2003. Revenue also nearly tripled, from $18.7 million to $53.8 million.

Pixar is riding a wave of global popularity for the fish flick, estimated by CEO Steve Jobs as the "eighth-highest-grossing movie on record," having pulled in $864 million in ticket sales throughout the world during its theatrical run. Finding Nemo is also doing incredible well in the video sales-and-rental market, pulling in $51.l million during the first quarter.

Pixar expects to sell 40 million copies of the video by the end of this year, according to statements released Thursday, May 6. Video sales have been unexpectedly strong in Australia, Italy, Germany, and the UK, according to CFO Ann Mather. "We expect continuing international home video revenues from Finding Nemo to drive our results for the second quarter, particularly from its release in Spain, France, and Japan," Mather stated. The film is the latest in an unbroken string of hits that includes Toy Story, Toy Story II, and Monsters, Inc., all developed and distributed in partnership with the Walt Disney Company.

The company's much-publicized refusal to renew the pact with Disney is simply a symptom of growth. Pixar is unarguably the most important and most visible digital animation studio and is angling for a more profitable arrangement with another partner—one of the most desirable potential deals for other Hollywood film companies. A new deal will have Pixar completely financing the production of new films and taking a larger share of the distribution revenue.

No suitor has been chosen, Jobs told reporters, mentioning that despite the impending end to their partnership, Pixar and Disney continue to work amicably together on distributing Finding Nemo and on developing two upcoming features, The Incredibles, due this November, and Cars in 2005. "The working relationship with the two companies remains positive and professional," Jobs said.