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Business, Politics & Society

Taking Giant Swings: Pixar Acquisition Case Study

Bob Iger

Lesson time 24:55 min

Bob breaks down the acquisition of Pixar, including his strategy to convince Steve Jobs—the head of Pixar—and the Disney board. He explains how he overcame the odds with the acquisition and why it was essential to Disney’s future success.

Bob Iger
Teaches Business Strategy and Leadership
Former Disney CEO Bob Iger teaches you the leadership skills and strategies he used to reimagine one of the world’s most beloved brands.
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- Great. - Woody, the rocket! - The match! Yes! Thank you, Sid. [CAR APPROACHES] No, no, no, no. No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No. - Woody, what are you doing? - Hold still, Buzz. [WOODY LAUGHS] - You did it. Next stop Andy! - Wait a minute. I just lit a rocket. Rockets explode! [ROCKET BOOMS] [LIGHTHEARTED MUSIC] - I think as you look back on something, it seems like it's always the result of a grand plan that was plotted out as you embarked on whatever the endeavor happened to be. It's not always that way, in particular with Steve Jobs and ultimately our acquisition of Pixar. There were a number of steps that I took along the way that were each designed to make some progress in terms of strengthening the relationship or continuing the relationship between Pixar and Disney. But when I began that discussion, or when I embarked on that journey, I didn't necessarily have the end in mind that we ultimately ended up concluding or delivering. I didn't know that it would end up with us acquiring Pixar. When I became the CEO of Disney in 2005, Disney had been through about a decade of struggle when it came to Disney Animation. If you look at the history of the Walt Disney Company going all the way back to the '20s and '30s to the great year of Walt Disney, as animation went, so went the Walt Disney Company. In other words, in times that the company was making great animated films, the overall company soared. You could go back and look at "Snow White" and "Cinderella" and "Dumbo" and "Pinocchio" and "Sleeping Beauty," great movies that Walt made, and then you could dissolve to our move forward to the '80s and the '90s and Michael Eisner's era, the period of "Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin" and, ultimately, "Lion King--" great films, great animated films from Disney Animation, and the company had achieved just phenomenal success. Because Disney had been struggling in animation for about a decade, I knew that my first priority becoming CEO was to turn Disney Animation around. I also knew that if I didn't do that, that my tenure as CEO was likely to be short lived. When I thought about how best to turn Disney Animation around, obviously all roads lead to people. I needed talented people, talented leadership in particular to take the reins at Disney Animation and redirect where we were creatively. And I immediately concluded that the best animators and the best animation leadership was at Pixar. - One of the things that I'm proudest of Pixar of is we have a story crisis on every movie, and production's rolling, and there's mouths to feed, and something's just not working, and we stop. We stop, and we fix the story. - Steve was the controlling shareholder of Pixar, and Pixar had been in a relationship with Disney for quite some time where there was co-funding of their pictures and co-ownership, and Disney marketed and distributed their films. ...

Embrace risk, build resilience

In an era of disruption, former Disney CEO Bob Iger led one of the world’s most beloved brands to unprecedented success with the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. Now, through case studies and lessons from 45 years in media, Bob teaches you how to evolve your business and career. Learn strategies for expanding a brand, leading with integrity, and making big moves—from risk management to the art of negotiation.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Different than what I was expecting, but eye-opening. Thanks and good luck on your next adventure Bob Iger.

Bob Iger did a great job laying out his experiences in a way to show his points and give us a deeper understanding of business management.

As a leader of creatives, Bob's class really spoke to me about the importance of an ethos that drives you forward.

Inspired me to strive not just for good but great.


Stuart G.

Stu Gerathy, NSW, Australia, Disney and Pixar what an amazing creative partnership. Two amazing minds Steve Jobs and Bob Iger.


WOW! Love as he said " Crazy ideas" . How the relationship was mended. Big thing is respecting the culture of pixar.

Carolyn S.

Fascinating and historical! WOW - leading the way with creativity, magic & genius. BRAVO!

Nicholas C.

This experience of Pixar, Disney, and Apple is detailed in Steve Jobs' biography. It's one of the most riveting, bittersweet tales.

Brian H.

In the 1980s, I was really into animation short films. I remember going to animation festivals, and two films in particular stood out: “Tony de Peltrie” (1985) and “Luxo Jr.” (1986). The former was the first time I was really impressed by computer animation, though it now looks primitive in comparison to what has come since. The latter is famous for giving birth to Pixar’s logo.

Fiores F.

This is proof that we are not crazy when we think about all the variables leaders have to evaluate when doing any kind of movements/ process/ acquisition in the company. The special attention to the culture captivates my attention, not just because I agree with his principles and concerns by the time of doing the acquisition but also because of the amount of respect for the people who work in the company you are about to acquire and for the way they do their work.


Enormously inspiring! The Disney acquisition of Pixar was one of the case studies I studied during my Master's, so great to have this lively insights now.

Harry C.

What a great story! My takeaway from this lesson was that open-mindedness is vital as a leader, but also not to try to impose too much on others as you construct your dreams; the people who help to construct your dreams along the way need to have a sense of freedom, a sense that they are working with you, not necessarily working for you.

Tim B.

I think Bob's discussion of merging and managing cultures is one of his many great strengths. I too worked at ABC in their station's division for almost two decades while Bob was on the network side. I saw and felt the acquisition of ABC by CapCities. I thought the leadership by Tom Murphy and Dan Burke during that acquisition was firm but open. It gave ABC more structure than it previously had but with two principled-centered leaders who shared their style without imposing their will.


I finished reading his book last week and couldn't wait to start this Masterclass. What an inspiring leader! I think he does a great job at outlining the mindset and values he had going into this position and maintaining it throughout the years. Love the scenes of him and Steve jobs together too