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
Disney CEO Bob Iger teaches you the leadership skills and strategies he used to reimagine the future of 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, 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 Bob’s 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.

Tell Bob Id come work for someone with the integrity he has showed throughout this class. Of course you wont do this but I can say that this is by far my favorite masterclass that I have participated in and I hope more content like this is created. He is inspiring and makes me want to work at Disney.

The reason I signed up for MC. Great hearing Iger speak about his experiences. Straightforward and honest with solid advice for success.

Good insights and was interesting to learn about his decision making for high level business...

Fantastic! Great talk full of insights. A pleasure to watch and learn.


A fellow student

So glad to take this class. I'm going through the exact same issue and very anxious about the upcoming results. What I found interesting is that most of deals are done in a quite frank way to understand the two parties.

Michelle T.

So good! I love listening to Bob and then finding ways to incorporate his skills and insight into my own tiny business. I enjoy the simple straight forward approach. Every lesson has opened my mind to opportunities I hadn't even thought of. I'm learning so much, and I'm grateful Bob is willing to share.

Kevin B.

It is so great to hear about one of Bob's first acquisitions. It is great to see and hear that even at the beginning, Bob was prepared to take risks. Although... you can not really call this a risk, because it seems that Bob knew what he was doing and he really believed in it. I think that is also one of the main aspects that made Disney the way it is today! Thank you so much for the wise lessons Bob!

Andrew L.

Thank you so much. The stories noted here help to see the masterful way that Bob used relationship building to re-build business connections despite the history between Disney and Pixar. Even how he presented things to the board as a new CEO. There were some large risks however the openness and genuine personality of Bob played strongly into the negotiations. I learned how Bob stayed true to his promises, the dignity that he gave to others and power of connecting with a vision. The discussion of culture was so impressive. Despite the time that had passed, Bob appreciated his own experiences with culture and allowed that to factor into his approach. Experiences good and bad can really provide so much value on how to deal with those challenges to display respect and value.

Trang Vu (.

I happened find this class when I am preparing the DIS stock pitch and it really adds incredible value! It is like talking with Bob Iger in person.

J. Keith D.

As an M&A consultant, I have studied the Disney-Pixar deal extensively. While Bob Iger speaks to the importance of culture in successful deals, what I have found is that leadership capabilities within the two companies is what will determine whether a deal succeeds or fails. For example, Bob talks about engaging John Lasseter and Ed Catmull to get them onboard with the deal at Steve Jobs behest. Bob used leadership skills like Influence Others, Build Relationships and Provides Vision, as a means to convince Lasseter and Catmull to join him and Disney. If you read Catmull's book "Creativity, Inc.," there are a number of examples of how these two used their leadership skills to preserve the Pixar culture and start to change the Disney Animation culture. Fascinating insights.


No details, just general statements, felt like i just read press release about this deal.

Michelle B.

This episode mentions that the relationship with Pixar was created with out the ultimate end in mind. How do you evaluate strategic partners that will advance your vision and mission?


I learn so much about how Disney acquire Pixar and how Bob's strategy on this. Even better, how Steve Jobs can see the pros versus the cons of the acquisition. Thank you, Masterclass!

Chris D.

@sessan - The practical take-aways you can take and implement in your life/business is to swing for the fences. What is your moonshot? I'm working on mine, and this is such a great reminder that the 'crazy ideas' win.