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.

Insightful. Full of applicable tips. Plus the presenter is extremely charismatic and articulate which makes it easy to follow.

Absolutely amazing, Bob is so easy to follow, and emphasizes with.

Business classes are definitely my primary interest! Bob's comments were insightful and valuable far beyond just work though. Excellent series.

Bob Iger did a brilliant job of being candor and concise.. loved it!


A fellow student

Absolutely fantastic chapter. tons of great insights and a true learning experience on the management of solution of relationships and business potentials.

Jennifer T.

Although I am a small business just starting out, I see that Bob's advise is what I can apply to myself and how I view my business and doubts about running it successfully. Its entirely possible.

Brian Francis Hume

This session alone was certainly worth the price of the entire course. At the time of the merger (of Disney and Pixar), one of the bestsellers in the business genre was Jim Collins’ Good to Great. The book was based upon five years of research that distilled seven principles that all “Great Companies” employ to achieve sustainable growth and success over an extended period of time. Immediately three of the principles came to mind based upon Bob’s actions as CEO of Disney that led to the acquisition of Pixar. 1. Level 5 Leadership: This describes leaders who possess both humility and fierceness. Such leaders are driven to do what is best for the company. This was evident in Bob’s dealings with Steve Jobs. Bob determined from the beginning to do what is best for The Walt Disney Company even if it meant Steve Jobs possibly taking his position as CEO of Disney. 2. First Who, Then What: Bob had to determine who were the key leaders and creators that he must get on the bus in order to move forward into the best future possible for Disney. From the beginning of his helm at Disney, he knew that the best creators were not on the Disney bus, but the Pixar bus. He moved quickly to get the right people on the bus. 3. Confront the Brutal Facts: Bob did not mince his words when it came to the state of Disney, yet he also provided alternative future possibilities that gave hope to all. On his second day on the job as CEO, Bob had to present the brutal truth of the facts at hand regarding the dismal state of their animation and storytelling in the previous ten years. Yet at the same time he was hopeful that the problem could be solved through an out of the box idea: purchase Pixar. I share this because it makes me wonder if Bob indeed had read the bestseller; and if he had, it appears he internalized the content of the book to such a degree that these were principles he embodied in his life and leadership.

John G.

Why on earth would Steve want to part with Pixar? Being so good, selling to Disney would mean Apple would lose a valuable asset.

tuphr N.

ok - we got to the action, this is why I'm taking the Bob Iger class, there's some real business insights into how Disney approached their quandry and decided to buy Pixar.

Marcus M.

Everything always comes down to people; whether it is the 1 person who can change someone's life, or the many people that keep a company going; it all comes down to people. This is a great lesson!

Jason A.

Was good at a high level but would have loved more detail from Bob around how he handled the due diligence for a major acquisition like this or the Lucasfilm or Marvel acquisitions. Particularly when it comes to "how much is enough" when it comes to having enough information to decide the value of a deal. When does Bob feel like he has enough to know if he should pull the trigger or walk away?

Federico L.

My 3 take-aways: 1) business is human at its essence, and even the biggest deals are made ultimately between people that need to like and believe in one another; 2) sometimes help needs to come from outside, even one of the greatest companies with the best brands needed outside help to shift its challenges; 3) embrace crazy ideas, and surround with people crazy-minded.

Jose C.

While this lesson was meant to be a case study, I think it's limited by the format in order to be accessible to a wider audience. Nonetheless, Bob did a good job of painting with broad strokes and giving us a bird's eye view of the situation. The biggest lesson for me was the importance of knowing what is at the core of your business (in Disney's case it was animation) and that you need to stay at the cutting edge of whatever that is. You must be willing to take big risks and put your ego aside for the sake of long-term prosperity. Sometimes you need to see beyond the data and get to the essence of the matter the way both Bob and Steve did in this deal.

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.