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Could cashing in on Pixar now be a whole lot harder than Disney officials had originally thought ?

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Could cashing in on Pixar now be a whole lot harder than Disney officials had originally thought ?

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It was a year ago today that newspapers around the world featured the headline: "Disney Buys Pixar." With articles trumpeting the $7.4 billion the Mouse was about to pay out in order to acquire Pixar Animation Studios.

Oh, sure. There were a few of us out there who squawked about that ginormous price tag. But virtually everyone else -- from Bob Iger on down -- seemed convinced that the Walt Disney Company was going to make big, big dough off of this acquisition. That by adding these super-popular Pixar pictures to the studio's film library, by folding those already beloved characters into Disney's established roster of cartoon stars ... Mickey was basically acquiring a license to print money.

Well, that was then, folks. And this is now. And given Disney's Brand Management office has just completed an extensive study that reportedly shows that a number of Pixar's film franchises have already seriously eroded in value ... Well, it may now take the Mouse a whole lot longer to recover the initial costs of the Pixar acquisition.

What exactly is the problem? According to several company insiders that I've spoken with, this Brand Management study supposedly targeted several key age brackets, chief among them kids. And what these Disney officials allegedly learned is that -- with the exception of the characters from "Cars" (I.E. Pixar's most recent release) as well as the two "Toy Story" films -- the rest of the Pixar characters are already rapidly declining in popularity among children.

Copyright Disney / Pixar

To explain: Many of the study's participants reportedly dismissed the characters from "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc.," "The Incredibles" and "Finding Nemo" as being "just kid's stuff." Meaning that -- as the original audience for this particular Pixar pictures continues to grow older -- these four film franchises are going to lose much of the initial appeal that they held with consumers.

And given that the Walt Disney Company had been planning on aggressively licensing all of the Pixar characters in order to help recover the corporation's $7.4 billion investment ... The news that at least four of these film franchises will probably underperform was not received warmly in the Team Disney Burbank building.

Which is why Mouse House officials are now looking into ways to reinvigorate the "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc.," "The Incredibles" and "Finding Nemo" franchises. And among the ideas that are supposedly being considered is creating new three dimensional versions of these particular Pixar pictures by making use of the Disney Digital 3-D process.

The only problem with that plan is that the last animated feature to be repurposed in this manner -- "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" -- absolutely bombed at the box office. The new 3D version of this Henry Selick film only earned $8.7 million during its entire domestic release. Which didn't even come close to covering the cost of creating & then promoting the new Disney Digital 3-D version of this 1993 release.

Copyright Disney / Pixar

One of the other ideas that's supposedly being floated is asking Pixar to produce sequels to these particular pictures. Which would then -- in theory -- reinvigorate the "A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc.," " The Incredibles" and "Finding Nemo" franchises. But given that John Lasseter has been quite vocal on the whole "No more unnecessary sequels" issue (Which is why Disney officials feel lucky that "Toy Story 3" is allegedly already in the works for 2009) ... Well, it's extremely doubtful that John & Ed Catmull would ever go for that idea.

Then -- when you factor in Disney Consumer Products' reported concerns about "Ratatouille," plus the rumors that are already begun circulating about "Wall E' (EX: That Andrew Stanton's movie about robots in love will supposedly be in super wide format and feature little or no dialogue) ... Well, it's now beginning to look like it's going to take the Walt Disney Company a whole lot longer than it originally planned to recover that $7.4 billion the corporation originally paid out to acquire Pixar. Never mind finally beginning to turn a profit on this deal.

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