When Cat’s Away, Will Mouse and Pixar Play?

With Michael Eisner vacating the CEO post a year early to make way for new Disney topper Robert Iger, pundits are speculating that the Mouse House will renew efforts to strike a new deal with CG animation juggernaut Pixar. The current contract between the companies expires after 2006′s Cars, and all future Pixar productions will self-financed.

A lack of mutual admiration and willingness to compromise stalled talks between Esiner and Pixar head Steve Jobs. Now it seems that Disney is looking to Iger to save the relationship, which would mean losing out on a share of profits generated from future films in exchange for keeping Pixar a part of the Disney brand.

With Pixar batting a thousand with its string of animated family films, rounded out at present by megahit The Incredibles, Jobs and company hold all the aces should they go in for another round of talks. Though Disney is building its own computer animation studio in Burbank, Calif., it risks looking like a loser if its first in-house CG toon, Chicken Little, performs below expectations when it debuts this holiday season.

Still attractive to Pixar is Disney’s robust distribution and marketing pipelines. Jobs has been pursuing a deal similar to that which George Lucas has with 20th Century Fox. Under such a partnership, Pixar would pay Disney a distribution fee but keep all profits and rights to its properties.

Jobs recently told investors not to expect reconciliation between his company and Disney. However, Pixar has yet to choose a distributor to take Disney’s place, suggesting that Jobs and his crew may be waiting to see what happens at the Mouse House during this changing of the guard.