During today’s Q1 earnings call, Walt Disney Co.’s boomerang CEO Bob Iger revealed that Disney-Pixar animation favorites will be returning to the big screen, telling attendees: “I’m so pleased to announce that we have sequels in the works from our animation studios to some of our most popular franchises, Toy Story, Frozen and Zootopia. We’ll have more to share about these productions soon, but this is a great example of how we’re leaning into our unrivaled brands and franchises.”
Iger also revealed that he was returning the company’s content business into similar shape as under his previous stewardship, creating the new division Disney Entertainment to house its television and film brands, while remaining separate from ESPN and Parks, Experiences & Products. Dana Walden and Alan Bergman will be in charge of the new unit, which replaces the Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution label created by ex-CEO Bob Chapek, which was run by Kareem Daniel until last year. “Our new structure is aimed at returning greater authority to our creative leaders and making them accountable for how their content performs financially,” Iger added.
Despite fan excitement for the intended sequels, there was also somber news as Iger outlined a company-wide restructuring plan that aims for $5.5 billion in cost savings, which will be achieved by cutting $3 billion in non-sports content and $2.5B in operating costs, echoing the $3.5B in cuts promised by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav that led to the great HBO Max animation purge of last summer.
CFO Christine McCarthy detailed the cuts at 50% marketing, 30% labor and 20% technology, procurement and other expenses. The first billion in trimming is underway, with the goal of completing these actions by 2024. The company expects to lay off 7,000 staff.
The first entirely CG-animated feature film, Toy Story made Pixar Animation a household name when it premiered in 1995, marking the directorial debut of John Lasseter. The first movie earned a Special Achievement Oscar for Lasseter, as well as two nominations for songwriter Randy Newman and the first animation nomination in the Original Screenplay category.
Toy Story has spawned three feature-length sequels (Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4 both won the feature animation Oscar in 2010 and 2019, respectively) as well as last year’s spinoff Lightyear. It is the third highest-grossing animated franchise of all time with a combined worldwide box office of $3.27 billion.
Frozen, the fifth-highest grossing animated franchise ($2.74B) despite comprising just two films, sparked a sensation and broke box-office records when the musical fairytale premiered in 2013. Created by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, now Chief Creative Director of the studio, the first film was the first Walt Disney Animation Studios production to win the animated feature Oscar; it also won Best Original Song for Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez’s “Let It Go.” Frozen II premiered in 2019.
Disney’s Zootopia was released in 2016 and likewise smashed box-office records in several territories on its way to a worldwide gross of $1.02 billion. The critically acclaimed film from directing duo Byron Howard and Rich Moore beat out studio sister pic Moana for the Oscar that year, and just this passed fall audiences were able to return to the animal-populated metro in the Zootopia+ series of shorts on Disney+.