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Finding freedom?

At this point in the summer, it’s no secret that “Finding Nemo” is the season’s mega-hit. And it’s also no small irony that “Finding Nemo” is a product not of Hollywood’s dream factories but rather of Pixar, an idiosyncratic enterprise, which, like George Lucas’ companies, carefully keeps its distance from Hollywood.

The moment of truth for Pixar — and for Disney, to which it’s been umbilically tied — is at hand.

Few know the details of Pixar’s proposed new deal, which now sits on Michael Eisner’s desk, but it’s safe to assume that it’s unlike any other deal Disney has ever made. Pixar wants a partner, not a distributor or a corporate mentor.

The question: Will Eisner assent to this reduced role for the Mouse House?

This decision is of keen interest to the industry for several reasons.

Whether Disney is willing to accommodate a truly independent partner or not, more such relationships are likely to spring up. The Lucas empire is a prime example. On another level, so is Intermedia, which co-financed “Terminator 3” and is now making “Aviator.”

More and more top filmmakers covet an environment in which they can be self-financed, can exercise creative control over their product and can keep an arms-length relationship with mainstream Hollywood and its multinational parents.

The outcome of the Pixar negotiation will illustrate how much “give” there is in Hollywood’s dealmaking structure to accommodate these inclinations.

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