Toon posturing gets animated

Mouse touts solo efforts but keeps back door open to Pixar

It’s the biggest pic pact that is — but isn’t.

The unusual status of Disney’s CEO succession has left the Pixar partnership in limbo, with most Wall Streeters — as indicated by Pixar’s lofty stock price — assuming it will be renewed even as execs on both sides say talks are dead and Disney moves forward solo with a new studio and script for “Toy Story 3.”

At a crowded investor meeting in Orlando last week, Disney was intent on showcasing its in-house animation lineup with a special presentation by animation chief David Stainton and longtime animator Glen Keane, director of Disney’s CGI “Rapunzel Unbraided.”

In clips, Keane noted the luscious backgrounds inspired by a Fragonard painting and the velvety softness of the princess’s skin, an effect he said hasn’t yet been achieved in CGI.

Eisner, less tactfully, later called the Disney-Pixar CGI pics “pretty pathetic,” artistically speaking, compared with efforts like “Rapunzel.”

Depending on whom you ask, Pixar needs Disney more — or, Disney needs Pixar more.

If “Chicken Little” — the Mouse’s first CGI pic sans Pixar — disappoints, Disney’s up against it. Then again, if “Cars,” the final pic under the current Pixar-Disney pact, underperforms, Pixar’s stock, hovering at $90 a share, is likely to be toast.

Some say Pixar must announce a new distribution deal 18 months before its next pic — the one after “Cars” — comes out. Others say Pixar can fully finance its next film and ink a new deal at its leisure.

Meanwhile, the two companies strenuously insist that pushing back the “Cars” release from fall of ’05 to summer of ’06 was purely box office motivated, since “Cars” looks like an ideal summer pic.

But move is probably a play for more time as both companies wait for Michael Eisner to pass the torch.

The Disney board plans to announce a new chief Mouseketeer in June.

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