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Thursday, January 19, 2006, 09:00 am PT (12:00 pm ET)

Walt Disney in serious talks to acquire Pixar

The post-Eisner Walt Disney is close to buying Pixar Animation Studios in a deal that could allow Steve Jobs and his team to exert significant creative influence at the entertainment giant, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The two animation giants are reportedly in serious discussions (subscription required) after months of exploring ways to continue their lucrative partnership, people familiar with the matter told the publication.

According to the report, Disney would pay a nominal premium to Pixar's current market value of $6.7 billion, in a stock transaction that would make Jobs, the Pixar chairman and chief executive, the largest individual shareholder in Disney.

"That would vault Jobs into an even more influential place in the media world, where he already holds tremendous sway as head of Apple Computer," the Journal wrote. "The talks are said to be at a sensitive stage and the outcome isn't certain."

The two companies have been partners for more than twelve years under an arrangement in which Disney has distributed and co-financed popular and profitable Pixar movies such as "Toy Story," "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles."

The Journal speculates that an acquisition would give Pixar and Jobs a way to cash in on the company's unbroken run of blockbuster, computer-animated films.

According to the report, Jobs would likely join the Disney board, and Pixar's John Lasseter, the Disney alumnus who directed "Toy Story" and the upcoming "Cars," would take on an expanded role overseeing Disney animated movies.