The Scoop: Pixar cuts 175 jobs

Plus: Alexa gets an AI update and a price tag; Peloton suspends controversial rapper’s music.

For decades, the Pixar name was ubiquitous with high-quality animation and top-flight storytelling. But after years of films and television programs with middling reviews and less-than-expected performances at the box office, Pixar is going back to what it’s best at — feature films. Unfortunately, this move is also paired with a staffing cut.

According to The New York Times, Pixar announced it was cutting 14% of its staff earlier this week. Pixar president Jim Morris said that the move was meant to coincide with “the return to our focus on feature films,” according to an internal memo viewed by the Times. Around 175 employees will be impacted.

The Times piece attributes many of Pixar’s issues to Disney’s emphasis on its streaming service, Disney+. During the height of the pandemic, three Pixar films were released on the service and bypassed theaters altogether, stripping them of the anticipation and fanfare Pixar films have garnered in the past. Disney’s major push to streaming in 2020 aimed to earn 260 million subscribers across the globe, but Disney+ has just 154 million subscribers to this day, marking a major strategic failing.

Why it matters: From Toy Story in 1995 through Inside Out in 2015, you’d be hard-pressed to find a weak link in the Pixar catalog. However, the shift to streaming and the demand for more output that reportedly stretched writers thin was ultimately impactful, resulting in less well-received and financially successful films.

But the big lesson here is, if you’ve got a product that people love, try not to mess with it too much. Whether it’s Pixar today or New Coke from the ‘80s, if you start toying around with the thing people like, they might come to not like it quite as much anymore. The layoffs and openness to a brand refocus serve as a potential signal to audiences and stakeholders that Pixar is ready to get back to what it does best, which is telling great visual stories.

Editor’s Top Reads:

  • Your Amazon Alexa that sometimes unintentionally answers your questions is getting an AI upgrade — and a price tag. According to CNBC, Amazon is taking a leaf from generative AI chatbots and giving Alexa a new function that’ll enable more two-way dialogue. It’s also important to note that this new function won’t come for free in the way that Alexa currently does, but will charge an extra fee. When your competitors innovate and get a leg up in your industry, sometimes you can claw back into the space by leaning on your name recognition. Alexa marked of wide applications of AI in the home, and that recognizability may help it adapt.
  • Exercise bike company Peloton group has removed the music and related workouts of Sean “Diddy” Combs and his Bad Boy records after the release of a video that shows the rapper assaulting his then-girlfriend in a California hotel. According to CNN, the decision came after backlash from a member of a private Facebook group for Peloton users. Peloton’s responsiveness to its members is notable. Sometimes events outside your organization’s control might have a direct impact on your company and its customers. In these times, it’s important to listen to your customers and act accordingly. It’ll reflect well upon you with your current base and will help develop trust with your audience.
  • In 2024, we spend a lot of our time connected to technology. But according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, more and more advertisers are leaning into getting us away from the tech we’re constantly tethered to. Take the “Boring Phone” ad campaign from Heineken, which only allows for calls and texts, but doesn’t provide any access to social media in the name of promoting in-person interactions. “Young generations are craving release from their smartphones and the constant buzzing and dinging, especially on nights out and during social occasions,” said Nabil Nasser, global head of the Heineken brand, in the WSJ piece. “We want to give them the freedom to discover that there is more to their social life when they are less on their phone.” In our technologically interconnected world, it’s sometimes hard to see a world that exists beyond the bounds of the internet and social media. But it’s still there — and it’ll be interesting to see how these campaigns that go against the grain of our advanced society help their brands perform. Sometimes being different helps you stand out in the business and PR world.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports and hosting trivia.


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