Disney's Pixar is laying off 14% of its workforce

A cyclist rides past the entrance to the Pixar Animation Studios headquarters in Emeryville, California, US

Bloomberg | Getty Images

Long-awaited layoffs hit Pixar Animation Studios today.

Pixar will lay off about 175 employees, or about 14% of the studio's workforce, a spokesperson for the parent company said. Walt Disney told CNBC. The cuts come as CEO Bob Iger works on his overarching mandate to focus on quality content, not quantity.

Layoffs hit other Disney companies last year, but cuts at Pixar were postponed due to production schedules. It was initially expected that 20% of the animation studio's employees would be laid off.

Iger, who returned to the mantle of CEO in late 2022, has worked to turn around the company's box office woes, spurred by both the company's substantive decisions and the pandemic shutdowns. While Disney has had mixed box office success with a number of franchises, including the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it has faced the challenge of making its animated films resonate with audiences.

With theaters closed during the pandemic, Disney scrambled to feed the company's fledgling streaming service Disney+ with content, thinning its creative teams and sending theatrical films straight to digital.

The decision trained parents to seek out new Disney titles via streaming, not in theaters, even as Disney opted to bring its films back to the big screen. Adding to Disney's woes, many members of the public felt that the company's content had become too existential and concerned with social issues beyond the reach of children.

As a result, no Disney animated film from Pixar or Walt Disney Animation has generated more than $480 million at the global box office as of 2019. By comparison, just before the pandemic, “Coco” generated $796 million worldwide, equaling “Incredibles 2.” $1.24 billion worldwide and “Toy Story 4” raked in $1.07 billion worldwide.

With Iger back at the helm, Pixar will once again focus on theatrical releases and move away from short-form series for Disney+.

— CNBC's Julia Boorstin contributed to this report

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