The New York Times takes an interesting look at the surprisingly smooth integration of Pixar into Disney two years after their merger. Among other victories, the paper points out that while Cars racked up a relatively low (to Pixar’s standards) $460 million in global ticket sales, the franchise generated $5 billion in sales of related retail products. Which explains why a Cars virtual world is opening on the Internet, a Cars ice-skating show will begin touring the nation in September, and work is under way to bring an entire Cars experience to the Disneyland Resort in California. As for the 2012 theatrical sequel, Cars 2, it “will take Lightning McQueen and his pals on a tour of foreign countries.” The NY Times also points out that John Lasseter is no longer opposed to outsourcing some direct-to-DVD animation to India, “a departure from its rigid stance that outside animators could not deliver the necessary quality.” And although some bloodletting has been involved in Pixar’s efforts to rebuild the studio — the original director of Bolt was replaced, resulting in some hurt feelings — John Lasseter said he was pleased with the way the transformation was progressing. “We were very nervous coming in, but to see the change has been amazing. Disney has become a filmmaker-led studio and not an executive-led studio. We are very proud of that.” John’s team has heavily reworked Bolt, the tale of a Hollywood dog star who becomes lost in New York and has to make his way back to California, by among other things playing up a wickedly funny side character, a hamster. Additional story details are also revealed in the article about Pixar’s Up, “a comedy about a cranky, cane-wielding 78-year-old who transports his home to exotic locales by attaching hundreds of helium-filled balloons.” As for Disney’s plans for hand-drawn animation? They are “unclear, with only one project currently announced: The Princess and the Frog. (…) A Disney spokeswoman said animators were deeply immersed in marrying older hand-drawn techniques with new technology for future movies, adding that plans for a new headquarters for Disney’s Burbank animators were slowly progressing.” Meanwhile, Wall-E, which features long sequences without dialogue, is under extra pressure to perform at the box office because of soft initial receipts for a recent Disney film, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Says Ed Catmull, “it’s some of the best work I’ve ever seen. I am confident it will be the next success story for Disney and Pixar.”