Walt Disney has agreed to acquire Pixar, the animation studio headed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, in a long-anticipated $7.4 billion deal that will put Jobs on Disney's board of directors, the companies announced Tuesday.

Pixar, based in Emeryville, California, has parlayed its digital animation expertise and distribution partnerships with Disney into a string of blockbuster hits since 1995, including Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

Jobs, chief executive officer and a co-founder of Apple, took the helm of Pixar in 1986. He created the company when he bought the computer division of George Lucas’ Lucasfilm and renamed it. He owns approximately 50.6 per cent of the outstanding shares of Pixar.

Pixar shareholders will receive 2.3 Disney shares for each Pixar share in the all-stock deal, the companies said, and Jobs would become the largest individual shareholder of Disney following the deal's close, according to news reports.

"Jobs is a maverick guy who is not afraid to speak his mind," Joe Bonner, an analyst at Argus Research told the Independent newspaper. "He's outspoken. He would not be a quiet little boy on Disney's board."

Many in the market believe that Mr Jobs may manage to shake things up at Disney, especially as he believes that "innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower".

Pixar's creative heads, president Ed Catmull and creative director John Lasseter will assume control at Disney, reports claim. Disney and Pixar’s animation studios will combine under Catmull’s leadership, though two studios will be maintained.

In 2005, Jobs was worth $3.3 billion, making him the 67th richest person in the US, according to the Forbes magazine's Forbes 400 list.

The boards of both companies have approved the acquisition but it still needs shareholder and regulatory approval. The companies said they expect the acquisition to close in the summer.