In what could be its last quarter as an independent company, animation studio Pixar ( PIXR) posted lower earnings that still beat expectations. In the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, Pixar made $30.9 million, or 25 cents per share, on revenue of $55.6 million. That compared with earnings of $55.2 million, or 45 cents per share, on revenue of $108.9 million, in the fourth quarter of 2004. The drop can be largely attributed to the fact that Pixar didn't have a big release last year, as it gears up for its next big film, Cars, coming in June. In 2004 the Steve Jobs-run company was still riding high off The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. The results were still better than expected. Analysts polled by Thomson were anticipating earnings of 18 cents per share on $44 million in revenue. In after-hours trading on Instinet, Pixar shares rose 42 cents to $64.45. The Emeryville, Calif., film factory, producer of a long string of animated hits including Finding Nemo and Toy Story, struck a deal in January to be acquired by Disney ( DIS) for $7.4 billion.