April 20, 2014

Pixar’s New Movie Panned By Wall Street

On Monday, April 6, The New York Times Business/Media section ran a story by Brooks Barnes titled “Pixar’s Art Leaves Profit Watchers Edgy.” Barnes referred to Pali Research’s Richard Greenfield, who downgraded the stock of the Walt Disney Company because of a poor outlook for Pixar’s new animated film to be released in May.
The film, titled “UP,” is about a 78-year-old man who ties thousands of balloons to his house. The Times story quoted Greenfield as saying, “We doubt younger boys will be that excited by the main character;” he also complained about the lack of a female lead.
When a friend called my attention to the story and asked what I thought about the affect on Pixar’s creativity of a Wall Street stock downgrade, it got me to thinking…
SCENE: New York Fifth Avenue apartment, about 9:30 p.m. A boy, Atticus, is in the study doing his 5th grade homework. His father, Richard (“Dick”) enters. The father is tired from a long day’s work writing reports about entertainment companies. His coat is off showing his red suspenders, and he’s smoking a cigar.
Dick: “Hi, son. How’s the homework going?”
Atticus: “Good, Dad. What did you do today?”
Dick: “Same ole, same ole. Wrote a couple of reports – one on Pixar’s new movie, “Up.”
Atticus: “I hear it’s supposed to be good. I hope it’ll be as good as ‘Wall-E.’”
Dick: “’Wall-E’ was propaganda and it didn’t do that well in the box office – only $224 million.”
Atticus: “But it won an Academy Award for best animated movie and it gave a great message about the environment.”
Dick: “That was the problem. As Jack Warner of Warner Bros. once said, ‘If you want to give a message, send a telegram?’”
Atticus:“What’s a telegram?”
Dick: “That’s what they used to call text messages before there were cell phones. All that matters are box office receipts – how much a movie makes.”
Atticus: “Come on, Dad. My English teacher at Browning says that myths and stories tell us how to live our lives. It’s not about the money; it’s about making good movies.”
Dick: “You’re too young to understand, Atticus. You have to make money.”
Atticus: “Why?”
Dick: “Because that’s what it’s all about – making money.”
Atticus: “You mean like Mr. Madoff?”
Dick: “Don’t get smart with me. He’s a crook. I’m a stock analyst.”
Atticus: “Oh. Are stocks and derivatives the same thing? And weren’t you writing about how great they were last year?”
Dick: “Look, I get paid – and paid well so you can go to Browning – to write and recommend stocks for our clients to buy or sell. And I’m not the only one to downgrade Disney; other analysts did, too.”
Atticus: “Did they also say to buy Citi Bank like you did?”
Dick: “Listen, Atticus, don’t get smart with me. I’m just trying to make a living, not save the world. I have no responsibility to the public, just to the people who pay me and who buy stocks and derivatives from us. I can’t help it if there are crooks on Wall Street. They’re responsible for the crash and the depression, not me. I’m just following orders.”
Atticus: “OK, Dad, don’t get upset. I know you’re trying. But do you have to knock Pixar? Their movies make people feel better and maybe to live better lives.”
Dick: “That’s not my job.”
Atticus: “What is your job then? And are you proud of it?”
Dick: (Silence)