Friday, November 24, 2006

Another Financial Analyst Who Doesn't Get Animation

(The chart above tracks the stocks -- and fortunes -- of DreamWorks Animation and the Disney Co. over the past year.)

Stock analyst Travis Johnson of weighs in on DreamWorks, Pixar and other animation studios. He thought he knew who was going to turn out the hit films and who wasn't. He thought he had the 'toon landscape all scoped out, but he's starting to think he was a little wrong...

...{In feature animation} the brightest beacon by far was Pixar (now owned by Disney (DIS) ), with its steady release of hit after hit after hit. Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., later The Incredibles and Cars. From very early on, it looked like this Steve Jobs company could do no wrong, and that no one else was going to be able to master this business.

Then came Shrek and Shrek 2, one of the highest grossing films of all time, and Jeffrey Katzenberg's Dreamworks Animation (DWA) became a worthy competitor in the computer animation space. To take advantage of that success, they spun off the company from Daddy Dreamworks and had a very successful IPO -- at least for a little while. I bought shares of this one (I've since sold them at a loss), as it looked to me like Pixar and Dreamworks were the only two companies that had the creative juice to build the next generation of animation hits...

But now, Mr. Johnson admits, there seem to be some flies in his analytical ointment. Like Blue Sky Animation, which is cranking out money-making animated features there on the east coast (in White Plains, no less!). And all of a sudden Warner Bros. has released Happy Feet, which seems to be taking in some nice coin despite the anguished screams of Glenn Beck and associates.

See, what will always perplex stock analysts like Travis Johnson, who seek to find rationality in an irrational business, is that no studio can corral creative genius. Just when you think that Mr. Katzenberg or Mr. Lasseter hold all the answers, up pops some artist(s) with awesome creative chops...and the ability to make a film that connects with a wide swath of the movie-going public.

And suddenly Warner Bros., which previously couldn't launch a hit animated feature to save its life, has a money-maker like Happy Feet on its hands. Six to twelve months from now, it will be some other company that will come out of nowhere with a riveting film. Because there is no way to monoplize talent.


Anonymous said...

It seems that the analysts will never, ever get that there is NO way to acurately predict investments in the movie industry; there never has been and imho never will be. It's never worked. There's no true formula. It's a rise & fall based on too many X factors(and that includes Pixar).

Anonymous said...

I love this blog...I read it every day and always learn something new. And I completely with you evaluation of brainless incompetent media "journalists" (their books are even worse)

I also like going somewhere where DW is discussed objectively. I saw Flushed Away recently and loved it; Over the Hedge is probably my favorite DW CGI film.

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