Market analysts cast doubt on Pixar's arty fare
That leaking-balloon sound you hear is coming from media analysts, watching their gloomy predictions for Pixar’s “Up” evaporate into the clouds.It’s become a recurring rite for financial analysts to express misgivings about Pixar films during the concept stage, wondering, for example, why anyone would want to watch a rat in the kitchen (“Ratatouille”) or an animated movie where the first half-hour is devoid of dialogue (“Wall-E”). But those earlier doubts paled compared to the advance naysaying directed at “Up,” Pixar’s 10th pic. The distress was crystallized in early April in a New York Times piece, which then fueled even more doubts. Its story, headlined “Pixar’s art leaves profit watchers edgy,” quoted two analysts and anonymous retailers fretting about the film, which then cued a month of bloggers and online reports spreading the doubt — as well as blowback against the Times for advancing a questionable theory. The Times story quoted Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield’s report in which he downgraded Disney shares because of the “poor outlook” for “Up,” writing, “We doubt younger boys will be that excited by the main character,” referring to the movie’s 78-year-old protagonist. Chris Marangi at Gabelli & Co. was also quoted: “People seem to be concerned about this one.” The Times cited unidentified retailers as being anxious about prospects for “Up” merchandise. Six weeks later, with the film having opened to a brisk $68 million and looking well on its way toward joining Pixar’s heady club of $200 million domestic earners, third-party admirers of Pixar couldn’t resist chiding both analysts and the newspaper. Writer Michael Giltz said mockingly on the Huffington Post that a “smarter article would have made clear how foolish those fears about Pixar truly are.” Reached via email, Pali’s Greenfield said, “We continue to focus on whether this film will be more or less profitable than ‘Wall-E,’ ” which totaled $550 million in box office worldwide. He added that it is “hard to call success/failure for the film after one weekend … especially given the fact that 5% fewer people saw the film opening weekend than ‘Wall-E.’ ” Asked to comment about the second-guessing — and perhaps gloat a little — a Pixar spokesman punted to Disney’s film arm, which adopted a similar don’t-bite-the-hand-that-analyzes-us stance. (Disclosure: This reporter’s wife works for a division of Disney.) Still, there may be a lesson in the “Up” experience — namely, when the subject is Pixar, predictions can easily amount to little more than hot air.