Disney Movies

A Business Analyst Reviews Pixar’s “UP”

Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield has taken it upon himself to turn movie reviewer, and according to a blogger at Barron’s Online, has offered THIS REVIEW OF PIXAR’S UPCOMING FILM “UP”.  The film was partially screened for movie critics at ComicCon in New York. 

Here are some of his thoughts:

  • Although he only saw the first half of the movie in an unfinished state he came away “concerned” that the movie won’t be able match last summer’s WALL-E performance.  WALL-E  generated $224 million in domestic box office receipts, and $534 million worldwide.
  • The early stages of the film were “somewhat slow”.
  • He doubts younger boys will be that excited about Carl (the older protaganist), though they should like Russell (his young sidekick).
  • There is no female lead character, “which may be an issue in terms of the movie’s appeal to young girls.
  • “We did not come away from Up with the sense that consumers would view it as a “must-own” DVD.” 
  • Finally, he thinks it may be challenging to monetize the characters in the form of consumer products.

In Mr. Greenfield’s defense, he was analyzing the film from strictly a business sense: DVD sales, toy sales, licensing opportunities, etc.  Disney has proven that they know how to leverage brands from one area into another.  For example, the upcoming 300-ft tethered balloon ride at Downtown Disney at the Walt Disney World Resort could easily be branded the “UP” Balloon Ride if this film turns into a hit.   His points, when viewed in that manner, are certainly understandable.

At issue is the same problem that we’ve seen with the Academy Awards not giving animated films a fair shake at major awards: animated films are viewed as children’s material. Pixar has said that what they make are films that are appropriate for the family, not films that are child-oriented.   Mr. Greenfield doesn’t realize that not every film that comes from Pixar is going to have mass-merchandise potential. Pixar’s Ratatouille was widely praised by critics, parents, and children alike, but the rat-themed kitchenware did not fly off the shelves. 

Rightfully so.   But while the rat-theme did turn stomachs for a few people, at least the Disney marketing machine recognized that the film’s merchandising possibilities were going to be limited.  The lack of merchandising and other tie-ins did not keep the film from being a success. 

So there is precedent.  Not every film is going to be able to extend into every product niche.  There are toys of Carl and Russell already being planned, but whether we’ll see those toys in Toys R Us or only at more exclusive adult-collector oriented outlets remains to be seen.  Let’s wait to see what is up Disney’s sleeve before we start saying that UP is going to flop, money-wise.