Thursday, November 30, 2017

Investing ... and the Ultimate Retirement Strategy *

Eugene Fama is one of the major brains living in investment land. He's a gifted economist; he's written ground-breaking papers on markets and investing. Some of his words of wisdom:

Forget timing factors. That’s ridiculous. A company that I’m involved with [Dimensional Fund Advisors] does it passively. They just buy the whole value segment of the market, or the whole small segment of the market. They’re not trying to pick winners or losers. Timing is even more subject to error than picking individual securities.

There is no debate whether active management is better; it can’t be. That’s a matter of arithmetic, not a hypothesis. A simple way to think about it is: active managers can’t win at the expense of passive managers, because passive managers hold cap-weight portfolios of the entire market or of subsets of the market—which means, they don’t really respond to the actions of active managers.

Animation artists used to say to me, "I don't know f*ck all about where to put my money, but I've got to put it freaking somewhere so I can start saving for retirement. What should I do?"

I tried to give them a quick overview of markets and index funds. (You know, provide some math and history and basic investment mechanics.) But their eyes usually glazed over. I finally boiled my spiel down to a simple investment blueprint**:

If you're between 25 and 59 put everything in an age-appropriate Target Date Fund. When you hit 59 1/2 (and you are nervous about losing your stash), put 47% of your money into this, 47% of your money into this, and 6% of your money into this.

Pull money out of the third one; when you reach zero, rebalance back to 47%/47%/6%. Do not get tricky, do not overthink the strategy. Just draw down and rebalance, again and again. You'll outperform 90% of your fellow investors.

* Okay, I'm being facetious here. There is no ultimate strategy, just better plans and worse plans. This is one of the better plans. But it requires participants to stick with it.

** This plan is designed for IRAs, rollover IRAs, and 401(k) plans. You know, tax-sheltered accounts. You can do similar things with non-tax-sheltered investments, but the fund choices would be different.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Exploiting the Catalogue

The Mouse continues to sink deep shafts into their mountain of animated features to pull out more ore for their live action unit. And hey! They're closer to full extraction on one of their late nineties titles:

Chinese actress Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Liu, is set to star as the title woman warrior in Disney's live-action adaptation of the classic Chinese tale. ...

So now that they have their lead actor, Diz Co. can get down to the business of recreating their '98 cartoon feature in live-action, and rake in more large sums of cash.

Creativity, f*ck yeah!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Animated Box Office

Pixar is back at the top of the box office heap, even as its creative leader goes on a time-out:


1.) Coco (DIS), 3,987 theaters / $13.2M Wed. (includes $2.3M previews) /$8.9M Thursday/ $18.9M Friday/ $18.4M Sat/ $11.7M Sun/3-day cume: $49M /5-day:$71.2M Wk 1

2.) Justice League (WB), 4,051 theaters / $10.45M Wed/$8.5M Thursday/$16.6M Fri/$15.8M Sat/ $8.3M Sun/ 3-day cume: $40.7M (-56%)/5-day:$59.7M/Total: $171.8M/ Wk 2

3.) Wonder (WB), 3,140 theaters (+44) /$6M Wed./$3.9M Thur/$8.8M Fri/$8.4M Sat/ $5.1M Sun/3-day cume: $22.3M (-19%)/ 5-day: $32.3M/Total: $69.4M/Wk 2

4). Thor: Ragnarok (DIS), 3,281 theaters (-779) / $4M Wed./$3.5M Thur/ $6.7M Fri/ $6.6M Sat/$3.45M Sun/ 3-day cume: $16.8M (-22%) / 5-day: $24.2M/Total cume: $277.5M / Wk 4

5.)Daddy’s Home 2 (PAR), 3,518 theaters (-57) / $2.7M Wed/ $2.67M/$5M Fri/ $5.27M Sat/$2.98M Sun/ 3-day cume: $13.25M (-8%)/ 5-day: $18.635M/ Total: $72.6M/Wk 3

6) Murder on the Orient Express (FOX), 3,214 theaters (-140)/ $2.56M Wed/$3M Thur/$5.27M Fri/$5M Sat /$2.73M Sun/3-day cume: $13M (-6%)/5-day: $18.615M/Total: $74.2M/ Wk 3

7.)The Star (SONY), 2,837 theaters / $1.64M Wed. /$1M Thur/$2.78M Fri /$2.57M Sat/$1.52M Sun/ 3-day cume: $6.9M (-30%)/ 5-day:$9.5M /Total:$22M/Wk 2

8). A Bad Moms Christmas (STX), 2,948 theaters (-639) /$950k Wed/$810K Thur/ $1.8M Fri/$2M Sat/ $1.1M Sun/3-day cume: $5M (-28%) / 5-day: $6.77M/Total cume: $59.75M / Wk 4

9.) Roman J. Israel, Esq. (SONY),1,648 theaters (+1,644)/ $752K Wed. /$930K Thur/$1.8M Fri/$1.69M Sat/ $1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $4.5M /PTA: $2,8K/5-day: $6.2M/Total: $6.4M/Wk 2

10.) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO (FSL), 590 theaters (+537) / $790K Wed. /$665k Thur/$1.64M Fri/$1.69M Sat/ $1.07M Sun 3-day cume: $4.4M (+291%) /PTA: $7,4K/ 5-day: $5.855M/Total: $7.6M /Wk 3

With strong reviews and a solid opening, Coco looks to have a long life at international multiplexes. (It's the highest grossing movie ever in Mexico. After a couple of weeks. And it's struck a chord in China -- $30.7 million over the weekend).)

Modestly budgeted The Star sees a drop of one third, week-to-week, and with luck will get close to a $50 million gross domestically. (It's grossed $712,668 overseas, so either Sony isn't giving it much of a release, or the picture has no international legs, or they're holding it for some theatrical window other than the holidays. (What?!)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Fires of Change

Back at Walt Disney Productions in the far off 1980s, I was friends with many of John Lasseter's buddies and fellow Cal Artsians. (John I knew only slightly. Working on different floors in different departments will do that.) The word on John then was that he was smart, talented ... and liked to party hearty. It was his enthusiasm for good times that was part of the reason for his exit from the Disney animation division in 1984.

Judging from media reports, Mr. Lasseter STILL likes to party ... and do many of those unfortunate things that go with partying. But cultural norms have shifted in the last twenty months, and now John finds himself taking a six-month break from his executive positions at Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and DisneyToon Studios. Under duress.

The question arises, "Will this six-month time-out be permanent?" I tend to think not. Disney paid north of $7 billion for Pixar more than a decade ago, and the high-priced gamble has paid off in spades: "Finding Dory, Zootopia, Frozen, Moana, Inside Out, etc., etc. And the media picks up on the obvious:

... Lasseter’s absence could be a significant blow to the studio if his departure becomes permanent because he has been such a key figure in its success. Lasseter is the chief creative officer of Emeryville’s Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. ...

Hundreds of millions in movie and merchandising profits have resulted from the Lasseter-Catmull acquisition (and don't kid yourself. That was what the Mouse was paying for in 2006, because the conglomerate needed an adrenaline boost for its animation departments badly, and John and Ed were certified winners.) Eleven years later, Disney is no doubt real reluctant to fire Mr. Lasseter.

And if you doubt that, then here's a question: When Ed Catmull, aided and abetted by Mr. Lasseter, was revealed to be suppressing the wages of Disney animation employees, was Ed tossed overboard?


Was John Lasseter tarred with the wage-fixing brush?

Not too much.

The Walt Disney Company stuck with them both. Parts of the animation community was ticked off about it, and Ed didn't succeed in becoming a Motion Picture Academy governor, but for Ed and John, life sailed serenely on. The wider world didn't give three hoots, and neither did the Disney Company, even though it had to cough up a few million in settlement money for a large class-action lawsuit.

But this time, the pressure might be greater to make John Lasseter's exit from the top of the Disney heap a permanent thing. But if Diz Co. has anything to say about it (and it does), John will be back in his executive offices six months from now.

I guess we'll see.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Animated Box Office

An actual cartoon feature (3D division) returns to the Top Ten:


1.) Justice League (WB), 4,051 theaters / $38.8M Fri. (includes $13M previews) /$33M Sat/$24.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $96M / Wk 1

2.) Wonder (WB), 3,096 theaters / $9.7M Fri. (includes $740K previews) /$10.3M Sat/$7.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $27M / Wk 1

3). Thor: Ragnarok (DIS), 4,080 theaters / $5.8M Fri. /$9.7M Sat/$6.3M Sun/ 3-day cume: $21.7M (-62%) / Total cume: $247.3M / Wk 3

4.) Daddy’s Home 2 (PAR), 3,575 theaters (0) / $3.9M Fri. /$6.4M Sat /$4.5M Sun/ 3-day cume: $14.8M (-50%)/ Total: $50.6M/Wk 2

5.) Murder on the Orient Express (FOX), 3,354 theaters (+13)/ $4M Fri. /$5.9M Sat/ $3.9M Sun/ 3-day cume: $13.8M (-52%)/Total: $51.7M/ Wk 2

6.) The Star (SONY), 2,837 theaters / $2.8M Fri. (studio did not report previews) / $4.1M Sat/ $3M Sun/3-day cume: $10M / Wk 1

7). A Bad Moms Christmas (STX), 2,948 theaters (-667) / $2.3M Fri./ $2.8M Sat/ $1.7M Sun/3-day cume: $6.9M (-40%) / Total cume: $50.9M / Wk 3

8). Lady Bird (A24), 238 theaters (+201) / $725K Fri. / $1.06M Sat/$743K Sun/3-day cume: $2.5M (+110%)/ Per screen: $10,6K / Total cume: $4.7M / Wk 3

9.) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO (FSL), 53 theaters (+49) / $333K Fri. / $452K Sat/ $368K Sun/3-day cume: $1.15M (+246%) / Per screen average: $21K /Total: $1.5M Wk 2

10). Jigsaw (LG), 1,201 theaters (-1,450) / $325K Fri. /$481K Sat/$264K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.07M (-69%) / Total cume: $36.4M / Wk 4 ...

The Star is a lower-budgeted animated feature (in the neighborhood of $20 million) created by Cinesite Animation in Montreal, Canada ... where the Free Money is abundant. Cinesite is partnered with Sony Picture Animation and the Jim Henson Company on the project. Look for The Star's chart position to drop when Pixar's Coco joins the holiday cavalcade the middle of next week.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Japanese Cartoon Growth ... Global Cartoon Growth

Games and 3d animation help fuel animation's expansion.

It's always good to be reminded that expanding cartoon production is a global reality:

The Japanese animation market surpassed 2 trillion yen ($17.7 billion) for the first time last year, fueled by the runaway success of “Your Name” and international sales.

In its annual survey of the industry, the Association of Japanese Animations (AJA) said the market had grown by nearly 10% from 1.82 trillion yen in 2015 to 2 trillion yen in 2016. In 2014, the market was worth 1.63 trillion yen. ...

But it's not just Japan. Global animation growth has been moving along at a brisk clip for years. The forecasts are for 14-15% growth through 2022.

And why not? The profit margins remain robust, and there are lots of applications: gaming (noted above), tv, theatrical animated features, and of course, cartoon content on the ever-expanding internet. The question is, will the people who create the content have a piece of the action, or will they just be lower-paid brains and wrists making the product?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Top Box Office Ten ... And The Remnants of Animation

Marvel super hero again tramples the competition. What else is new? (Not very much).

Three Days of Box Office Money

1). Thor: Ragnarok (DIS), 4,080 theaters / $18.3M Fri. /$23.6M Sat/ $14.7M Sun/ 3-day cume: $56.6M (-54%) / Total cume: $211.6M / Wk 2

2) Daddy’s Home 2 (PAR), 3,575 theaters / $10.9M Fri. (includes $1.5M previews) /$11.6M Sat/ $7.5M Sun/ 3-day cume: $30M / Wk 1

3.) Murder on the Orient Express (FOX), 3,331 theaters / $10.75M Fri. (includes $1.6M previews) /$10.8M Sat/ $6.6M Sun/ 3-day cume: $28.2M / Wk 1

4). A Bad Moms Christmas (STX), 3,615 theaters / $4.1M Fri. (-25%)/$4.6M Sat/ $2.3M Sun/ 3-day cume: $11.5M (-31%) / Total cume: $39.9M / Wk 2

5). Jigsaw (LG), 2,651 theaters (-290) / $1.15M Fri. / $1.46M Sat/ $807K Sun/3-day cume: $3.4M (-48%) / Total cume: $34.3M / Wk 3

6). Boo 2! A Madea Halloween (LG), 1,900 theaters (-302) / $645K Fri. /$948K Sat/ $477K Sun/ 3-day cume: $2M (-54%)/ Total cume: $45.9M / Wk 4

7). Geostorm (WB/SKY), 1,685 theaters (-981) / $480K Fri. /$710K Sat/ $355K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.545M (-52%)/ Total cume: $31.6M / Wk 4

8) Blade Runner 2049 (ALC/WB/SONY), 863 theaters (-601) / $430K Fri. / $630K Sat/ $350K Sun/3-day cume: $1.4M (-39%)/ Total cume: $88M / Wk 6

9) Happy Death Day (UNI/BLUM), 1,564 theaters (-620) / $456K Fri. /$571K Sat/$285K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.3M (-51%)/ Total cume: $54.9M / Wk 5

10) Lady Bird (A24), 37 theaters (+33) / $390K Fri. / $478K Sat/$382K Sun/3-day cume: $1.29m (+243%)/ Per screen: $33,8K / Total cume: $1.78M / Wk 2 ...

No significant amounts of animation (outside of what's in Thor) can be found in the Big Box Office List. As of Monday night, animated features are little more than wisps of smoke in the domestic marketplace.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is in 771 theaters with a domestic total of $58.6 million. My Little Pony holds in 592 theaters, now having grossed $21.6 million. Despicable Me still resides in 195 theaters with a $264 million accumulation. Then there's Leap!, (produced by the ill-fated Weinstein Company) in 110 theaters with a $21.6 million total.

Lastly, The Emoji Movie ends its run (now being in no theaters) at $86 million.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Disney Backs Off

The Walt Disney Company was (apparently) displeased with a couple of Los Angeles Times articles. And soon after the articles ran, Diz Co. in the "big foot" tradition that it has long practiced, blocked LA Times movie reviewers from attending press screenings of various company movies (Star Wars, Thor, etc.)

This corporate dickishness did not go down well with the creative community.

Critics’ organizations quickly decided to disqualify Disney’s films from year-end awards consideration until the blackout was reversed. Movie directors spoke up, saying they would "stand with" film journalists.

All the pushback resulted in concentrating executive minds at corporate headquarters in Burbank, and whattayaknow? The Walt Disney Company decided maybe it wasn't a real swift idea to blacklist newspaper film reviewers because its feelings got hurt, and dropped its L.A. Times ban.

I get that we live in a corporatist age. And that huge, overbearing conglomerates are in the high seats. But it's always nice when a company backs off its bully boy routine because human beings band together to let the company know it's over the line, and the company rethinks its behavior.

Sometimes, individuals own enough leverage to change things.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cartoonless Box Office

In this action sequence, director Taika Waititi gives a shout-out to storyboard artist Tod Harris, who boarded the whole kit and kaboodle. (Taika W. also points out that comic book legend Jack Kirby provided a lot of inspiration. Nice to see a live-action director spread the credit around.)

...unless you count the mighty Thor.


1. Thor: Ragnarok (DIS), 4,080 theaters / $46.8M Fri. (includes $14.5M previews) /$44.4M Sat. / $29.8M Sun/ 3-day cume: $121M / Wk 1

2. A Bad Moms Christmas (STX), 3,615 theaters / $5.5M Fri. /$6.9M Sat/ $4.6M Sun/ 3-day cume: $17M /Total: $21.6M/ Wk 1

3. Jigsaw (LG), 2,941 theaters / $2M Fri. / $2.8M Sat/ $1.8M Sun/3-day cume: $6.1M to $6.7M (-60%)/Total: $28.8M/ Wk 2

4. Boo 2! A Madea Halloween (LG), 2,202 theaters (-186) / $1.2M Fri. /$2.2M Sat/$1.2M Sun/ 3-day cume: $4.65M (-54%)/Total: $43M Wk 3

5. Geostorm (WB/SKY), 2,666 theaters (-580)/ $825K Fri. /$1.4M Sat/$785K Sun/ 3-day cume: $3M (-49%)/Total: $28.8M/ Wk 3

6. Happy Death Day (UNI/BLUM), 2,184 theaters (-1,351) / $792K Fri. / $1.2M Sat/ $808K Sun/3-day cume: $2.8M (-45%)/ Total: $53M/Wk 4

7. Thank You for Your Service (DW/UNI), 2,083 theaters (+29) / $673K Fri. /$934K Sat/$653K Sun/ 3-day cume: $2.26M (-41%)/Total: $7.4M/ Wk 2

8. Blade Runner 2049 (ALC/WB/SONY), 1,464 theaters (-957)/ $605K Fri. /$1M Sat/$610K Sun/ 3-day cume: $2.24M (-46%)/Total: $85.5M/ Wk 5

9. Only the Brave (SONY), 2,073 theaters (-504)/ $562K Fri. /$825K Sat/ $523K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.91M (-45%)/Total: $15.3M/ Wk 3

10. Let There Be Light (ATLAS), 700 theaters (+327) / $523K Fri. /$718K Sat/ $467K Sun/ 3-day cume: $1.7M (-1%)/Total: $4.1M/Wk 2 ...

Meanwhile, Cars 3 wrapped its domestic run on November 2nd, taking in $152,901,115 across the U.S. and Canada. (Its world gross was $382,234,535.)

Other animated features still in release?

Worldwide Grosses

Coco -- $27,963,804

Captain Underpants -- $123,434,565

The Emoji Movie -- $214,641,479

The LEGO Ninjago Movie -- $119,211,830

My Little Pony -- $47,161,496

Pixar Animation's Coco will shortly have a wide, U.S. rollout.

Add On: Pixar's Lee Unkrich (Coco) and Marvel's Waititi (Thor) talk about their movies.