What's Wrong With Walt Disney's Stock Today?

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) investors always knew the second quarter of 2013 had some huge shoes to fill. Given the high stakes, the stock's 1.7% drop today looks like a perfectly acceptable adjustment.

The House of Mouse faced 2012's record-breaking mega-hit The Avengers in this quarter's year-over-year comparisons. The Marvel superhero tentpole scored $620 million in domestic box-office receipts and $1.5 billion worldwide. It's the third-most successful movie of all time, behind only James Cameron's Titanic and Avatar.

That's a heavy headwind for this quarter. Disney's cinematic adventures account for a large percentage of its total revenue, and they also fuel future results by tapping into DVD and Blu-ray releases, TV and online runs, theme park tie-ins, lunchboxes, and Hulk-styled underwear.

But Disney had the perfect follow-up in Avengers satellite feature Iron Man 3. The company paid top dollar for superstar Robert Downey Jr. and his supporting cast, and it was well worth the investment. Iron Man 3 collected $1.2 billion in global sales, and about $400 million dropped straight down to the bottom line.

In the end, Disney reported 2% higher earnings year over year on 4% higher sales. Studio revenue slipped 2%, allowing parks and cable network operations to drive some total growth. These results were roughly in line with analyst estimates.

Disney's drop is the second-largest swoon on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) today. But Disney has crushed its Dow peers in 2013 with a 32% return so far, and you won't find longer-term shareholders complaining about today's adjustment either:

DIS Total Return Price Chart

DIS Total Return Price data by YCharts.

Even Disney falters sometimes. Last year's John Carter was an epic flop, and this year's Lone Ranger disappointment will drop a $190 million writedown onto the third quarter. That's two supposed tentpoles thrown into the campfire. But with assets like Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars producer Lucasfilm under its wing, not to mention a home-grown character library, Disney always someone else around to pick up the slack.

Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) may slowly be turning its DC Comics brand into a bankable movie platform under Christopher Nolan's creative banner, but the media giant can't follow through with Disney-style theme parks, cruise ships, and general omnipresence. Until Warner completes that transformation -- and it may never happen -- there's simply no equivalent to Disney's masterful character-driven business model.

Disney picked the perfect time to produce billion-dollar superhero movies in back-to-back years. The world just can't get enough of superheroes. Super-powered movies have been some of the highest-grossing films of all time, and as these franchises continue to grow, the numbers are only going to get more impressive. Disney has has bootstrapped this entertainment trend and will ride it for years to come. The Motley Fool's new free report "Your Ticket to Cash In on the Superhero Battle of the Century" details what you need to know to profit from your favorite superheroes. Click here to read the full report!


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