Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) continues to reap the rewards of its most successful animated movie ever, Frozen, even a year and half after it was released in theaters. Merchandising, theme park attractions, and DVD sales are continuing to drive Frozen revenue, which as a franchise has already brought in at least $2.2 billion via the box office and merchandise sales.
Though a Frozen sequel has been announced, it will be some time yet before that hits theaters. To maintain such high growth rates this year, Disney is about due for another Frozen-like animated hit for 2015. All in all, 2015 has a movie lineup that looks poised to be another blockbuster year for Disney, as many of the investments it has made over the past few years come to fruition.
The 2015 lineup
- Strange Magic (Lucasfilm) -- Jan. 23
- McFarland, USA -- Feb. 20
- Cinderella -- March 13
- Monkey Kingdom -- April 17
- Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron -- May 1
- Tomorrowland -- May 22
- Inside Out -- June 19
- Marvel's Ant-Man -- July 17
- The Jungle Book -- Oct. 9
- Untitled Steven Spielberg movie (Cold War-era thriller, with DreamWorks) -- Oct. 16
- The Good Dinosaur -- Nov. 25
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm) -- Dec. 18
Cinderella has already performed reasonably well at the box office with $259 million in worldwide gross as of March 24. Marvel movies have mostly all done very well recently, so expect Avengers: Age of Ultron to also help spur revenue in Q2. However, for the kind of extended blockbuster success Frozen had, Inside Out looks like it could be the movie with the most promise.
Could this be Disney's next animated hit?
Inside Out is the story of Riley, a young girl with normal adolescent girl concerns, such as school, boys, and parents. The movie, however, takes place in Riley's brain, based on characters that represent Riley's emotions.
The 5 emotion characters are Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Anger (Lewis Black), with each playing their role in regulating Riley's brain and actions. But when a memory function mix-up causes Joy to get lost in the metropolis of Riley's mind, an adventure to get back to the emotion command center ensues.
The voice actors in this movie alone are reason to go see the film, and the story is an interesting and fresh take that looks like it could be appealing to a wide range of age groups, from families with kids, to 25-year-olds who don't have kids to use as a reason to see the movie, but will see it anyway, because they really like good Disney movies (e.g., me). From an investment standpoint, there are other reasons this movie looks like it could be a Frozen-like success, particularly in merchandising and the ability to spin off this franchise into Disney's other segments, such as theme parks and TV networks.
Successful movies lead to successful franchises
Disney's Frozen made over a billion dollars at the box office worldwide, claiming the title as the highest-grossing animated film ever, and near the top of highest-grossing films in general. But it's not just the box office haul that has made Frozen so successful, there's also the franchise that this movie created with toys and other merchandising.
Inside Out already has a line-up of toys ready to be released when the movie is out, everything from typical plush dolls to light-up figures that look like the emotions and the "memory cells" that Joy is dealing with when she gets lost in Riley's mind.
In the most recent quarter, Disney's merchandising segment continued to jump with a 22% increase in revenue and 46% increase in profits, year over year. To maintain this kind of success, Disney relies on movies that create characters that fans want to have with them all the time, not just while watching the movie, which is where merchandising success comes in.
Then from merchandising, these original characters have potential for spinoffs to theme park attractions, network shows, and interactive games, making each successful movie another chance at making a revenue-generating empire like Frozen. That's why the excitement that Inside Out has already gained from fans should also be getting investors excited.
Disney gets better and better
Inside Out looks like it will be a great movie, and one that could be very successful financially. Will it be as successful as Frozen? We'll see; that's a pretty tall order. But what is important for Disney and shareholders over the next few years is that Disney is not backing down from the challenge of posting continually higher profits in its movie segment, with Star Wars VII coming out at the end of 2015, and new Frozen and Star Wars movies announced for the future.
Disney's stock is not cheap in the industry right now, at a P/E of 23 after its recent share price climb of over 30% in the last 5 months alone. But looking forward, there are plenty of reasons to believe Disney is fully capable of continuing to post higher and higher earnings, driven by successes like Frozen and the potential of Inside Out. With these and the other great looking movies coming, it's easy to see why Disney share price could still have plenty of room to grow further.