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Posts Tagged ‘Disney

“I’m forever blowing bubbles / Pretty bubbles in the air”*…

 

Hertz

 

Last Wednesday, Hertz, which has filed for bankruptcy, suspended it’s plans to sell lots of new shares.  The backstory is fascinating… and sadly, all-too-indicative of our times…

Ok, so. Up until this year, I would’ve told you that there are two general kinds of financial bubbles.

The first kind of bubble is where everyone believes the future will be like the present. Think credit bubbles and real estate; think 2007-2008, where the fundamental belief that drove the bubble forward and into ruin was “We’ve figured this out. We can’t lose. The risk has all been worked out. Lever up, cowboy. We will never die.”…

The second kind of bubble is where everyone believes the future will be different from the present. Think equity bubbles, startups, and crypto; think 1999, where the fundamental belief that drove the bubble forward and into ruin was “It’s a new economy. All the rules are different. The upside is unlimited. If you get in now, you’ll be rich. We’re going to live forever.”…

I was wrong. There is a third kind of bubble, it’s happening spectacularly right now, and we’re going to see it a lot more in the future.

If the first kind of bubble is “everyone thinks the future will be the same”, and the second kind is “everyone thinks the future will be different”, the third kind is “everyone thinks the future doesn’t matter.”…

I’m sure most of you have heard of the Wallstreetbets subreddit by now; if you haven’t, the best way I know how to explain it is that it’s like “multiplayer Jackass for the stock market.”

Wallstreetbets started as a bunch of random internet yahoos bragging about crazy YOLO trades they’d make (and would actually follow through on!), and what enormous percentages of their net worth they’d win or lose spectacularly. I really do think that Jackass is a good comparison here. Yes, these people are trying to get rich; but more importantly, they’re trying to provoke reactions. It’s a game of who can be the most shocking. There’s really not much difference between reading some of these WSB posts and watching an old Jackass sketch. You’ll laugh until you can’t breathe, and then keep laughing when you realize someone actually got kicked in the crotch that hard.

But as it got more popular, some actually sophisticated (and supremely aggressive) traders are getting in on the fun, and it got highly competitive and weird. It’s the newest version of “the stock market as full-contact sports with legal gambling”, and it’s a lot of fun. No one here cares about valuation or fundamentals. It is explicitly a casino. Everyone is here to get in and out of a position in the most shocking way possible. And, astoundingly, there’s enough AUM getting accumulated behind these bets that it can actually start to move individual stocks in weird ways.

The groundwork for this strange show has been built up over a few years, but when the pandemic hit, all hell broke loose. A perfect storm of events come together: first, generational volatility in the stock market as everyone tried to get in front of (and then out from) a global pandemic; second, everyone getting quarantined at home and desperate to feel something, and third: no sports.

Enter Hertz. Hertz was in trouble anyway; it’s carrying around a ton of debt to pay for a fleet of cars that no one wants to drive, because we have Uber now. When the pandemic hit, they got called on their debt, couldn’t make it work, so they had to declare bankruptcy and start a restructuring process.

But then weird things started to happen. Hertz’s stock, which is presumably worthless, starts to go up. And up. And up. It gets bid up a whole 500% over a 3-day period last week. What is going on?

There’s no way to describe it other than, this is a Jackass sketch taking place. It started out as these internet YOLO traders playing an increasingly stupid game of chicken. But then it… caught on? Other people started to get in on this too. Hey, obviously the stock in the long run is worth zero. Everyone knows that. But it’s going up, and tomorrow it might go up more. If this were just some dumb penny stock with a cool story attached to it, that’d be old news. This is different.

When you see a stock getting bid up like this, the only conclusion you can draw is “The future does not matter, because in between now and then, this is explicitly just spinning a roulette wheel. The stock could go up or down, who knows, but at least you know it has nothing to do with the underlying value of the stock (which we all know is zero!), and everything to do with other gamblers.

So Hertz sees this happening, and they’re like, well, if there’s demand for our stock, we should go sell some! I mean, it’s a ridiculous kind of demand, and it’s not “real” demand, but hey, maybe it’s real enough. So Hertz files, and is granted, an emergency request to their bankruptcy judge to issue a billion dollars worth of new stock in order to take advantage of whatever this is. Tom Lauria, one of the attorneys representing Hertz, had an all-timer line: “New platforms for day traders may be facilitating this. There are forces at work that us non-financial people, that we can only observe.” The SEC, presumably between gasps of laughter, declined to weigh in on whether the transaction was legal, saying “it is up to the company to comply with securities law.”

Just to restate how funny this is: Hertz is granted permission, by their own bankruptcy judge, to sell stock in their company which has already declared bankruptcy, because due to weird mojo in the universe, there’s a small army of reddit trolls playing chicken with each other and it just might save the company. Financial Twitter goes crazy, and (of course!) people start bidding up stocks of other bankrupt companies. It was a great day to be online…

Eminently worth reading in full– the ever-illuminating Alex Danco on the emergence of a new kind of financial bubble: “Never Hertz to Ask.”

See also “Speculative Booms” in Jamie Catherwood’s “The State of the Market” (and then, here); plus “Hertz share issue: demolition derby” and “Trading Sportsbooks for Brokerages, Bored Bettors Wager on Stocks.”

And experts suggest that there’s going to be more–lots more– scope for creativity: “A Tidal Wave of Bankruptcies Is Coming.”

* Popular American song; music by John Kellette; lyrics credited to “Jaan Kenbrovin” — actually a collective pseudonym for the writers James Kendis, James Brockman and Nat Vincent, combining the first three letters of each lyricist’s last name. The number was debuted in the Broadway musical The Passing Show of 1918

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As we pucker up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1970 that Penn Central, a century-old American railroad company, declared Section 77 bankruptcy, the largest ever U.S. corporate bankruptcy up to that date.  They did not use the occasion to issue stock, and did later exit bankruptcy, and were ultimately folded into Conrail, the U.S. government’s railroad holding company.

150px-PennCentral_Logo.svg

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Written by LW

June 21, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”*…

 

A display of concept drawings by the seminal movie artist Albert Hurter have shed new light on some of the rejected characters who didn’t make the cut in Walt Disney’s 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The final lineup – Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey – was selected from a pool of around 50 brainstormed by his team; in the Grimms’ original 1812 story, the dwarves are anonymous.

Although many of the ultimately rejected names – including Jumpy, Deafy, Dizzey, Hickey, Wheezy, Baldy, Gabby, Nifty, Sniffy, Swift, Lazy, Puffy, Stuffy, Tubby, Shorty and Burpy – were already known, the artwork reveals how close some of them came to actual animation. The drawings were sold as part of an auction of 400 pieces at Bonhams in New York that raised a total of £500,000…

More at “Burpy, Baldy, Deafy … auctioned artwork reveals rejected Snow White dwarves.”

* The Evil Queen, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

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As we whistle while we work, we might spare a thought for James Gilmore “Jim” Backus; he died on this date in 1989.  A voice and screen actor, Backus appeared in myriad television and radio programs and films, from Francis in the Navy and Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town to Rebel Without a Cause and Hurry Sundown.  But he is surely best remembered as Thurston Howell, III, on the 1960s sitcom Gilligan’s Island, and as the voice of the amusingly visually-challenged cartoon character Mr. Magoo,

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Written by LW

July 3, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Like the bee, we should make our industry our amusement”*…

 

Your correspondent is off for his annual sojourn in the land of dunes and deep fried food; regular service should resume on or around August 11.  Meantime, in the hope of inspiring readers to new heights of summer fun…

Dyrehavsbakken (“The Deer Park’s Hill”), commonly referred to as Bakken (“The Hill”), a ten minute drive north of Copenhagen, is the world’s oldest continuously-operating amusement park.  Its origins trace back to 1583, when residents of Denmark’s capital would retreat to “The Hill” for its clean spring water.  The large crowds attracted entertainers and hawkers, the forerunners of the attractions that make up the modern park.

Bakken at the turn of the 19th Century

Today, Bakken is home to six roller coasters, the most famous of which is Rutschebanen (Danish for “The Roller Coaster”; pictured above, top), a wooden roller coaster open since 1932 (and a designated American Coaster Enthusiasts Coaster Classic), to dozens of other flat (or amusement) rides, and to gaming halls, restaurants, and shows.

Visit Bakken.com, then Bakken… just be careful not to hop onto The Rollercoaster of Death by accident.

[Image sources: Rutschebanen and 19th Century]

* Oliver Goldsmith

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As we keep our arms within the car, we might recall that it was on this date in 1989 that 36 Disney executives gathered (for the next 3 days) to brainstorm ideas for a very different kind of amusement park– a second Anaheim-based theme park to be built next to Disneyland.  The result was a plan for an attraction celebrating a place (and a state of mind) that hadn’t even been imagined when Bakken got going: Disney’s California Adventure.

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Written by LW

August 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In Hollywood, the real stars are all in animation”*…

 

Back in 2001, Terry Gilliam, a respected director who’d begun his career creating the animated opens and bumpers for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, named his list of The 10 Best Animated Films of All Time.  From Starewicz and Disney, through Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay, to Lasseter/Pixar and Parker/South Park, it’s a captivating collection.

Our friends at Open Culture have dressed the list, adding links where available…  so now readers can click straight through to many of Gilliam’s picks: “The Best Animated Films of All Time, According to Terry Gilliam.”

The photo above, sourced here, is a lift from a marvelous short: “Terry Gilliam’s Do It Yourself Animation Show.”

* John Waters, Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters

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As we celebrate cels, we might spare a thought for Hazel Inez Gilman George; she died on this date in 1996.  George held down two key roles at The Walt Disney Company:  she was the company’s (and Walt’s personal) nurse, and– as “Gil George”– the main collaborator and partner of Disney composer Paul Smith.  Indeed, she co-wrote over 90 songs for Disney. Her work included songs for films like The Light in the Forest, Perri, Tonka, Westward Ho the Wagons, and Old Yeller. She was also a frequent contributor to the television shows including the original Disneyland show, Zorro, and the original Mickey Mouse Club.

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Written by LW

March 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The slogan of Hell: Eat or be eaten. The slogan of Heaven: Eat and be eaten”*…

 

This three-year-old male Great Dane was observed repeatedly vomiting and retching all day; he was taken to DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland, where abdominal radiographs revealed a severely distended stomach and a large quantity of foreign material:

During exploratory surgery performed by a DoveLewis veterinarian, 43½ socks were removed.

The patient was discharged home one day after surgery, and is doing well.

The peckish pooch finished third in Veterinary Practice News‘ annual “They ate WHAT?” contest.  See the other winners at “2014 X-Ray Contest Winners–Animals will eat just about anything. The proof is in the radiographs.”

* W.H. Auden, A Certain World: A Commonplace Book

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As we are what we eat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that Walt Disney initiated the art classes that grew into the Walt Disney Art School (and later inspired the creation of the California Institute for the Arts).  In preparation for his feature-length cartoon (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which would require the animation of more human figure than the critters theretofore featured), Disney set up the school to train his animators.  The first class was taught by Don Graham of the Chouinard School of Art, lecturing at Disney’s old sound studio on Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles. Classes are held once a week after work on the sound stage, but soon this will be expanded to twice weekly. The selection of Graham was propitious; “The Prof” groomed a team of animators that went on to set (and continually raise) standards for decades.

A true scholar of the art of drawing [who] knew as much about art as anybody I’ve ever come in contact with. Don gave so much and offered so much and not too many people realize that. [Don] was a very inspirational man.Marc Davis on Don Graham

Don Graham really knew what he was teaching, and he “showed” you how to do something – he didn’t just talk. He taught us things that were very important for animation. How to simplify our drawings – how to cut out all the unnecessary hen scratching amateurs have a habit of using. He showed us how to make a drawing look solid. He taught us about tension points – like a bent knee, and how the pant leg comes down from that knee and how important the wrinkles from it are to describe form. I learned a hell of a lot from him!  —Art BabbittOnce Upon a Time — Walt Disney: The Sources of inspiration for the Disney Studios

Jack Kinney‘s memory of Don Graham’s class

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Written by LW

November 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

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