Tue May 26, 2009 9:01am EDT
By caitlin.mcdevitt - The Big Money
Is it just me, or does the grumpy old man protagonist in Disney/Pixar's soon-to-be-released film Up look just like Warren Buffett?
This may be more than a coincidence. Curiously, the character is also 78 years old, and they both live in the Midwest. In the film, the character, Carl Fredricksen, is a balloon salesman who ties 10,000 balloons to his house, which then floats to South America. OK, so Buffett doesn't sell balloons; it's his words of investing wisdom that makes him so much money.
So could someone at Pixar be equating Buffett's predictions to a lot of hot air? Perhaps. Berkshire Hathaway was one of Disney's major investors until 2000, when Buffett sold more than 80 percent of its stake in the company. Disney/Pixar (DIS) has reason to hold a grudge.
Or maybe there's some deeper plot-related symbolism going on here. Buffet is known as a grounded guy, as evidenced by the fact that he's still living in the five-bedroom stucco house in Nebraska that he purchased for $31,500. But how long can this down-to-earth attitude last for when you're the second-richest man in the world? Maybe not for long. Berkshire Hathaway reported that 2008 was the worst year in its history. Could the shaky economy finally unhinge Buffett and send him spiraling uncharacteristically out of control? If the analogy proves true, Buffett (like Carl Fredricksen) may land in the rainforests of South America. Forget about Omaha. Buffett as the oracle of the Amazon!
Pixar is telling everyone that the character is based on a combination of old guys, including Walter Matthau and Spencer Tracey, but that he most closely resembles the actor who's doing his voice, Edward Asner. But I don't buy that he's the central inspiration here. I think it's Warren. Disney is notorious for slipping subliminal messages into children's movies, so it's not out of the question it's up to its old tricks again. And interestingly, when Asner saw the sketch of the character who was supposedly modeled after him, even he responded with skepticism, remarking, "I don't look anything like that."
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