By Michael Corkery
There are plenty of adults who would like to learn how to be part of Warren Buffett’s secret millionaires club.
Sorry deal makers, you’ve got to be a kid to join this club. The “Secret Millionaires Club” is the title of a new cartoon staring the Oracle of Omaha, in which Buffett’s cartoon likeness (who with his stylish glasses and wavy gray hair looks much younger and more coiffed than the real-live Buffett) dispenses investment advice to a motley crew of kids from Omaha. The episodes are to be distributed over the internet by the end of 2009 or early 2010. AOL is helping produce the show. (View a trailer of the cartoon below)
Deal Journal spoke to the cartoon’s creator, Andy Heyward, of A Sqaured Entertainment LLC in Los Angeles. Heyward has been producing a cartoon for the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting for many years and approached Buffett a few years ago with the idea for a show for kids.
The show’s animation, as seen in a five-minute trailer, is computer generated, but looks more Hannah Barbara from 1960s than, say, 2003’s “Finding Nemo”). Buffett teaches the gang how to evaluate whether to buy a candy business, while one-dimensional images of a factory pumping out chocolates flash by.
The name Warren Buffett probably means nothing to children being reared on “Dora the Explorer” and “Handy Manny.” Instead, the show is clearly being marketed at their parents. “His name lends credibility,’’ Heyward says.
Buffett agreed to provide the voice over for his character and his overall “ethos” inspired the various story lines, which touch on such investment topics as “determining the value of a business.” and “purchasing a company at a good price.” Heyward says Buffett weighed in on the early conception of the cartoon. The premise: the children are trying to raise money for a community center being foreclosed. (And what financial problem doesn’t start with foreclosure these days?)
Buffett nixed the original idea that the kids win the lottery. “He didn’t want to encourage buying lottery tickets,” Heyward said. Instead, they find a valuable baseball card in an attic and sell it for a big profit (It is a lesson either in harvesting value or the value of “Antiques Road Show.”)
The children ride skateboards to board meetings and calculate cash flow using their cellphones.
In the trailer, they are deciding whether to finance a candy factory or let it fall into the hands of a sinister developer (named Carl Shady) who wants to build condos on the site. (Quelle horreur!)
Buffett doesn’t shy away from big words. He tells them to decide whether the candy factory has “durable comparable advantage’’ over other candy makers. He advises them to buy businesses that produce things that consumers like. The gang takes his advice and finances the candy maker. The reasons? It meets Buffett’s criteria: People have emotional attachment to the product and it has sound and able management.
Heyward wouldn’t say if Buffett actually came up with any of the ideas for the episode. No word either on whether cartoon Buffett will teach the kids how to profit from the financial crisis a la his investment in Goldman Sachs last year, which reportedly has netted him $2 billion as the bank’s shares surge.
Heyward is also producing separate cartoons starring Martha Stewart and supermodel, Gisele Bundchen, who moonlights as an environmental superhero. “Gisele helps emphasize girl power,’’ he says.
If they would have had this cartoon when I was younger, my snow shoveling, lemonade making, and basketball card trading businesses would have been much more profitable!
*Courtesy of WSJ Blogs