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Dr. Toon: What's it Worth to You?

In this month's column, Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman gives some sound financial advice -- whatever you spend, spend it on animation.

Dr. Toon tells you how to invest your cash.

Some of us are frugal souls who are able to responsibly budget, with one eye on the kids' college fund and the other on a happy retirement. Coupons in hand and a tightly rolled copy of Consumer Reports in pocket, these ants continually put the grasshoppers around them to shame. Still, let us give some props to the grasshoppers, as well those sizzling shoppers whose cash flows become a flood of spending that could swamp old Noah himself. Whether you are among those who save for a rainy day or whether you believe that credit cards exist to be maxed, you have your own spending style. The question is, regardless of how you part with your dough, what should you lavish it on? Dr. Toon, the most sage of financial advisors, has your answer. Whatever you spend, spend it on animation.

What's that you say? Not quite the answer that Merrill Lynch or Charles Schwab might give? What do those hidebound suits know, anyhow? Trust me, there is nothing in life as wonderful or valuable as animation is. This is true whether you have chump change or billions of dollars to spare. After I give you 10 good examples that measure expenditures of roughly equal amounts, I'm sure that you'll agree. When we are done with this month's column, you will know exactly what animation is worth to you. (Note to sticklers: prices are current, approximate and will not be rounded off to the nearest nickel. What do I look like, your accountant?)

Example One:

Fast-food burger combo meals for Mom, Dad and one kid: $15.00One unopened box of 1991 Looney Tunes Comic Ball cards: $15.00

Stay home and cook. The whole family can have fun putting a set together, making the puzzles on the back and laughing at the funny baseball cards imbued with images of classic Warner favorites. The kid will be amused, child obesity will be staved off for one more day and we all know where those burgers, fries and soft drinks are headed within 48 hours. The cards are still flush with fun after the combo meals are simply flushed. Play ball, Bugs!

Advantage: You deserve a (financial) break today. Box of Looney Tune Comic Ball cards.

What's your choice going to be? Something good for your soul like Spirited Away or multiple trips to the toilet? © 2002 Nibariki. TGNDDTM. All rights reserved.

Example Two:

24-12 oz. bottles of Heineken beer: $19.99DVD of Hayao Myazaki's Spirited Away (sale price at local Best Buy): $19.99

It depends on how you want to spend your evening. If you want to get intoxicated, pack on a bunch of empty calories and stand before the toilet shedding your beer through any number of possible bodily functions, take the Heineies. Maybe you'll get a buck back on the bottle returns, but you'll have nothing else, either. Or, you can watch a magical, mythical tale of love and redemption that represents imagination at its finest. Then you can watch it again, just for the colorful imagery. Then you can watch it again, because you now own it forever. Are you all starting to get the point?

Advantage: Myazaki looks tremendous; no wonder he's number one. Spirited Away DVD.

Example Three:

One-year supply, reg. unleaded gasoline (12,000 miles per year/ $2.30 per gallon): $1,2551938 Seiberling Vintage Disney Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs set: $1100

The gasoline does nothing but burn up, waft into the atmosphere and contributes to the Earth's doom through the curse of global warming. Those fossil fuels are frittered into fumes while the world's icecaps melt away and the Middle East continues to destabilize. The smart buy was the vintage Snow White set, an attractive and valuable keepsake that is much more endearing than any gas cap will ever be.

Advantage: You can trust your dough to the guys who sing "Heigh-ho." 1938 Seiberling Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs set.

Example Four:

Amount spent by average couple dining out per year: $2,8801974 Underdog lunchbox: $2,500

The couple dining out gets nada but receipts by the end of the year. Do you think they will remember what they ate on Feb. 26 or June 7? Yeah, sure. It should also be taken into account that a few of those dining experiences are certain to be stinkers, like the inedible fajitas jalisco down at the overrated Casa de Infierno. The wise investor who bought the Underdog lunchbox has an adorable, permanent collectible that can double as a transport for many nutritious meals free of harmful trans fats. Wally Cox never gave anyone heartburn or hyperlipidemia (and probably never overpaid for fettuccine alfredo, either).

Advantage: "When your money's at stake, smartly spend your dough! It's hip-hip-hip and away you go! 1974 Underdog lunchbox.

It's a no-brainer when the choice is between cigarettes and the first issue of the Mickey Mouse Magazine.

Example Five:

Two years of smoking cigarettes at one pack per day: $3,200First edition of Mickey Mouse Magazine (1933): $3,800

A no-brainer for health reasons alone, besides the chance to own a wonderful piece of hard-to-find memorabilia dating back to the Depression Era. Mickey has never been associated with emphysema, basal cell carcinoma, secondhand smoke effects, esophageal cancer or badly yellowed teeth and fingers. If only Walt himself had made this choice. At any rate, smiling beats coughing any day, and, like many of the items discussed, you actually have something to own instead a bunch of dirty ashes and nicotine-stained butts. Hey, my agenda may be out there on my sleeve, but give me Mickey any day.

Advantage: Mickey reads good, like a magazine should. First edition of Mickey Mouse Magazine

Example Six:

Giorgio Armani Collection: Lizard Stamped Jacket for her: $5,875Collezione Lambskin Safari Jacket for him: $1,845 Total: $7,720Original Production cel of Mickey and Minnie Mouse from On Ice (1933): $8,000

Let us turn our attention to foppery and finery, and watch them fizzle as well. The Armani clothing, while admittedly nice, will be so last year in 2008, especially if worn out to the trendy scenes in New York and L.A. The dry cleaning bill alone could get you10 pairs of jeans at any sane clothing outfit. On the other hand, the love of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, skating side by side, is timeless indeed. This charming cel will only appreciate in value, and cleans up with a shot of Windex on the glass. Instead of your investment turning into, "What, this old thing?", that you truck down to Goodwill, you get a classic work of art done by true masters of animation. This is too easy.

Advantage: Every investor's crazy for a sharp-dressed cel. Mickey and Minnie production cel.

Six pages of original Winsor McCay art trumps a Hummer any day. © 2003 Milestone Film & Video. All rights reserved.

Example Seven:

2007 Hummer H3 (basic): $29,405Six pages of original Winsor McCay art: $30,000

You can argue that McCay was primarily a comic strip artist, as well as a political cartoonist and vaudevillian, and you would be right. However, McCay was also an animator of the highest order, a superb draftsman whose earliest efforts were years ahead of the field. Although his output was small, his influence on legions of master animators still in their teens was incalculable. As for the Hummer, it depreciates within a day; swills gas like Bacchus does wine and produces greenhouse gasses in prodigious amounts. It does nothing that a smaller on-off road vehicle can't do, and is little more than a bloated status symbol in the wrong place at the wrong time given our present energy situation. Worse, you can't get to Slumberland in one.

Advantage: "Oh! Mama! That big car has run over the Princess!" McCay original artwork.

Example Eight:

Action Comics #1 (First appearance of Superman, 1938): $440,000Original production cel from The Band Concert (1935): $498,000 (at private sale)

I have to admit that this one is close, and so is the decision. You are still better off with the cel, because in recent years Superman has gone south. I mean, they killed the guy off (well, at least for as long as anyone gets killed off in a comicbook), split him into four different superdudes that carried the ball while he was "dead," resurrected him anyway, then turned him into a red Superman and a blue Superman, then made a huge budget film about his return to Earth that certainly proved to be less than super. Can you even follow all of this music? Meanwhile, with no more than the power to conduct an orchestra and play musical instruments while at the mercy of a tornado, the Disney gang is still standing tall and delighting audiences with far more consistency. Not a dream, not a hoax, not an imaginary story: sink your money into the cel.

Advantage: "This looks like a job for -- Donald Duck!" The Band Concert cel.

Forget mutual funds; animation is forever. Cars © Disney/Pixar. All rights reserved.

Example Nine:

The production budget for Cars: $120,000,000900,000 shares of Vanguard Index 500 mutual fund (as of 1/12/07): $118, 805,300

Forget the mutual funds. One bomb goes off in England, an unpredictable hurricane or earthquake of Katrina-like magnitude hits the states again or some cabal of sheiks gets greedy, and you have 900,000 sheets of Charmin. If you had invested the jack in Cars, you would pull in worldwide residuals forever. And just look at the licensing and merchandise! When was the last time you saw some hottie in a Vanguard Index 500 T-shirt, or had to buy your kids a mutual fund-themed backpack? Did anyone ever make a videogame out of computing capital gains for a no-load fund? I rest my case.

Advantage: Lightening strikes! The production budget for Cars.

Example Ten:

B2 Spirit Stealth bomber: $ 1.5 billionCost of making every Disney/Pixar collaboration plus Shrek and Shrek 2: $700,000,000

OK, now we're getting serious. I do realize that there is somewhat of a disparity in cost, here, but what's $300.5 million or so to companies like Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas or Grumann these days? Besides, if you add in every bonus Eisner ever claimed while he ran Diz, as well as Katzenberg's salary after he jumped, well... it probably comes out close to even. If we look at the relative joy brought to the world by bombers (stealth or otherwise) as opposed to that provided by Toy Story and Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars and the Shrek films, the choice is pretty clear. Besides, the Pentagon will scrap the Spirit any day now for a stealthier and deadlier weapon at twice the price if history is any indication. We can only hope that human weapons are not as enduring as human imagination and that we choose to make toons, not war.

Advantage: "That's not flying! It's fancy falling!" Disney/Pixar and the Shreks.

Well, there you have it. From the small bills to the billions, animation-related items trump virtually everything else. Food, clothing, transportation and the world's most sophisticated weapons all fall before the inexorable wonders of cartoons. And there, dear reader, is your guide to wise investing. Hey, is that a ten-spot in your pocket? You know what to do, right?

Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman is a longtime student and fan of animation. He lives in Anderson, Indiana.