The Walt Disney Company

The Walt Disney Company

The Walt Disney Company is one of the largest media and entertainment corporations in the world. Founded on October 16, 1923, by brothers Walt and Roy Disney as an animation studio, it has become one of the biggest Hollywood studios, and owner and licensor of eleven theme parks and several television networks, including ABC and ESPN. Disney's corporate headquarters and primary production facilities are located at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. The company is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.


Consumer products

Disney parks

The Walt Disney Company owns and operates a series of resorts around the world including the Walt Disney World Resort, the largest vacation resort in the world. These resorts are managed by the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts division. These are:

Tokyo Disney Resort is owned and operated by the Oriental Land Company with a license from The Walt Disney Company.


Founding and early success (1922–1966)

Year Notable Business Events Notable Releases
(See List of Disney feature films for complete film listing)

  • Walt Disney signed a contract with M.J. Winkler to produce a series of Alice Comedies, beginning the Disney company under its original name Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, with brothers Walt and Roy Disney, as equal partners.


  • First Alice comedy, Alice's Day at Sea, released.


  • Company changed name to The Walt Disney Studio shortly after moving into the new studio on Hyperion Avenue in the Silver Lake district.



  • Walt loses the Oswald series contract
  • Mickey Mouse debuts in Plane Crazy
  • Steamboat Willie
  • 1929

    • On December 16, the original partnership formed in 1923 is replaced by Walt Disney Productions, Ltd. Three other companies, Walt Disney Enterprises, Disney Film Recording Company, and Liled Realty and Investment Company, are also formed.
  • The Skeleton Dance, the first Silly Symphony
  • 1932



    • On September 29, Walt Disney Enterprises, Disney Film Recording Company, and Liled Realty and Investment Company are merged into Walt Disney Productions.


    • Studio moves to Burbank, California
  • Pinocchio
  • Fantasia
  • 1941

  • Dumbo
  • 1942



    • The company is short on money; a theatrical re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs generates much-needed revenue and begins a reissue pattern for the animated feature films.

    1945 The Three Caballeros
    1946 Song of the South

    • Signs their first independent studio, The Byrnest Studio in Orlando


    • The studio begins production on its first all-live action feature, Treasure Island
  • The True-Life Adventures series begins
  • 1950

    1951 Alice in Wonderland


  • Peter Pan
  • 1954


  • Lady and the Tramp
  • 1957

    • Walt Disney Productions goes public






    After Walt Disney's death (1967-1983)

    Year Notable Business Events Notable Releases
    (See List of Disney feature films for complete film listing)

  • The Jungle Book
  • 1968

    • The name Walt Disney Productions changed to Walt Disney Enterprises



    • The Walt Disney World Resort opens
    • Roy Oliver Disney dies; Donn Tatum becomes chairman and Card Walker becomes president
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  • 1973


    • Walt's nephew Roy E. Disney, resigns from the company citing a decline in overall product quality and issues with management.
  • The Rescuers
  • 1980


    • Plans for a cable network are announced.
    • Dumbo is Disney's first animated feature released on video.
  • The Fox and the Hound
  • 1982

  • Tron
  • 1983

    Eisner era (1984–2004)

    Year Notable Business Events Notable Releases
    (See List of Disney feature films for complete listing)


  • The Black Cauldron
  • Return to Oz
  • 1986

    • The company's name is changed on February 6 from Walt Disney Productions to The Walt Disney Company.
  • The Great Mouse Detective
  • 1987

  • The Brave Little Toaster
  • 1988


    • Disney offers a deal to buy Jim Henson's Muppets and have the famed puppeteer work with Disney resources.
    • Disney-MGM Studios opens at Walt Disney World.
  • The Little Mermaid
  • 1990

    • Jim Henson's death sours the deal to buy his holdings.
    • The anthology series is canceled for the second time. The Disney Afternoon block debuts.
  • The Rescuers Down Under
  • 1991


  • Aladdin
  • 1993

    • Disney acquires independent film distributor Miramax Films.
    • Winnie-the-Pooh merchandise outsells Mickey Mouse merchandise for the first time.
    • The policy of periodic theatrical reissues ends with this year's reissue of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but is augmented for video.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • 1994

  • The Lion King
  • 1995

  • Toy Story
  • Pocahontas
  • 1996

    • The company takes on the Disney Enterprises name and acquires the Capital Cities/ABC group, renaming it ABC, Inc.
    • To celebrate the pairing, ABC's first Super Soap Weekend is held at Walt Disney World.
    • Disney makes deal with Tokuma Shoten for dubbing and releasing of Studio Ghibli films in the U.S. In December, Michael Ovitz, president of the company, leaves "by mutual consent".
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • 1997

    • The anthology series is revived again.
    • The home video division releases its first DVDs.
    • Disney takes control of the Major League Baseball franchise the California Angels of the American League, renaming the team the Anaheim Angels in order to coincide with Disney's hockey team the Mighty Ducks and to draw more tourism to Anaheim and nearby Disneyland.
  • Hercules
  • 1998

  • Mulan
  • A Bug's Life
  • 1999

  • Tarzan
  • Toy Story 2
  • 2000

    • Robert Iger becomes president.
    • Disney-owned TV channels are pulled from Time Warner Cable briefly during a dispute over carriage fees.
    • Disney begins its Gold Classic Collection DVD line.
  • Fantasia 2000
  • Dinosaur
  • The Emperor's New Groove
  • 2001

    • Disney's California Adventure Park and Tokyo DisneySea open to the public.
    • Disney buys Fox Family Network for $3 billion in July, giving Disney programming and cable network reaching 81 million homes.
    • Disney changes Fox Family Network to ABC Family.
    • Fort Worth billionaire Sid Bass is forced to sell his Disney holdings due to a margin call caused partially by the stock market fall that followed the 9/11 attacks.
    • The fact that Bass had bought his shares on margin was a shock when it was revealed.
    • Losing Bass was a blow to Eisner; Bass was one of his major backers and had recruited Eisner to Disney.
    • Disney begins its Platinum Edition DVD line with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as well as the Walt Disney Treasures DVD box set line for the collector's market.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  • Monsters, Inc.
  • 2002

  • Lilo & Stitch
  • Treasure Planet
  • 2003

    • Roy E. Disney resigns as the chairman of Feature Animation and from the board of directors, citing similar reasons to those that drove him off 26 years earlier. Fellow director Stanley Gold resigns with him. They establish a group called "Save Disney" to apply public pressure to oust Michael Eisner.
    • Pixar ends distribution agreement with Disney.
    • Disney buys the Power Ranger franchise from Saban.
  • Brother Bear
  • Finding Nemo
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
  • 2004

    • Comcast makes an unsuccessful hostile bid for the company.
    • Eisner is replaced by George J. Mitchell as chairman of the board after a 43% vote of no confidence.
    • Disney turns down distributing controversial documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11, which ends up making $100 million.
    • On February 17, Disney buys the Muppets, excluding the Sesame Street characters.
    • Disney creates Jetix the children's block that mainly consists of Fox Kids shows and original programming on ABC Family and Toon Disney.
    • Disney Store chain licensed to The Children's Place.
  • Home on the Range
  • National Treasure
  • The Incredibles
  • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
  • Iger era (2005–Present)

    Year Notable Business Events Notable Releases
    (See List of Disney feature films for complete listing)

    • Disney sells the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to Henry Samueli of Broadcom
    • On July 8, Roy E. Disney rejoins the company as a consultant with the title of Director Emeritus.
    • Disneyland celebrates its 50th anniversary on July 17.
    • Hong Kong Disneyland officially opens on September 12.
    • Bob Iger replaces Michael Eisner as CEO.
  • Chicken Little
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • 2006

  • High School Musical
  • Hannah Montana
  • Kingdom Hearts II
  • Cars
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  • 2007

  • Meet the Robinsons
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
  • Ratatouille
  • High School Musical 2
  • Enchanted
  • National Treasure: Book of Secrets
  • 2008

    • Disney Store chain is reacquired from The Children's Place
  • Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert
  • Camp Rock
  • WALL-E
  • Senior Executive Management

    Current board of directors

    Chairmen of the Board

    • 1945-1960: Walt Disney
    • 1945-1971: Roy O. Disney (Co-Chair 1945-1960)
    • 1971-1980: Donn Tatum
    • 1980-1983: Card Walker
    • 1983-1984: Raymond Watson
    • 1984-2004: Michael Eisner
    • 2004-2006: George J. Mitchell
    • 2007-present: John E. Pepper, Jr.

    Vice Chairman of the Board

    • 1984-2003: Roy E. Disney
    • 1999-2000: Sanford Litvack (Co-Vice Chair)

    Chief Executive Officers

    • 1968-1971: Roy O. Disney
    • 1971-1976: Donn Tatum
    • 1976-1983: Card Walker
    • 1983-1984: Ron W. Miller
    • 1984-2005: Michael Eisner
    • 2005-present: Robert Iger

    Criticism & conflict

    Disney's media releases and company practices, have prompted action, including from activists, artists, and causes around the world.

    • Religious groups, such as the Catholic League, have spoken out against the release of material which they and others found offensive, including vehement protests of the Miramax Films features Priest (1994) and Dogma (1999). Disney pushed back the release date for Dogma due to the controversy surrounding the movie, and eventually sold the distribution rights to Lions Gate Films. The ABC show Nothing Sacred, about a Jesuit priest, a children's book called Growing Up Gay (published by Disney-owned Hyperion Press), the annual Gay and Lesbian Days at Disney theme parks, and similar issues spurred boycotts of Disney and its advertisers by the Catholic League, the Assemblies of God, and other conservative groups.
    • The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the American Family Association voted to boycott Disney over opposition to the latter offering domestic partnership benefits to gay employees and the ABC show Ellen, in which Ellen DeGeneres' character came out as a lesbian; Disney ignored the boycotts, which failed. Both were withdrawn in 2005.
    • In 1995 an anti-abortion group, American Life League (ALL), alleged that several Disney films, including The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin, contained subliminal messages and sexual imagery. The latter allegation was later denied by Tom Sito, a Disney animator and a writer for The Lion King, who said that the letters written in the dust were actually "S.F.X". It was intended to be an easter egg signature from the animation department, and that the controversy that followed was entirely unintentional.
    • Disney is one among several American companies lobbying for more stringent enforcement of intellectual property around the world and continued copyright term extensions, posing a perceived threat to the existence of the public domain.
    • The company has been accused of human rights violations regarding the working conditions in factories that produce their merchandise. It has been criticized also by animal welfare groups, for their care of and procedures for wild animals at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park, and for using purebred dogs in movies such as 101 Dalmatians. Animal rights groups claim movies with purebreds create an artificial demand for purebreds from people who may not be prepared or temperamentally suited for the animals, many of whom end up abandoned or surrendered to shelters or rescue groups.
    • An environmental management plan for a zone of Great Guana Cay, in the Abaco Islands, criticized Disney for poor management of a tract of the island. Disney partially developed but then abandoned the place, which was to have been a cruise ship resort called Treasure Island. The report, by the University of Miami and the College of the Bahamas, blames Disney for leaving hazardous materials, electrical transformers, and fuel tanks, and for introducing invasive alien plants and insects that threaten the natural flora and fauna of the island.


    See also


    • Walt Disney: An American Original, Bob Thomas, 1976, revised 1994
    • The Story of Walt Disney, Diane Disney Miller & Pete Martin, 1957
    • Cult of the Mouse: Can We Stop Corporate Greed from Killing Innovation in America?, Henry M. Caroselli, 2004, Ten Speed Press, ISBN
    • The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art and Commerce of Walt Disney, Richard Schickel, 1968, revised 1997, ISBN
    • The Man Behind the Magic; the Story of Walt Disney, Katherine & Richard Greene, 1991, revised 1998
    • Disney: The Mouse Betrayed, Peter Schweizer
    • Storming the Magic Kingdom: Wall Street, the raiders, and the battle for Disney, John Taylor, 1987, , , ISBN ISBN
    • Building a Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire, Bob Thomas, 1998, ISBN
    • How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic ISBN 0-88477-023-0 (Anti-Disney Marxist Critique) Ariel Dorfman, Armand Mattelart, David Kunzle
    • Donald Duck Joins Up; the Walt Disney Studio During World War II, Richard Shale, 1982
    • The Keys to the Kingdom: How Michael Eisner Lost His Grip, Kim Masters, 20, ISBN
    • Building a Dream; The Art of Disney Architecture, Beth Dunlop, 1996
    • Disneyization of Society: Alan Bryman, 2004, ISBN
    • DisneyWar, James B. Stewart, 2005, ISBN, ISBN
    • Married to the Mouse, Richard E. Foglesorg, Yale University Press.
    • Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records, Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar, 2006, ISBN
    • Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland, David Koenig, 1994, revised 2005, ISBN 0-9640605-4-X
    • Inside the Dream: The Personal Story of Walt Disney, Katherine Greene & Richard Greene, 2001, ISBN
    • Team Rodent, Carl Hiassen.
    • Disneyana: Walt Disney Collectibles, Cecil Munsey, 1974

    External links

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