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The Walt Disney Company

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The Walt Disney Company
  • Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio
  • The Walt Disney Studio
  • Walt Disney Productions
PredecessorLaugh-O-Gram Studio
FoundedOctober 16, 1923; 98 years ago (1923-10-16)
HeadquartersTeam Disney Building, Walt Disney Studios, ,
Area served
Key people
RevenueIncrease US$67.418 billion (2021)
Decrease US$7.766 billion (2021)
Increase US$1.995 billion (2021)
Total assetsIncrease US$203.609 billion (2021)
Total equityIncrease US$93.011 billion (2021)
Number of employees
190,000 (2021)
Subsidiaries Edit this at Wikidata
Footnotes / references

The Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Disney (/ˈdɪzni/),[3] is an American multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios complex in Burbank, California.

Disney was originally founded on October 16, 1923, by brothers Walt and Roy O. Disney as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio;[4] it also operated under the names the Walt Disney Studio and Walt Disney Productions before changing its name to the Walt Disney Company in 1986. The company established itself as a leader in the American animation industry before diversifying into live-action film production, television, and theme parks.

Since the 1980s, Disney has created and acquired corporate divisions in order to market more mature content than is typically associated with its flagship family-oriented brands. The company is known for its film studio division, Walt Disney Studios, which includes Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios, 20th Century Animation, and Searchlight Pictures. Disney's other main business units include divisions in television, broadcasting, streaming media, theme park resorts, consumer products, publishing, and international operations. Through these various segments, Disney owns and operates the ABC broadcast network; cable television networks such as Disney Channel, ESPN, Freeform, FX, and National Geographic; publishing, merchandising, music, and theater divisions; direct-to-consumer streaming services such as Disney+, Star+, ESPN+, Hulu, and Hotstar; and Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, a group of 14 theme parks, resort hotels, and cruise lines around the world.[5][6] The cartoon character Mickey Mouse, created in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, serves as the company's mascot.[7]

The company, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) with ticker symbol DIS,[8] has been a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since 1991.[9] In August 2020, just under two-thirds of the stock was owned by large financial institutions.[10]


1923–1934: Founding, Mickey Mouse, and Silly Symphonies

Publicity photo of Walt Disney from the Boy Scouts of America. Disney was given an award by them in 1946.
Roy O. Disney (1893–1971), the American businessman; partner and co-founder of The Walt Disney Company with his brother Walt Disney. This 1965 photograph shows Roy Disney and his brother with Florida's Governor W. Haydon Burns (1912–87), announcing plans to create a Disney theme park in the state. Walt Disney World opened in 1971. Located just southwest of Orlando, Florida, the attraction grew to become the largest resort in the world, covering 47 square miles (122 square kilometers) and encompassing four theme parks, two water parks, a wilderness preserve, and numerous hotels.
(left to right) Walt Disney and his brother Roy O. Disney co-founded The Disney Brother Studios, which later became The Walt Disney Company

At Laugh-O-Gram Studio, a film studio in Kansas City founded by Walt Disney and his friend and animator Ub Iwerks,[11] Disney made a short film entitled Alice's Wonderland, which featured child actress Virginia Davis interacting with animated characters. In 1923, soon after the short was made, Disney filed for bankruptcy, but the short later became a hit after New York film distributor Margaret J. Winkle purchased it, with Disney signing a contract for six Alice Comedies, with an option for two further series of six episodes each.[12][13] Before the signing, Disney decided to move to Hollywood to join his brother Roy O. Disney because Roy had tuberculosis.[14] This allowed them to co-find The Disney Brothers Studio to produce the films. He later convinced Iwerks and Davis' family to move to Hollywood as well.[13] In January 1926, with the completion of the Disney studio on Hyperion Street, The Disney Brothers Studio's name was changed to Walt Disney Studio.[15] After making several Alice films for the next four years, Winkler handed the role of distributing films to her husband Charles Mintz. In 1927, Mintz asked for a new series of films under Universal Pictures to be made, so Disney created his first series of fully animated films that would feature the character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.[16] Walt Disney Studio went on to create 26 films with Oswald in them.[17]

In 1928, Disney wanted a larger fee for his films, but Mintz wanted to reduce the price. After Disney found out that Universal owned the intellectual property rights to Oswald, Mintz threatened to produce the films without him if Disney did not take the reductions in payment.[17][18] Disney declined, and Mintz signed four of Disney's primary animators, with the exception Iwerks who stayed with Disney, to start his own studio.[19] Because of the loss of Oswald, Disney and Iwerks replaced him with a mouse originally named Mortimer Mouse, until Disney’s wife urged him to change it so he called him Mickey Mouse.[20] In May, they made two silent films with the character, Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho, as test screenings. Later, Disney’s first sound film and third short to the Mickey series Steamboat Willie was made with synchronized sound, creating the first post-produced sound cartoon.[21] Disney found Pat Powers’ distribution company to distribute the film, and Steamboat Willie became an immediate hit, leading the way for the companies dominance in the animation industry.[20][22][23] The sound was created using Powers’ Cinephone system, which used Lee de Forest's Phonofilm system.[24] Disney later successfully re-released the two earlier films with synchronized sound in 1929.[25][26]

Black and white rabbit in pants jumping.
Black and white mouse steering a ship.
(left to right) Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who Disney lost the rights to, and Mickey Mouse, who replaced Oswald, as seen in Steamboat Willie

After the release of Steamboat Willie at the Colony Theater in New York, Mickey Mouse became an immensely popular character.[26][20] Disney would go one to make several cartoons featuring Mickey and other characters such as Donald Duck and Goofy.[27] In August, Disney began the Silly Symphony series with Columbia Pictures signing on as the series' distributor, because Walt and Roy felt that they were not getting their share of the profits with Power .[23] Powers would then sign off Iwerks, who would later start his own studio.[28] Carl Starling played a pivotal role in getting the series started and composed the music for the earlier films in the series, but would later leave the company after Iwerks did.[29][30] In September, theater manager Harry Woodin requested permission to start a Mickey Mouse Club at his theater the Fox Dome to boost attendance. Walt agreed, but David E. Dow started one at Elsinore Theatre before Woodin could start his. It is unknown why Woodin did not create the first one, but on December 21, the first ever meeting for the club at Elsinore had around 1,200 children in attendance. The Mickey Mouse Clubs ended up spanning over 800 theaters across the country, with one million kids as members.[31][32] On July 24, Joseph Conley, president of King Features Syndicate, mailed the Disney studio asking for them to make a Mickey Mouse comic strip. They started in November and sent samples of the strip to them, which were approved.[33] On December 16, the Walt Disney Studios partnership was reorganized as a corporation with the name of Walt Disney Productions, Limited, with a merchandising division – Walt Disney Enterprises, and two subsidiaries – Disney Film Recording Company, Limited; and Liled Realty and Investment Company, for real estate holdings. Walt and his wife held 60 percent (6,000 shares) and Roy owned 40 percent of the company.[34]

The comic strip Mickey Mouse debuted on January 13, 1930, in the New York Daily Mirror and by 1931, the strip was published in 60 newspapers in the US, as well as papers in twenty other countries.[35] After finding out that coming out with merchandise for the characters would generate more revenue for the company, at hotel a man in New York asked Walt for the license to put Mickey Mouse on some writing tablets he was manufacturing for $300. Walt agreed and Mickey became the first licensed character ever, beginning the start of Disney merchandising.[36][37] In 1933, Walt asked a man who owned a Kansas City advertising firm named Kay Kamen to run Disney's merchandising. He agreed and completely transformed Disney's merchandising. Within a year, Kamen had 40 licenses for Mickey and within two years, $35 million worth of sales were made. In 1934, Walt claimed that he made more money from the merchandising of Mickey than from the Mickey films.[38][39] Later, as a part of Disney's merchandising push, the Waterbury Clock Company created a Mickey Mouse watch. It became so popular that it saved Waterbury from bankruptcy during the Great Depression. During a promotional event at Macy’s, 11,000 Mickey Mouse watches sold in one day and within two years, 2.5 million watches were sold.[40][35][39]

After a fallout with Colombia Pictures for the Silly Symphonies, Walt signed a distribution contract with United Artist from 1932 to 1937.[41] In 1932, Disney signed an exclusive contract with Technicolor through the end of 1935 to produce cartoons in color, beginning with Flowers and Trees (1932), which was part of the Silly Symphonies.[42] The film was the first ever full-color cartoon and won the Academy Award for the Best Cartoon later that year.[21] In 1933, The Three Little Pigs became another popular Silly Symphonies and also won the Academy Award for Best Cartoon.[27][43] The song from the film "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", composed by Frank Churchill who also wrote other Silly Symphonies songs, became popular throughout the 1930s and remained one of the most well-known Disney songs.[29] Films from Silly Symphonies would go on to win the Best Cartoon award from 1931 to 1939, except for in 1938 when another Disney film Ferdinand the Bull won it.[27]

1934–1949: The Golden Age of Animation, strike, and The Wartime Era

Three story building with green stripes surrounded by some trees
The original animation building at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, which they fully moved into in 1940

In 1934, Walt decided to make Disney's first ever feature-length animated film and told his animators by acting out the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Roy tried to stop Walt from making it saying it would bankrupt the studio, and Hollywood called it "Disney's Folly", but Walt continued production on the film.[44][45] Walt decided to go for a realistic approach to the film and created scenes from the film as if it were live action.[46] During the process of making the film, they created the multiplane camera, which was pieces of glass with drawings on them set at different distances, to create an illusion of depth for the backgrounds.[47] After United Artist attempted to attain future television rights to the Disney shorts, Walt signed distribution contract with RKO Radio Pictures on March 2, 1936.[48] They ended up exceeding their original budget for Snow White of $150,000 by ten times the amount at $1.5 million.[44]

It took them three years to make, debuting on December 12, 1937, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time to that point at $8,000,000 equivalent to $150,796,296 in 2021; after several re-releases, the film would gross a total of $998,440,000 adjusted for inflation.[49][50] After the profits of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney financed the construction of a new studio complex in Burbank, California, which was fully moved into in 1940.[51] On April 2, of the same year, Disney had its initial public offering, with the common stock remaining with Walt and his family, although Walt did not want to go public, but the company needed the money.[52] Shortly before Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' release, work on their next films Pinocchio and Bambi began, with Bambi being postponed.[48] Though Pinocchio would win the Academy Awards for Best Song and Best Score, along with making groundbreaking achievements in animations,[53] it would end up doing poorly in the box office during its release on February 23, 1940, because its international releases were cut off because of World War II.[54][55]

Man with a sign with the animated character Pluto on it leading a protest for unionization
Art Babbitt leading a picket at the premiere of The Reluctant Dragon during the strike

Disney's next film Fantasia was also a box-office bomb, but made great achievements by creating Fantasound, an early development surround sound, to produce the films' soundtrack, making it the first commercial film shown in stereo.[56][57][58] In 1941, Disney would have a major setback when 300 of its 800 animators, led mainly by Art Babbit, one of the companies top animators, would go on strike for five weeks for unionization, because of the amount of payment some of them were getting. Walt thought that the people on strike were secretly Communist and would end up firing many of the studios' animators, including some of its top ones.[59][60] Roy would try to get the companies' main distributors to invest in the film company, trying to secure more production funds for the studio which could no longer afford to offset production costs with employee layoffs, but was unsuccessful in getting anyone.[61] During the premiere of The Reluctant Dragon, Disney's fourth film where Robert Benchley would tour the Disney Studio, protesters from the strike showed up; the film would fall $100,000 dollars short of its production cost.[62]

Man dressed as a gaucho with someone dressed as Donald Duck
Walt (right) dressed as a gaucho next to Donald Duck on the companies' goodwill trip to South America in Argentina

While negotiations were being made for the strike, Walt accepted an offer from the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs to make a goodwill trip, along with some of his animators, to South America, making sure Walt would be gone during the deal because he knew the results would not be in his favor.[63] During the twelve weeks there, they would start plotting for films and were inspired by the music there.[64] As a result of the strike, the studio recognized the Screen Cartoonist's Guild after being compelled to by Federal mediators and loss several animators, leaving the company with only 694 employees.[65][60] To recover from their financial losses, Disney would create their fifth animated film Dumbo in a rush with a lower budget. Dumbo performed successfully at the box office and would be a much needed financial gain for the company.[53][66] After the bombing of Pear Harbor, many of the companies animators would be drafted into the army.[67] Later, 500 soldiers from the United States Army began an occupation of the studio for eight months to protect a nearby Lockheed aircraft plant, where they would also fix equipment in large soundstages and convert storage sheds into ammunition depots.[68] On December 8, the Navy asked Walt to create propaganda films to gain support for the war. He agreed and signed a contract with them to create 20 war-related shorts for $90,000.[69] Most of the companies' employees got to work on the project and created films such as Victory Through Air Power and included some of the companies' characters in several of the films.[70][67]

In August, 1942, Bambi was finally released as Disney's sixth animated film and did not do well in the box office.[71] In 1943, Disney would go on to make Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros after their visit to South America, but they would do poorly upon their releases.[67][72] The two films were "package films", several short cartoons grouped together to make a feature film, which Disney would go on to make more such as Make Mine Music, Melody Time, Fun and Fancy Free, and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad to try to recover from their financial losses.[67] As less expensive to make, the studio started production on live-action films, with a mixture of animation, starting with Song of the South, which would later become Disney's most controversial film.[73][74] Because the company was short on money, in 1944, they planned to re-release their feature films, which would create much needed revenue.[74][75] In 1948, Disney began the nature documentary series True-Life Adventures, which would run until 1960 and win eight Academy Awards.[76][77] In 1949, while production on the animated film Cinderella was happening, the Walt Disney Music Company was founded in order to help with profits from merchandising, which the music from Cinderella was hoped to be a hit.[78]

1950–1967: The Silver Age, Live-action films, television, Disneyland, and Walt's death

In 1950, Disney's first animated film in eight years Cinderella was released and was considered a return to form for Disney. It would be Disney's best box office success since Snow White, making a total of $8 million in its first year in the box office and costing $2.2 million to make. Walt had not been as involved as he was with the previous films because he was distracted with trains and made a trip to England to create Disney's first ever fully live-action film Treasure Island.[79] Because it was a success, he went back to England to produce The Story of Robin Hood and His Merry Men.[80] In 1950, the television industry began to grow, and Disney got in it on Christmas day, when NBC aired the companies first television production One Hour in Wonderland, which was a promotional program for Disney's next animated film Alice in Wonderland and sponsored by Coca-Cola.[81] During his trip in England, Alice in Wonderland was released and came as disappointment to the company falling $1 million short of the production budget.[82] Upon his return, Walt started thinking about an Amusement park he wanted to build called Mickey Mouse Park, an eight-acre (3.2 ha) piece of land near the studio with attractions such as a steamboat rides, but business kept getting in the way and production for a third British film The Sword and the Rose began.[83] Walt would only supervise over it, but it would be financed by a new subsidiary of Disney called Walt Disney British Films Limited.[84]

Several men looking at plans together
Walt (center) showing the plans of Disneyland to officials from Orange County in December 1954

Walt recalled that he first came up with the idea of an amusement park during one of his visits to Griffith Park with his daughters. He said that he watched them ride the carousel there and said that he thought there "should be... some kind of amusement enterprise built where the parents and the children could have fun together.”[85][86] As Walt continued to think about Mickey Mouse Park, he changed the name to Disneylandia before changing it to its final name Disneyland.[83] Because Roy was doubtful about the park, Walt would form a new privately owned company called Walt Disney Enterprise on December 16, 1952, to fund for the park. Shortly after, its name would change to Walt Disney Incorporated before changing its name to WED Enterprise[a] (now Walt Disney Imagineering) in November 1953.[87] He hired a group of designers to work on the plans and those who worked on it became dubbed as "Imagineers".[88] Since Walt came up with the idea of a park, he and his friends would visit parks in the U.S. and Europe to get ideas on how to build one.[89] His plan to have the park built in Burbank near the studio quickly changed when he realized that eight acres would not be enough land. He acquired 160 acres (65 ha) of orange groves in Anaheim, southeast of Los Angeles in neighboring Orange County, at $6,200 per acre to build the park.[90] As construction on the park began on July 12, 1954, Walt wanted it to be done by 1955, with storytelling attractions and areas, as well as being clean, and perfect.[91]

They designed the park to have guest enter into Main Street U.S.A., themed to resemble American small towns during the early 20th Century based largely off of Walt's hometown in Marceline, Missouri,[92] and walk down the street into the central hub, from which different themed lands branched out.[93][94] At the end of the street in the central hub would be a 77 ft (23 m) tall Sleeping Beauty Castle inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and based on the castle from the Disney film of the same name, which would be released four years later.[95][96] The four original different themed lands of the park that branched out from the hub would consist of Frontierland, themed to the American Frontier of the 19th century; Adventureland, resembling a wild tropical jungle; Fantasyland, based off Disney's animated fairy tale films; and Tomorrowland, depicting views of the future, especially that of the Space Age.[97][98] In total, by the time the park opened, it costed the company $17 million to construct.[99]

In February 1953, Disney's next animated film Peter Pan was released and had been a success, but Walt wanted to figure out how to improve animation without raising the cost.[100] When Disney wanted to create a feature with two short films, The Living Desert, for the True-Life documentary, RKO's lawyer believed it would break the 1948 antitrust Supreme Court ruling if it sold as a package. Roy thought the company would do fine without RKO and the company created its own distribution company Buena Vista Distribution, named after the street where the studio was located, to distribute their own films from then on.[101] In 1954, Disney's first American live action film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was released, which was one of the first films to use CinemaScope.[102][103] From the early to mid-1950s, Walt began to devote less attention to the animation department, entrusting most of its operations to his key animators, the Nine Old Men, although he was always present at story meetings. Instead, he started concentrating on other things such as television and Disneyland.[104]

Children wearing white shirts with their names on them and Mickey Mouse ears
Man dressed as Davy Crockett with a rifle in his hand, alongside two men in the background
(left to right) Cast for The Mickey Mouse Club, which over 10 million children would watch every day, and Fess Parker as Davy Crockett in the show of the same name, which sold 10 million Crockett coonskin caps and over 10 million records of its theme song

To get money to create the park, the company decided to promote it through a television series. After trying to get NBC and CBS to sign on, in 1954, ABC made a deal with Disney for an hour-long weekly series starting in October called Disneyland, an anthology consisting of animated cartoons, live-action features, other materials from the studio's library, and go through segments of the four different areas of the amusement park.[105] The series was a success and garnered over 50% of viewers in their time slot, along with increasing audiences and praise from critics.[106] In August, Walt formed another company Disneyland, Inc., with Walt Disney Productions, himself, Western Publishing, which had been the publisher of Disney books for over twenty years, and ABC all holding stock in the company.[107]

In October, with the success of Disneyland, ABC allowed Disney to produce another series The Mickey Mouse Club, a variety show specifically for kids, showing things such as a daily Disney cartoon, a children's newsreel, and a talent show. It would consist of a host and talented kids and adults called "Mousketeers" and "Mooseketeers", respectively.[108] After the first season, over 10 million children and half as many adults watched it every day, 2 million Mickey Mouse ears, which the cast wore, had sold, and the shows theme song "Mickey Mouse March", written by Jimmie Dodd one of the show's main host, had become a classic.[109] On December 15, 1954, Disneyland aired an episode of the five-part miniseries Davy Crockett, which starred Fess Parker as Crockett. According to writer Neal Gabler, "[It] became an overnight national sensation", selling 10 million Crockett coonskin caps.[110] The shows theme song "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" had spread throughout American pop culture as much as the Three Little Pig's "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wold" did, selling 10 million records. The Los Angeles Times called it "the greatest merchandising fad the world had ever seen".[111][112] In June 1955, Disney's 15th animated film Lady and the Tramp was released and did better in the box office than any other Disney films since Snow White.[113]

Walt Disney at the grand opening of Disneyland on July 17, 1955

On Sunday, July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened[b] with only Main Street completely done and the other lands offering some rides, coming to a total of 20 attractions. At the time, t cost $1 to get into the park and guest had to pay for each individual ride.[114] They were ready for 11,000 guest, but around 28,000 people showed up, because of a rush of counterfeit tickets. The opening was aired on ABC with actors Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and Ronald Reagan, who were all friends of Walt, hosting it. It garnered over 90 million viewers, becoming the largest live broadcast to that date.[115] The opening was so disastrous and rushed it became dubbed as "Black Sunday" by the employees. Restaurants ran out of food, the Mark Twain Riverboat began to sink a little, several ride malfunctions occurred, and the drinking fountains were not working in the 100°F. (38°C) heat.[116][99] Within its first week of being open, Disneyland had 161,657 guest show up, and by its first month of being open, the park had over 20,000 visitors each day. After its first year, 3.6 million people had visited the park and after its second year 4 million more guest came, making it more popular than places such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Park. That year Disney had a gross total of $24.5 million compared to the $11 million the previous year.[117]

two older men looking into the camera
The Sherman Brothers, who composed many of the Disney songs throughout the 1960s, in 2002

Though Walt was more busy with the park than the films, the company would stay busy and produce an average of five releases per year throughout the 1950s and 60s.[118] The animated films created were features such as Sleeping Beauty (1959), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), and The Sword in the Stone (1963).[119] While Sleeping Beauty was a financial loss for the company, and Disney's highest production costs for a film up to that point at $6 million,[120] One Hundred and One Dalmatians introduced a new way of animating using the xerography process to electromagnetically transfer the drawings to animation cels.[121] In 1956, the Sherman brothers Robert and Richard were asked to create the theme song for the TV series Zorro.[122] Disney would later hire them as exclusive staff songwriters, which would be a ten-year association, and they would write many of songs for Disney's films, which several of them would be hits, and some for the theme park.[123][124] In the late 1950s, Disney would venture into the comedy genre with the live-action films The Shaggy Dog (1959), which became the highest grossing film in the U.S. and Canada for Disney at over $9 milllion,[125] and The Absent Minded Professor (1961), both starring Fred MacMurray.[119][126]

Teenage girl with blonde hair in a white dress looking into the camera
Boy with a hat on holding onto a lamppost
Black and white photo of a young man looking into the camera
(left to right) Hayley Mills, Kevin Corcoran, and Kurt Russell were three of Disney's most prominent child actors in the 1950s and 60s

Disney also made several live-action films based off children's book including Pollyanna (1960) and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). Child actor Hayley Mills would star in Pollyanna, where she would win the Academy Juvenile Award, and five other Disney films, including her dual role as the twins in The Parent Trap (1961).[127][128] Another child actor Kevin Corcoran was a prominent figure in many of live-action Disney films, first appearing in a serial for The Mickey Mouse Club where he would play a boy named Moochie, a nickname that would stay with him. He worked alongside Mills in Pollyanna and starred in features such as Old Yeller (1957), Toby Tyler (1960), and Swiss Family Robinson.[129] 1964, the live action/animation musical Mary Poppins was released and became the highest grossing film of the year. It won five Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Julie Roberts as Poppins and Best Song for the Sherman Brothers', who also won Best Score for the film, "Chim Chim Cher-ee".[130][131]

Black and white photo of a man posing and looking into the camera
Black and white photo of a man looking into the camera
(left to right) Dean Jones, who was considered "the figure who most represented Walt Disney Productions in the 1960s",[132] and Fred MacMurray, who starred in several of Disney's comedies in the 1960s

Throughout the 1960s, Dean Jones, who was called "the figure who most represented Walt Disney Productions in the 1960s" by The Guardian, starred in ten Disney films, which included That Darn Cat! (1965), The Ugly Dachshund (1966), and The Love Bug (1968) and its second sequal Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977).[132][133] Disney's last child actor of the 1960s would be Kurt Russell, who had signed a ten-year contract with the company.[134] He featured in films such as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968) alongside Dean Jones, The Barefoot Executive (1971), and The Strongest Man in the World (1975).[135]

Three men at a table with microphones in front of them announcing something
Walt, then Florida Governor Hayden Burns, and Roy announcing the plans for Disney World

In late 1959, Walt had an idea to build another park in Palm Beach, Florida, called the City of Tomorrow, a city full of technological improvements.[136] In 1964, the company chose land southwest of Orlando, FLorida, as the area to build the park and quickly acquired 27,000 acres (10,927 ha) of land for it. On November 15, 1965, Walt, along with Roy and Florida's current governor at the time Haydon Burns, announced the plans for another park called Disney World, which included the Magic Kingdom—‌a larger and more elaborate version of Disneyland‍ with golf courses and resort hotels near it—‌ and the City of Tomorrow, which would be at the heart of the park.[137] By 1967, the company had made several expansions to Disneyland including a whole new area called New Orleans Square, which would be filled with mostly shops and based off the look of New Orleans, Louisiana. Through 1966 to 1967 they added three more rides It's a Small World, the Disneyland Railroad, and Pirates of the Caribbean. In all, the expansion costed $20 million, which was $3 million more than it costed to make the park.[138] They also added several other rides before then such as Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, which was the first attraction to use audio-animatronics, Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress, which debuted at the 1964 New York World's Fair before moving to Disneyland in 1967, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which opened a month after the park opened.[94]

On November 20, 1964, Walt sold most of WED Enterprise to Walt Disney Productions for $3.75 million after being persuaded to by Roy, who thought that Walt having his own company would cause legal problems. Walt formed a new company called Retlaw to handles his personnel business, primarily the Disneyland Railroad and the Disneyland Monorail.[139] When the company started looking for someone to sponsor the project, Walt renamed the City of Tomorrow to EPCOT, which stood for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.[140] Because Walt had been a heavy smoker since World War I, his health started declining, and he visited the St. Joseph Hospital on November 2, 1965, for testing. The doctors discovered a walnut-sized spot on his left lung and removed it a few days later, finding out it was cancerous. After two weeks, he was released from the hospital, but overgrown lymph nodes showed that he did not have much longer to live. On December 15, 1966, at the age of 65 Walt died of circulatory collapse, caused by lung cancer.[141][142]

1966–1984: Roy O. Disney's leadership and death, Walt Disney World, new leadership, theatrical malaise

Following Walt's death, Roy O. Disney took over as chairman, CEO, and president of the company. One of his first acts was to rename Disney World as "Walt Disney World" in honor of his brother and his vision.[143] In 1967, the last two films Walt actively supervised were released, the animated feature The Jungle Book[144] and the musical The Happiest Millionaire.[145] The studio released a number of comedies in the late 1960s, including The Love Bug (1969's highest-grossing film)[144] and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), which starred another young Disney discovery, Kurt Russell. The 1970s opened with the release of Disney's first "post-Walt" animated feature, The Aristocats, followed by a return to fantasy musicals in 1971's Bedknobs and Broomsticks.[144] Blackbeard's Ghost was another successful film during this period.[144] On October 1, 1971, Walt Disney World opened to the public, with Roy Disney dedicating the facility in person later that month.

On December 20, 1971, Roy O. Disney died of a stroke. He left the company under the control of Donn Tatum, Card Walker, and Walt's son-in-law Ron Miller, each trained by Walt and Roy. While Walt Disney Productions continued releasing family-friendly films throughout the 1970s, such as Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)[144] and Freaky Friday (1976), the films did not fare as well at the box office as earlier material. However, the animation studio saw success with Robin Hood (1973), The Rescuers (1977), and The Fox and the Hound (1981). As head of the studio, Miller attempted to make films to drive the profitable teenage market who generally passed on seeing Disney films.[146] Inspired by the popularity of Star Wars, Disney produced the science-fiction adventure The Black Hole in 1979; it cost $20 million to make, but was lost in Star Wars' wake.[144] The Black Hole was the first Disney film to carry a PG rating in the United States.[146][N 1] Disney dabbled in the horror genre with The Watcher in the Woods, and financed the boldly innovative Tron; both films were released to minimal success.[144]

Disney also hired outside producers for film projects, which had never been done before in the studio's history.[146] In 1979, Disney entered a joint venture with Paramount Pictures on the production of the 1980 film adaptation of Popeye and Dragonslayer (1981); the first time Disney collaborated with another studio. Paramount distributed Disney films in Canada at the time, and it was hoped that Disney's marketing prestige would help sell the two films.[146] Finally, in 1982, the Disney family sold the naming rights and rail-based attractions to the Disney film studio for 818,461 shares of Disney stock then worth $42.6 million none of which went to Retlaw. Also, Roy E. Disney objected to the overvalued purchase price of the naming right and voted against the purchase as a Disney board director.[147]

The 1983 release of Mickey's Christmas Carol began a string of successful movies, starting with Never Cry Wolf and the Ray Bradbury adaptation Something Wicked This Way Comes.[144] The Walt Disney Productions film division was incorporated on April 1, 1983 as Walt Disney Pictures.[148] In 1984, Disney CEO Ron Miller created Touchstone Films as a brand for Disney to release more major motion pictures. Touchstone's first release was the comedy Splash (1984), which was a box office success.[149] With The Wonderful World of Disney remaining a prime-time staple, Disney returned to television in the 1970s with syndicated programming such as the anthology series The Mouse Factory and a brief revival of the Mickey Mouse Club. In 1980, Disney launched Walt Disney Home Video to take advantage of the newly emerging videocassette market. On April 18, 1983, The Disney Channel debuted as a subscription-level channel on cable systems nationwide, featuring its large library of classic films and TV series, along with original programming and family-friendly third-party offerings.

Epcot opened in October 1982.

Walt Disney World received much of the company's attention through the 1970s and into the 1980s. In 1978, Disney executives announced plans for the second Walt Disney World theme park, EPCOT Center, which would open in October 1982. Inspired by Walt Disney's dream of a futuristic model city, EPCOT Center was built as a "permanent World's Fair", complete with exhibits sponsored by major American corporations, as well as pavilions based on the cultures of other nations. In Japan, the Oriental Land Company partnered with Walt Disney Productions to build the first Disney theme park outside of the United States, Tokyo Disneyland, which opened in April 1983. Despite the success of the Disney Channel and its new theme park creations, Walt Disney Productions was financially vulnerable. Its film library was valuable but offered few current successes, and its leadership team was unable to keep up with other studios, particularly the works of Don Bluth, who defected from Disney in 1979. By the early 1980s, the parks were generating 70 percent of Disney's income.[144]

In 1984, financier Saul Steinberg's Reliance Group Holdings launched a hostile takeover bid for Walt Disney Productions,[144] with the intent of selling off some of its operations.[150] Disney bought out Reliance's 11.1% stake in the company. However, another shareholder filed suit claiming the deal devaluated Disney's stock and for Disney management to retain their positions. The shareholder lawsuit was settled in 1989 for a total of $45 million from Disney and Reliance.[144] Likewise in 1984, MCA (then-parent company of Universal Studios) actually struck a deal with Disney to purchase the company on the condition insisted by the Disney family that Disney CEO Ron W. Miller be MCA president, but disagreements between MCA chairman Lew Wasserman and Disney over this caused the agreement to fall through completely.[151]

1984–2005: Michael Eisner's leadership, Disney Renaissance, and Merger with Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.

With the Sid Bass family purchase of 18.7 percent of Disney, Bass and the board brought in Michael Eisner from Paramount as CEO and Frank Wells from Warner Bros. as president. Eisner emphasized Touchstone, with Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1985) leading to increased output with Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Pretty Woman (1990) and additional hits. Eisner used expanding cable and home video markets to sign deals using Disney shows and films, making a long-term deal with Showtime Networks for Disney/Touchstone releases through 1996 and entering television with syndication and distribution for TV series such as The Golden Girls and Home Improvement. Disney began limited releases of its previous films on videotapes in the late 1980s. Eisner's Disney purchased KHJ, an independent Los Angeles TV station.[144] Organized in 1985, Silver Screen Partners II, LP financed films for Disney with $193 million. In January 1987, Silver Screen III began financing movies for Disney with $300 million raised, the largest amount raised for a film financing limited partnership by E.F. Hutton.[152] Silver Screen IV was also set up to finance Disney's studios.[153]

Buoyed by the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988, Disney's flagship animation studio enjoyed a series of commercial and critical successes known as the Disney Renaissance, with such films as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994). In addition, the company successfully entered the field of television animation with a number of lavishly-budgeted and acclaimed series such as Adventures of the Gummi Bears, DuckTales, Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, Bonkers and Gargoyles.[154] Disney moved to first place in box office receipts by 1988 and had increased revenues by 20 percent every year.[144]

In 1989, Disney signed an agreement-in-principle to acquire Jim Henson Productions from its founder, Muppet creator Jim Henson. The deal included Henson's programming library and Muppet characters (excluding the Muppets created for Sesame Street), as well as Jim Henson's personal creative services. However, Henson died suddenly in May 1990 before the deal was completed, resulting in the two companies terminating merger negotiations the following December.[155] Named the "Disney Decade" by the company, the executive talent attempted to move the company to new heights in the 1990s with huge changes and accomplishments.[144] In September 1990, Disney arranged for financing up to $200 million by a unit of Nomura Securities for Interscope films made for Disney. On October 23, Disney formed Touchwood Pacific Partners which would supplant the Silver Screen Partnership series as their movie studios' primary source of funding.[153]

In 1991, hotels, home video distribution, and Disney merchandising became 28 percent of total company revenues while international revenues contributed 22 percent of total revenues. The company committed its studios in the first quarter of 1991 to produce 25 films in 1992. However, 1991 saw net income drop by 23 percent and had no growth for the year, but saw the release of Beauty and the Beast, winner of two Academy Awards and top-grossing film in the genre. Disney next moved into publishing with Hyperion Books and adult music with Hollywood Records while Walt Disney Imagineering was laying off 400 employees.[144] Disney also broadened its adult offerings in film when then-Disney Studio Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg acquired Miramax Films in 1993. That same year Disney created the NHL team the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, named after the 1992 hit film of the same name. Disney purchased a minority stake in the Anaheim Angels baseball team around the same time.[144]

Wells was killed in a helicopter crash in 1994.[144] Shortly thereafter, Katzenberg resigned and formed DreamWorks SKG because Eisner would not appoint Katzenberg to Wells' now-available post (Katzenberg had also sued over the terms of his contract).[144] Instead, Eisner recruited his friend Michael Ovitz, one of the founders of the Creative Artists Agency, to be President, with minimal involvement from Disney's board of directors (which at the time included Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier, Hilton Hotels Corporation CEO Stephen Bollenbach, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, Yale dean Robert A. M. Stern, and Eisner's predecessors Raymond Watson and Card Walker). Ovitz lasted only 14 months and left Disney in December 1996 via a "no fault termination" with a severance package of $38 million in cash and 3 million stock options worth roughly $100 million at the time of Ovitz's departure. The Ovitz episode engendered a long-running derivative suit, which finally concluded in June 2006, almost 10 years later. Chancellor William B. Chandler III of the Delaware Court of Chancery, despite describing Eisner's behavior as falling "far short of what shareholders expect and demand from those entrusted with a fiduciary position..." found in favor of Eisner and the rest of the Disney board because they had not violated the letter of the law (namely, the duty of care owed by a corporation's officers and board to its shareholders).[156] Eisner later said, in a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, that he regretted letting Ovitz go.[157]

Celebration Florida
A view of downtown Celebration, Florida, a community that was planned by the Walt Disney Company.

In 1994, Eisner attempted to purchase NBC from General Electric (GE), but the deal failed due to GE wanting to keep 51 percent ownership of the network. On August 1, 1995, Disney announced a $19 billion merger of equals with Capital Cities/ABC Inc., which at the time was the second largest corporate takeover. The merger would bring broadcast network ABC and its assets, including a 37.5% minority stake in A&E Television Networks, an 80 percent majority stake in ESPN and the Limited Partnership-ran DIC Productions into the Disney umbrella.[144] The deal was closed on February 10, 1996, and Eisner felt that the purchase of ABC was an important investment to keep Disney surviving and allowing it to compete with international multimedia conglomerates.[158] Disney lost a $10.4 million lawsuit in September 1997 to Marsu B.V. over Disney's failure to produce as contracted 13 half-hour Marsupilami cartoon shows. Instead, Disney felt other internal "hot properties" deserved the company's attention.[159]

Disney, which had taken control of the Anaheim Angels in 1996, purchased a majority stake in the team in 1998. That same year, Disney began a move into the Internet field with the purchase of Starwave and 43 percent of Infoseek. In 1999, Disney purchased the remaining shares of Infoseek and launched the Go Network portal in January. Disney also launched its cruise line with the christening of Disney Magic and a sister ship, Disney Wonder.[144] The Katzenberg case dragged on as his contract included a portion of the film revenue from ancillary markets forever. Katzenberg had offered $100 million to settle the case, but Eisner felt the original claim amount of about half a billion too much, but then the ancillary market clause was found. Disney lawyers tried to indicate a decline situation which reveal some of the problems in the company. ABC had declining rating and increasing costs while the film segment had two film failures. While neither party revealed the settlement amount, it is estimated at $200 million.[144]

Eisner's controlling style inhibited efficiency and progress according to some critics, while other industry experts indicated that "age compression" theory led to a decline in the company's target market due to youth copying teenage behavior earlier.[144] The year 2000 brought an increase in revenue of 9 percent and net income of 39 percent with ABC and ESPN leading the way and Parks and Resorts marking its sixth consecutive year of growth. In November 2000, Andy Heyward purchased back DIC Entertainment from Disney (through investment by Bain Capital and Chase Capital Partners) and making the studio re-independent.[160] On July 23, 2001, Disney announced to purchase Fox Family Worldwide for $2.9 billion cash plus $2.3 billion in debt assumption, which would include ownership in the Fox Family Channel alongside other assets including the Saban Entertainment library and Fox Kids channels in Europe and Latin America.[161] The purchase was completed on October 24, 2001, and Fox Family would be renamed to ABC Family in November.

The year 2001 was one of cost-cutting, laying off 4,000 employees, Disney parks operations decreased, slashing annual live-action film investment, and minimizing Internet operations, mainly due to the September 11 attacks, which led to a decline in vacation travel and the early 2000s recession led to a decrease in ABC revenue. While 2002 revenue had a small decrease from 2001 with the cost-cutting, net income rose to $1.2 billion with two creative film releases. In 2003, Disney became the first studio to record over $3 billion in worldwide box office receipts.[144] Eisner did not want the board to renominate Roy E. Disney, the son of Disney co-founder Roy O. Disney, as a board director citing his age of 72 as a required retirement age. Stanley Gold responded by resigning from the board and requesting the other board members oust Eisner.[144] On November 30, 2003, Disney resigned from his positions as the company's vice chairman and chairman of Walt Disney Feature Animation,[ChWDC 1] accusing Eisner of micromanagement, failures with the ABC television network, timidity in the theme park business, turning the Walt Disney Company into a "rapacious, soul-less" company, and refusing to establish a clear succession plan, as well as a string of box office film flops starting in the year 2000.

On August 9, 2002, Disney said it was expressing great interest in buying Universal Studios whose parent company Vivendi started a bidding war after inheriting $17.9 billion in debt by its purchase of the famed major film studio from Seagram for $34 billion.[162] In addition, Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure was struggling to deal with catastrophically low attendance since the park's opening in 1999, and the September 11 attacks in 2001 caused a dip of Universal Parks and Resorts' tourism attendance worldwide. As a result, Vivendi lacked the interest in investing in the Universal parks more meaningfully and may have been one of the reasons for selling off Universal.[163] Analysts speculated that Universal would have to be available at a bargain price to justify such a deal. "Owning more theme parks could make Disney even more cyclical because that's a cyclical business," said Katherine Styponias of Prudential Securities.[162] Despite this, Disney didn't succeed in pursuing a takeover for various reasons, owing to its stock price at a 52-week-low and the likelihood of the Disney/Universal deal being blocked on antitrust grounds (e.g. less innovation in theme parks, higher prices for hotel rooms, the growing power of box office market share, etc.).[163]

The Muppets Studio, a subsidiary of Disney

On May 15, 2003, Disney sold their stake in the Anaheim Angels baseball team to Arte Moreno. Disney purchased the rights to The Muppets and the Bear in the Big Blue House franchises from The Jim Henson Company on February 17, 2004.[164] The two brands were placed under control of the Muppets Holding Company, LLC, a unit of Disney Consumer Products.[165] In 2004, Pixar Animation Studios began looking for another distributor after its 12-year contract with Disney ended, due to its strained relationship over issues of control and money with Eisner. Also that year, Comcast Corporation made an unsolicited $54 billion bid to acquire Disney. A couple of high budget films flopped at the box office. With these difficulties and with some board directors dissatisfied, Eisner ceded the board chairmanship.[144]

On March 3, 2004, at Disney's annual shareholders' meeting, a surprising 45 percent of Disney's shareholders, predominantly rallied by former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, withheld their proxies to re-elect Eisner to the board. Disney's board then gave the chairmanship position to Mitchell. However, the board did not immediately remove Eisner as chief executive.[ChWDC 2] In February 2005, Disney sold the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim hockey team to Henry and Susan Samueli, who later renamed the team the Anaheim Ducks.[144] On March 13, 2005, Robert A. Iger was announced as Eisner's successor as CEO. Also that month, Miramax co-founders Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein departed the company to form their own studio. On July 8, Walt Disney's nephew, Roy E. Disney, returned to the company as a consultant and as non-voting director emeritus. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts celebrated the 50th anniversary of Disneyland Park on July 17 and opened Hong Kong Disneyland on September 12. On July 25, Disney announced that it was closing DisneyToon Studios Australia in October 2006 after 17 years of existence.[166] On September 30, Eisner resigned both as an executive and as a member of the Board of Directors.[ChWDC 3]

2005–2020: Bob Iger's leadership and company expansion

Team Disney Burbank, which houses the offices of Disney's CEO and several other senior corporate officials

On October 1, 2005, Bob Iger replaced Eisner as Disney's CEO. On November 4, Walt Disney Feature Animation released Chicken Little, the company's first film using 3D animation. On January 23, 2006, it was announced that Disney would purchase Pixar in an all-stock transaction valued at $7.4 billion. The deal was finalized on May 5; Steve Jobs, who was Pixar's CEO and held a 50.1% ownership stake in the company, transitioned to Disney's board of directors as its largest individual shareholder, with a 7 percent stake.[167][168] Ed Catmull took over as President of Pixar Animation Studios. Former executive vice-president of Pixar, John Lasseter, became chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, its division Disneytoon Studios, and Pixar Animation Studios, as well as assuming the role of principal creative advisor at Walt Disney Imagineering.[168]

In February 2006, Disney acquired the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit from NBC Universal (including the character's intellectual property and the 27 Oswald cartoons produced by Walt Disney) as part of an exchange of minor assets. In return, Disney released sportscaster Al Michaels from his contracts with ABC Sports and ESPN, so he could join NBC Sports and his long-time partner John Madden for NBC's new NFL Sunday Night Football.[169] In April 2007, the Muppets Holding Company was moved from Disney Consumer Products to the Walt Disney Studios division and renamed The Muppets Studio, as part of efforts to re-launch the division.[170][164] In February 2007, the company was accused of human rights violations regarding the working conditions in factories that produce their merchandise.[171][172]

Pixar, a subsidiary of Disney
Marvel, a subsidiary of Disney.
Lucasfilm, a subsidiary of Disney.

On August 31, 2009, Disney announced a deal to acquire Marvel Entertainment for $4.24 billion, in a deal completed on December 31, 2009.[173][174]

Director Emeritus Roy E. Disney died of stomach cancer on December 16, 2009. At the time of his death, he owned roughly 1 percent of Disney stock, which amounted to 16 million shares. He was the last member of the Disney family to be actively involved in the company.[175] In October 2009, Disney Channel president Rich Ross, hired by Iger, replaced Dick Cook as chairman of the company and, in November, began restructuring the company to focus more on family friendly products. Later in January 2010, Disney decided to shut down Miramax after downsizing Touchstone, but one month later, they instead began selling the Miramax brand and its 700-title film library to Filmyard Holdings. In March, ImageMovers Digital, which Disney had established as a joint venture studio with Robert Zemeckis in 2007, was shut down. In April 2010, Lyric Street, Disney's country music label in Nashville, was shut down. The following month, Haim Saban reacquired the Power Rangers franchise, including its 700-episode library.[176] In September 2012, Saban reacquired the Digimon franchise, which, like Power Rangers, was part of the Fox Kids library that Disney acquired in 2001.[177] In January 2011, Disney Interactive Studios was downsized.[178]

In April 2011, Disney broke ground on Shanghai Disney Resort. Costing $4.4 billion, the resort opened on June 16, 2016.[179] Later, in August 2011, Bob Iger stated on a conference call that after the success of the Pixar and Marvel purchases, he and the Walt Disney Company are looking to "buy either new characters or businesses that are capable of creating great characters and great stories."[180] Later, in early February 2012, Disney completed its acquisition of UTV Software Communications, expanding their market further into India and Asia.[181] On October 30, 2012, Disney announced plans to acquire Lucasfilm in a deal valued at $4.05 billion. Disney announced an intent to leverage the Star Wars franchise across its divisions, and planned to produce a seventh installment in the main film franchise for release in 2015.[182][183] The sale was completed on December 21, 2012.[184] On March 24, 2014, Disney acquired Maker Studios, an active multi-channel network on YouTube, for $500 million.[185] The company was later turned into a new venture called Disney Digital Network in May 2017.[186]

On February 5, 2015, it was announced that Tom Staggs had been promoted to COO.[187] On April 4, 2016, Disney announced that Staggs and the company had mutually agreed to part ways, effective May 2016, ending his 26-year career with the company.[188] In August 2016, Disney acquired a 33 percent stake in BAMTech, a streaming media provider spun out from Major League Baseball's media division. The company announced plans to eventually use its infrastructure for an ESPN over-the-top service.[189][190]

In September 2016, Disney considered purchasing the American online news and social networking service Twitter,[191][192] but they dropped out partly due to concerns over abuse and harassment on the service.[193][194][195]

On March 23, 2017, Disney announced that Iger had agreed to a one-year extension of his term as CEO through July 2, 2019, and had agreed to remain with the company as a consultant for three years after stepping down.[196][197] In August 2017, Disney announced that it had exercised an option to increase its stake in BAMTech to 75 percent, and would launch a subscription video-on-demand service featuring its entertainment content in 2019, which will replace Netflix as the subscription VOD rights holder of all Disney theatrical film releases.[198][199] In November 2017, Lasseter announced that he was taking a six-month leave of absence from Pixar and Disney Animation after acknowledging "missteps" in his behavior with employees in a memo to staff. According to various news outlets, Lasseter had a history of alleged sexual misconduct towards employees.[200][201]

The entrance to the Fox Studios lot.

In November 2017, it was reported by CNBC that Disney had been in negotiations to acquire 21st Century Fox. The negotiations had reportedly resumed around Disney acquiring several of Fox's key media assets. Rumors of a nearing deal continued on December 5, 2017, with additional reports suggesting that the FSN regional sports networks would be included in the resulting new company (assets that would likely be aligned with Disney's ESPN division).[202][203][204][205] On December 14, Disney agreed to acquire most assets from 21st Century Fox, including 20th Century Fox, for $52.4 billion.[206] The merger included many of Fox's entertainment assets—including filmed entertainment, cable entertainment, and direct broadcast satellite divisions in the UK, Europe, and Asia[207]—but excluded divisions such as the Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox Television Stations, the Fox News Channel, the Fox Business Network, Fox Sports 1 and 2, and the Big Ten Network, all of which were to be spun off into an independent company before the merger was complete (which eventually named Fox Corporation).[208] The following June, after a counter offer from Comcast worth $65 billion, Disney increased its offer to $71.3 billion.[209] The transaction officially closed on March 20, 2019.[210][211] Under the terms of acquisition, Disney will phase-out Fox brand usage by 2024.[212]

Beginning in March 2018, a strategic reorganization of the company saw the creation of two business segments, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products and Direct-to-Consumer & International. Parks & Consumer Products was primarily a merger of Parks & Resorts and Consumer Products & Interactive Media. While Direct-to-Consumer & International took over for Disney International and global sales, distribution and streaming units from Disney-ABC TV Group and Studios Entertainment plus Disney Digital Network.[213] Given that CEO Iger described it as "strategically positioning our businesses for the future", The New York Times considered the reorganization done in expectation of the 21st Century Fox purchase.[214]

2020–present: Bob Chapek's leadership and COVID-19 pandemic

On February 25, 2020, Disney named Bob Chapek as CEO to succeed Iger, effective immediately. Iger assumed the role of Executive Chairman, under which he would oversee the creative side of the company, while also continuing to serve as Chairman of the Board during the transition period through 2021.[215][216]

In April 2020, Iger resumed operational duties of the company as executive chairman to help the company during the COVID-19 pandemic and Chapek was appointed to the board of directors.[217][218] Also in the month, the company announced that it would suspend pay to more than 100,000 employees ("cast members") at Disney Parks, Experiences and Products in response to the COVID-19 recession—reportedly amounting to monthly savings of $500 million for the company—while continuing to provide full healthcare benefits. Reportedly, staff in the United States and France were affected and were encouraged to apply for government support.[219]

Parade route in Tokyo Disneyland during COVID-19 pandemic in Japan.

Due to the closure of Disney parks during the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney experienced a 63 percent drop in earnings for the fiscal second quarter of 2020, resulting in a loss of $1.4 billion for the company. Additionally, the Parks, Experiences, and Products division experienced a loss of $1 billion in revenue.[220] In September 2020, the company announced that it will be laying off 28,000 employees in Florida and California. According to Disney's park chairman, Josh D'Amaro, "We initially hoped that this situation would be shortlived and that we would recover quickly and return to normal. Seven months later, we find that has not been the case." According to D'Amaro, two-thirds of the employees reported to be laid off were part-time workers.[221] Then in November, Disney planned to cut 4000 jobs more than announced until the end of March 2021.[222]

In December 2020, Disney named Alan Bergman as chairman of its Disney Studios Content division to oversee its film studios.[223] In March 2021, Disney announced a new division, 20th Television Animation, that would focus on adult animation.[224]

In July 2021, Disney announced that over an 18-month period it would move about 2,000 employees from its California headquarters to a new campus in Lake Nona, Orlando, Florida, to consolidate operations and take advantage of a more "business-friendly climate".[225]

On March 10, 2022, Disney announced that it will pause all business operations in Russia due the country's invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis it has caused.[226] Disney was the first major Hollywood studio to halt the release of a major motion picture due to Russia's invasion, and other movie studios such as Warner Bros. Pictures and Sony Pictures followed soon after.[227]

Through February and March 2022, Disney's response to a Florida bill prohibiting discussion in schools about gender and sexual identity (HB 1557, known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill) led to controversy over the company's lack of condemnation and previous restrictions on LGBT content, eventually leading to a rare walkout by employees.[228]

Company units

The Walt Disney Company operates six primary business segments (two primary divisions and four content groups):[229]


Content groups

In addition, Marvel Entertainment is a business reporting directly to the CEO; its financial results are primarily divided between the Studios and Consumer Products segments.[236]



Board of Directors
  • Bob Chapek, Chief Executive Officer
    • Alan Bergman, Chairman, Disney Studios Content
    • Rebecca Campbell, Chairman, International Content and Operations
    • Jennifer Cohen, Executive Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility
    • Josh D'Amaro, Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products
    • Kareem Daniel, Chairman, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution
    • Horacio Gutierrez, Senior Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary
      • Dorothy Attwood, Senior Vice President, Global Public Policy
      • Susan Fox, Senior Vice President, Government Relations
      • Yvonne Pei, Senior Vice President, External Relations, Greater China
      • Alicia Schwarz, Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer
    • Ronald L. Iden, Senior Vice President and Chief Security Officer
    • Christine McCarthy, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
      • Carlos A. Gómez, Senior Vice President and Treasurer
      • Diane Jurgens, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Technology and Chief Information Officer
      • Alexia S. Quadrani, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations
      • Brent Woodford, Executive Vice President, Controllership, Finance and Tax
    • James Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content
    • Peter Rice, Chairman, General Entertainment Content
    • Paul Richardson, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer
      • Latondra Newton, Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer
    • Kristina Schake, Executive Vice President, Global Communications

Past leadership

Executive chairmen

Walt Disney stepped down as chairman in 1960 to focus more on the creative aspects of the company, becoming the "executive producer in charge of all production."[237]
After a four-year vacancy, Roy O. Disney became chairman.

Vice chairmen
Chief executive officers (CEO)
Chief operating officers

Financial data


Annual gross revenues of the Walt Disney Company (in millions USD)
Year Studio Entertainment[NI 1] Disney Consumer Products[NI 2] Disney Interactive Media[239][240] Parks & Resorts[NI 3] Disney Media Networks[NI 4] Total Source
1991 2,593.0 724   2,794.0   6,111 [241]
1992 3,115 1,081   3,306   7,502 [241]
1993 3,673.4 1,415.1   3,440.7   8,529 [241]
1994 4,793 1,798.2   3,463.6 359 10,414 [242][243][244]
1995 6,001.5 2,150   3,959.8 414 12,525 [242][243][244]
1996 10,095[NI 2]   4,502 4,142[Rev 1] 18,739 [243][245]
1997 6,981 3,782 174 5,014 6,522 22,473 [246]
1998 6,849 3,193 260 5,532 7,142 22,976 [246]
1999 6,548 3,030 206 6,106 7,512 23,435 [246]
2000 5,994 2,602 368 6,803 9,615 25,402 [247]
2001 7,004 2,590   6,009 9,569 25,790 [248]
2002 6,465 2,440   6,691 9,733 25,360 [248]
2003 7,364 2,344   6,412 10,941 27,061 [249]
2004 8,713 2,511   7,750 11,778 30,752 [249]
2005 7,587 2,127   9,023 13,207 31,944 [250]
2006 7,529 2,193   9,925 14,368 34,285 [250]
2007 7,491 2,347   10,626 15,046 35,510 [251]
2008 7,348 2,415 719 11,504 15,857 37,843 [252]
2009 6,136 2,425 712 10,667 16,209 36,149 [253]
2010 6,701[NI 5] 2,678[NI 5] 761 10,761 17,162 38,063 [254]
2011 6,351 3,049 982 11,797 18,714 40,893 [255]
2012 5,825 3,252 845 12,920 19,436 42,278 [256]
2013 5,979 3,555 1,064 14,087 20,356 45,041 [257]
2014 7,278 3,985 1,299 15,099 21,152 48,813 [258]
2015 7,366 4,499 1,174 16,162 23,264 52,465 [259]
2016 9,441 5,528 16,974 23,689 55,632 [260]
2017 8,379 4,833 18,415 23,510 55,137 [261]
2018 9,987 4,651 20,296 24,500 59,434 [262]
Annual gross revenues of the Walt Disney Company (Re-segmented) (in millions USD)
Year Studio Entertainment Direct-to-Consumer & International Parks, Experiences and Products Media Networks[NI 4] Total Source
2018 10,065 3,414 24,701 21,922 59,434 [263]
2019 11,127 9,349 26,225 24,827 69,570 [264]
2020 9,636 16,967 16,502 28,393 65,388 [265]
Annual gross revenues of the Walt Disney Company (Re-segmented) (in millions USD)
Year Media and Entertainment Distribution Parks, Experiences and Products Total Source
2021 50,866 16,552 67,418 [266]

Disney ranked No. 55 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.[267]

  1. ^ Following the purchase of Capital Cities/ABC Inc.

Operating income

Annual Operating income of the Walt Disney Company (in millions USD)
Year Studio Entertainment[NI 1] Disney Consumer Products[NI 2] Disney Interactive Media[239] Parks and Resorts[NI 3] Disney Media Networks[NI 4] Total Source
1991 318 229   546   1,094 [241]
1992 508 283   644   1,435 [241]
1993 622 355   746   1,724 [241]
1994 779 425   684 77 1,965 [242][243]
1995 998 510   860 76 2,445 [242][243]
1996 1,596[NI 2] −300[NI 6] 990 747 3,033 [243]
1997 1,079 893 −56 1,136 1,699 4,312 [246]
1998 769 801 −94 1,288 1,746 4,079 [246]
1999 116 607 −93 1,446 1,611 3,231 [246]
2000 110 455 −402 1,620 2,298 4,081 [247]
2001 260 401   1,586 1,758 4,214 [248]
2002 273 394   1,169 986 2,826 [248]
2003 620 384   957 1,213 3,174 [249]
2004 662 534   1,123 2 169 4,488 [249]
2005 207 543   1,178 3,209 5,137 [250]
2006 729 618   1,534 3,610 6,491 [250]
2007 1,201 631   1,710 4,285 7,827 [251]
2008 1,086 778 −258 1,897 4,942 8,445 [252]
2009 175 609 −295 1,418 4,765 6,672 [253]
2010 693 677 −234 1,318 5,132 7,586 [254]
2011 618 816 −308 1,553 6,146 8,825 [255]
2012 722 937 −216 1,902 6,619 9,964 [256]
2013 661 1,112 −87 2,220 6,818 10,724 [257]
2014 1,549 1,356 116 2,663 7,321 13,005 [258]
2015 1,973 1,752 132 3,031 7,793 14,681 [259]
2016 2,703 1,965 3,298 7,755 15,721 [260]
2017 2,355 1,744 3,774 6,902 14,775 [261]
2018 2,980 1,632 4,469 6,625 15,706 [262]
Annual Operating income of the Walt Disney Company (Re-segmented) (in millions USD)
Year Studio Entertainment Direct-to-Consumer & International Parks, Experiences and Products Disney Media Networks Total Source
2018 3,004 −738 6,095 7,338 15,689 [263]
2019 2,686 −1,814 6,758 7,479 14,868 [264]
2020 2,501 −2,806 −81 9,022 8,108 [265]
Annual Operating income of the Walt Disney Company (Re-segmented) (in millions USD)
Year Media and Entertainment Distribution Parks, Experiences and Products Total Source
2021 7,295 471 7,766 [266]


The Walt Disney Company has been criticized for the purportedly sexist, racist, or overly commercial artistic direction of certain pieces of its intellectual property. It has also received criticism for offering poor pay and working conditions, engaging in anticompetitive practices, and treating animals poorly.

See also



  1. ^ WED stands for Walt's initials Walter Elias Disney
  2. ^ Although July 17, was supposed to be preview opening foregoing the public opening the next day, Disneyland uses July 17 as its official opening day[99]
  1. ^ Although Disney released a PG-rated film, Take Down, prior to the release of The Black Hole, they did not make the film; it was a pickup from independent producers.
  1. ^ a b Also named Films and Film Entertainment
  2. ^ a b c d Merged into Creative Content in 1996, merged into Consumer Products and Interactive Media in 2016, which merged with Parks & Resorts in 2018
  3. ^ a b Called Walt Disney Attractions (1989–2000) Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (2000–2005) Disney Destinations (2005–2008) Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide (2008–2018)
  4. ^ a b c Broadcasting from 1994 to 1996
  5. ^ a b first year with Marvel Entertainment as part of results
  6. ^ Not linked to WDIG, Disney reported a $300M loss due to financial modification regarding real estate


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Works cited

Further reading

  • Disney Stories: Getting to Digital, Newton Lee and Krystina Madej (New York: Springer Science+Business Media, 2012), ISBN 978-1-4614-2100-9.
  • A View Inside Disney, Tayler Hughes, 2014 Slumped
  • Building a Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire, Bob Thomas, 1998
  • Building a Dream; The Art of Disney Architecture, Beth Dunlop, 1996, ISBN 0-8109-3142-7
  • Cult of the Mouse: Can We Stop Corporate Greed from Killing Innovation in America?, Henry M. Caroselli, 2004, Ten Speed Press
  • Disney: The Mouse Betrayed, Peter Schweizer
  • Disney A to Z (Fifth Edition) : The Official Encyclopedia, Dave Smith. 5th edition Disney Editions, 2016 ISBN 1-4847-3783-0.
  • The Disney Touch: How a Daring Management Team Revived an Entertainment Empire, by Ron Grover (Richard D. Irwin, Inc., 1991), ISBN 1-55623-385-X
  • The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art and Commerce of Walt Disney, Richard Schickel, 1968, revised 1997
  • Disneyana: Walt Disney Collectibles, Cecil Munsey, 1974
  • Disneyization of Society: Alan Bryman, 2004
  • DisneyWar, James B. Stewart, Simon & Schuster, 2005, ISBN 0-684-80993-1
  • Donald Duck Joins Up; the Walt Disney Studio During World War II, Richard Shale, 1982
  • How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic ISBN 0-88477-023-0 (Marxist Critique) Ariel Dorfman, Armand Mattelart, David Kunzle (translator).
  • Inside the Dream: The Personal Story of Walt Disney, Katherine Greene & Richard Greene, 2001
  • The Keys to the Kingdom: How Michael Eisner Lost His Grip, Kim Masters (Morrow, 2000)
  • The Man Behind the Magic; the Story of Walt Disney, Katherine & Richard Greene, 1991, revised 1998, ISBN 0-7868-5350-6
  • Married to the Mouse, Richard E. Foglesorg, Yale University Press
  • Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland, David Koenig, 1994, revised 2005, ISBN 0-9640605-4-X
  • Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records, Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar, 2006, ISBN 1-57806-849-5
  • Storming the Magic Kingdom: Wall Street, the raiders, and the battle for Disney, John Taylor, 1987 New York Times
  • The Story of Walt Disney, Diane Disney Miller & Pete Martin, 1957
  • Team Rodent, Carl Hiaasen.
  • Walt Disney: An American Original, Bob Thomas, 1976, revised 1994, ISBN 0-671-22332-1
  • Work in Progress by Michael Eisner with Tony Schwartz (Random House, 1998), ISBN 978-0-375-50071-8

Chronology of company

  1. ^ Polsson, Ken. "2003". Chronology of the Walt Disney Company. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
  2. ^ "2004". Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
  3. ^ "2005". Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved December 15, 2013.

External links