Articles > The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company
Type: Public (NYSE: DIS)
Founded: Burbank, California (1923)
Location: Burbank, California
Key Figures: George J. Mitchell, Chairman; Robert A. Iger,
Industry: Broadcasting, Animation, Motion Pictures, &
Products: American Broadcasting Company (ABC), Buena Vista
Distribution, Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, Walt Disney Studios,
Revenue: $30.8 billion USD (2004)
Walt Disney Company (also known as "Disney")
(NYSE: DIS) is one of the largest media and entertainment corporations
in the world. Founded on October 16, 1923 by Walt
Disney and his brother Roy Oliver Disney as the Disney Brothers
Cartoon Studio, it is today the number two media company in the
United States. The company's corporate headquarters are located
in Burbank, California. The Walt Disney Company had revenues of
$30.8 billion in 2004, and it is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial
Average. For much of its history, the company was known as Walt
Disney Productions, Ltd., until February 6, 1986, when it was rechristened
with its current name. Disney Enterprises, Inc., commonly seen in
company legal notices, is a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company.
Walt Disney Company Overview
Disney's main operating units are Studio Entertainment, Parks and
Resorts, Media Networks, and Consumer Products.
Disney Studio Entertainment
Its Studio Entertainment unit, also known as The Walt Disney Studios,
is headed by Chairman Dick Cook. It includes the Buena Vista Motion
Pictures Group, a collection of movie studios including Walt Disney
Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, and Hollywood Pictures. The Miramax
Films and Dimension Films studios are also a part of the unit, but
operate autonomously in New York. Disney's Buena Vista Music Group,
which includes Walt Disney Records, Mammoth Records, Lyric Street
Records, and Hollywood Records, also falls under the umbrella of
The Walt Disney Studios. The unit also includes Buena Vista Theatrical
Productions and Disney's distribution companies: Buena Vista International,
Buena Vista Home Entertainment, and Buena Vista Home Entertainment
One of the company's most successful subsidiaries is its animation
studio, Walt Disney Feature Animation, responsible for producing
a number of successful and influential traditionally animated features.
After witnessing the box office failures of some of its recent animated
films and the stellar successes of computer-animated films from
Pixar, Disney has decided to shift its production from "traditional"
hand-drawn animated films (which in recent years have incorporated
much work done on computer) entirely to computer-animated films.
The last traditionally-animated film produced by Disney was Home
on the Range. Its first computer-animated film will be Chicken Little.
Disney has fallen under much criticism for this change in direction,
especially as fans see the strength of a movie as its plot and its
characters and not as the technology used to make it.
Disney is becoming a direct competitor to Pixar in a market dominated
by the latter. Disney has failed to renew its contract with Pixar
to release Pixar's films under the Disney name, an arrangement which
had been extremely profitable to Disney and whose termination means
that Pixar is now free to pair up with a competing studio.
Walt Disney Studios , the company's main film and television production
facility as well as corporate headquarters, in Burbank, California,
is the only major Hollywood film studio that has never offered tours
to the public. A parital tour of the Orlando, Florida feature animation
satellite studio was available to attendees of Disney-MGM Studios
Disney Theme Parks and Resorts
Disney operates eight theme parks at the Disneyland Resort, the
Walt Disney World Resort, and the Disneyland Resort Paris. A ninth
is under construction at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, which
is set to open in 2005. Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan is operated
and owned by the Oriental Land Company with licenses from Disney.
The company also owns through Anaheim Sports, Inc. the Mighty Ducks
of Anaheim hockey club, which it recently agreed to sell to Broadcom
executive Henry Samueli, and owned the Anaheim Angels baseball team,
which was later sold to advertising magnate Arturo Moreno. The Disney
Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, and the chain of ESPN Zone sports-themed
restaurants also operate as a part of the Parks & Resorts unit.
Disney Media Networks
Its Media Networks unit is centered around the American Broadcasting
Company (ABC) television network, which it acquired through a merger
with Capital Cities/ABC in 1996. Disney also owns a group of cable
networks including The Disney Channel, ABC Family, Toon Disney,
the ESPN group and SOAPnet. Disney also holds substantial interest
in Lifetime (50%), A&E (37.5%), and E! (40%).
Through ABC, Disney also owns local 10 television stations, 26
local radio stations, and ESPN Radio, Radio Disney, and ABC Radio
News, which carries such radio personalities as Sean Hannity and
Paul Harvey. Buena Vista Television, which also is a part of the
Media Networks unit, produces such syndicated television programs
as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Live with Regis and Kelly, and
Ebert & Roeper.
Disney also operates its Hyperion publishing company and Walt Disney
Internet Group (WDIC) through Media Networks. Hyperion has recently
published books by comedian-author Steve Martin and bestselling
author Mitch Albom. WDIC includes the Go.com web portal, based on
the old Infoseek search engine which it purchased in 1998, and leading
websites such as Disney.com, ESPN.com, and ABCNews.com.
Disney Consumer Products
The Walt Disney Company's Consumer Products unit includes Disney's
merchandising and licensing business and its Disney Publishing Worldwide
group, whose imprints include Disney Editions, Hyperion Books for
Children, Disney Press. It also published the Disney Adventures
The unit once included the Disney Store chain of shopping mall
locations, which it sold in 2004. It does now include Jim Henson's
Muppets characters, which it purchased from The Jim Henson Company
Walt Disney Company History
* 1901: Walt Disney Company founder Walt Disney is born in Chicago,
* 1923: The Disney Bros. Studio, founded in October 16 by brothers
Walt and Roy Disney and animator Ub Iwerks, produces the Alice in
* 1925: At Walt Disney's insistence, the company is renamed Walt
* 1927: The Alice series ends; Disney picks up the contract to animate
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
* 1928: Walt loses the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit character and cartoon
series; first Mickey Mouse cartoon: Steamboat Willie
* 1929: First Silly Symphony: The Skeleton Dance. 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.
* 1930: First appearance of Pluto
* 1932: First three-strip Technicolor short released: Flowers and
Trees; first appearance of Goofy
* 1934: First appearance of animated character Donald Duck
* 1937: Studio produces its first feature, Snow White and the
* 1938: On September 29, Walt Disney Enterprises, Disney Film Recording
Company, and Liled Realty and Investment Company are merged into
Walt Disney Productions.
* 1940: Studio moves to the Burbank, California buildings where
it is located to this day
* 1941: A bitter animators' strike occurs; as the USA enters World
War II, the studio begins making morale-boosting propaganda films
for the government
* 1944: The company is short on cash; a theatrical rerelease of
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs generates much-needed revenue and
begins a reissue pattern for the animated feature films
* 1945: The studio hires its first-ever live actor for a film, James
Baskett, to star as Uncle Remus in Song of the South
* 1949: The studio begins production on its first all-live action
feature, Treasure Island; the popular True-Life Adventures series
* 1952: Walt Disney forms WED Enterprises on December 16 to design
his theme park.
* 1953: Walt Disney forms Retlaw Enterprises on April 6 to control
the rights to his name. It will later own and operate several attractions
inside Disneyland, including the Monorail and the Disneyland Railroad.
* 1954: The studio founds Buena Vista Distribution to distribute
its feature films; beginning of the Disneyland TV program
* 1955: Opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Walt Disney
Productions owns 34.5 percent of Disneyland, Inc. It increases its
stake in 1957 to 65.5 percent, then purchases the remaining shares
from ABC in 1960.
* 1961: The studio licenses the film rights to Winnie-the-Pooh,
whose characters continue to be highly profitable to this day; international
distribution arm Buena Vista International is established.
* 1964: The company starts buying land near Orlando, Florida for
Walt Disney World (then known as Disney World or The Florida Project)
* 1965: The regular production of short subjects ceases, as theatres
no longer have any demand for them. Walt Disney Productions acquires
* 1966: Walt Disney dies. His brother Roy takes over.
* 1967: Construction begins on Walt Disney World; the underlying
governmental structure (see Reedy Creek Improvement District) is
signed into law.
* 1971: Walt Disney World opens in Orlando, Florida; Roy Oliver
Disney dies; Donn Tatum becomes chairman and Card Walker becomes
* 1977: Roy Edward Disney, son of Roy and nephew of Walt, resigns
from the company citing a decline in overall product quality and
issues with management.
* 1978: The studio licenses several minor titles to MCA Discovision
for laserdisc release; only TV compilations of cartoons ever see
the light of day through this deal.
* 1979: Don Bluth and a number of his allies leave the animation
division; the studio releases its first PG-rated film, The Black
* 1980: Tom Wilhite becomes head of the film division with the intent
of modernizing studio product; a home video division is created
* 1981: Plans for a cable network are announced.
* 1982: EPCOT Center opens at Walt Disney World; Walt Disney's son-in-law
Ron W. Miller succeeds Card Walker as CEO
* 1983: As the anthology series is canceled, The Disney Channel
begins operation on US cable systems; Tom Wilhite resigns his post;
Tokyo Disneyland opens in Japan
* 1984: Touchstone Pictures is created; after the studio narrowly
escapes a buyout attempt by Saul Steinberg, Roy Edward Disney and
his business partner, Stanley Gold, remove Ron W. Miller as CEO
and president, replacing him with Michael Eisner and Frank Wells.
* 1985: The studio begins making cartoons for television; The home
video release of Pinocchio is a best-seller.
* 1986: The studio's first R-rated release comes from Touchstone
Pictures; the anthology series is revived; the company's name is
changed from Walt Disney Productions to The Walt Disney Company.
* 1989: Disney offers a deal to buy Jim Henson's Muppets and have
the famed puppeteer work with Disney resources; the Disney-MGM Studios
open at Walt Disney World.
* 1990: Jim Henson's death sours the deal to buy his holdings; the
anthology series canceled for second time.
* 1992: The controversial Euro Disney opens outside Paris, France.
* 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 re-issues ends
with this year's re-issue of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but
is augmented for video.
* 1994: Frank Wells is killed in a helicopter crash; Jeffrey Katzenberg
resigns to co-found his own studio, DreamWorks SKG.
* 1994: Plans for Disney's America, a historical theme park in Haymarket,
Virginia, are abruptly dropped. No explanation is given, and Disney
announces a search for an alternate location.
* 1995: In October, the company hires Hollywood superagent, Michael
Ovitz, to be president.
* 1996: The company takes on the Disney Enterprises name for non-Walt
Disney branded ventures and acquires the Capital Cities/ABC group,
renaming it ABC, Inc. ;in December, Michael Ovitz, president of
the company, leaves "by mutual consent." To celebrate
the pairing, ABC's first Super Soap Weekend is held at Walt Disney
* 1997: The anthology series is revived again; the home video division
releases its first DVDs.
* 1998: Disney's Animal Kingdom opens at Walt Disney World.
* 2000: Robert Iger becomes president and COO.
* 2001: Disney-owned TV channels are pulled from Time Warner Cable
briefly during a dispute over carriage fees; Disney's California
Adventure opens to the public; Disney begins releasing Walt Disney
Treasures DVD box sets for the collector's market.
* 2003: Roy E. Disney again resigns as head of 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 "Save Disney" (http://www.savedisney.com)
to apply public pressure to oust Michael Eisner.
* 2003: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl becomes
the first film released under the Disney label with a PG-13 rating.
* 2004: Comcast make a hostile bid for the company, CEO Michael
Eisner is replaced by George J. Mitchell as chairman of the board
as a 43% vote of no confidence, The Muppets become Disney property
and Disney turn down distributing Fahrenheit 9/11 which ends up
making $100 million.
* The Walt Disney Company officially begins the "Happiest Homecoming
on Earth" to celebrate Disneyland's 50th anniversary on May
5 at Disneyland with a live video conference with the Magic Kingdom,
Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and the construction site of
Hong Kong Disneyland.
o Disneyland celebrates its 50th birthday on July 17.
o Robert A. Iger, currently president of the company, will replace
Michael Eisner as CEO on October 1.
Walt Disney Company Management,
Current senior management
* Chairman of the Board - George J. Mitchell
* Chief Executive Officer - Michael Eisner
* President and Chief Operating Officer - Robert Iger
* Chief Financial Officer - Thomas O. Staggs
* Adviser to Robert Iger - Peter E. Murphy
Current division heads
* Walt Disney International - Andy Bird
* Walt Disney Parks and Resorts - Jay Rasulo
* Walt Disney Studios - Richard Cook
* Buena Vista Music Group - Bob Cavallo
* Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group - Nina Jacobson
* ESPN - George W. Bodenheimer
* Consumer Products - Andrew P. Mooney
* Walt Disney Feature Animation - David Stainton
* Disney-ABC Television Group - Anne Sweeney
* Walt Disney Imagineering - Marty Sklar
Disney Chairmen of the Board
* 1923-1966: Walt Disney
* 1966-1971: Roy O. Disney
* 1971-1980: Donn Tatum
* 1980-1983: E. Cardon Walker
* 1983-1984: Raymond Watson
* 1984-2004: Michael Eisner
* 2004-present: George J. Mitchell
* 1923-1971: Roy O. Disney
* 1971-1977: Donn Tatum
* 1977-1983: E. Cardon Walker
* 1983-1984: Ron W. Miller
* 1984-2005: Michael Eisner
* 2005-present: Robert Iger
* 1945-1966: Roy O. Disney
* 1966-1971: Donn Tatum
* 1971-1977: E. Cardon Walker
* 1977-1984: Ron W. Miller
* 1984-1994: Frank Wells
* 1994-1995: Michael Eisner
* 1995-1997: Michael Ovitz
* 2000-present: Robert Iger
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