The Walt Disney Company
- Alternate meanings: Disney (disambiguation)
Disney stamps, issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2004
The Walt Disney Company (also known as Disney Enterprises, Inc., or simply "Disney") (NYSE: DIS) was founded in 1923 by Walt Disney and his brother Roy Oliver Disney and is one of the largest media and entertainment corporations in the world. It is the number two U.S. media company. The company's corporate headquarters are located in Burbank, California. Disney had revenues of 22 billion USD in 2002, and it is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The company was originally named Walt Disney Productions; the name was changed on February 6, 1986.
Its movie studios include Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax Films, and Dimension Films. Disney also owns the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) television network (since 1996), The Disney Channel, and ESPN's family of cable television networks. Disney's music division includes Walt Disney Records, Mammoth Records, Lyric Street Records, and Hollywood Records. The company operates the Disney Vacation Club resorts and ESPN Zone restaurants. It owns Hyperion Books, Disney Publishing Worldwide and the Walt Disney Cruise Lines.
Disney operates many resorts and theme parks at Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort Paris, and Tokyo Disney Resort. Hong Kong Disneyland is under construction and set to open in 2005. Disney uses its own terminology at its theme parks: park customers are called guests, Disney employees are called cast members, any area which can be reached or seen by a customer is onstage, and employees-only areas are backstage. Newly-hired cast members go through a course named Traditions in which the four "keys" of the theme parks - Safety, Courtesy, Efficiency, and Show - are taught, along with instructions such as "When pointing out something to a guest, always use two fingers or your entire hand, never a single finger."
The company also owns the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim hockey team and owned the Anaheim Angels baseball team, which was later sold to businessman Arturo Moreno. It also handles licensing of Disney products and sales through the Disney Store, Disney Publishing, and Disney Interactive.
Associations of librarians have objected to Disney's lobbying of the world's major legislative bodies into passing repeated retroactive copyright term extensions, calling it "manipulative" and "absurd". As well as the general limitation on the public domain that this implies, critics are quick to point out that Disney has made much of its fortune from stories that have passed out of copyright, such as Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty.
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. Additionally, by laying off all of its hand-drawn animation staff, Disney has released into the job market a large number of skilled artists who have a grudge against their former company and who could be very attractive to Disney's competitors. 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 in Burbank, California, is the only major Hollywood film studio that has never offered tours to the public.
- 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 begins
- 1954: The studio founds 'Buena Vista Distribution Company, Inc.' to distribute its feature films; beginning of the Disneyland TV program
- 1955: Opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California
- 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
- 1965: The regular production of short subjects ceases, as theatres no longer have any demand for them
- 1966: Walt Disney dies
- 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
- 1977: Roy Edward Disney, son of Roy and nephew of Walt, resigns from the company citing a decline in product quality
- 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 Hole
- 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
- 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 the current board of directors, replacing them with Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, 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
- 1995: In October, the company hires Hollywood superagent, Michael Ovitz, to be president
- 1996: Disney Enterprises buys Jumbo Pictures, Inc., and orders new episodes of "Doug" to be produced (re-named "Brand Spanking New! Doug" and then later "Disney's Doug").The company acquires the ABC television network; in December, Michael Ovitz, president of the company, leaves "by mutual consent"
- 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
- 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 Edward 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
- The studio breaks off renegotiation talks with Pixar (their current contract expires in 2006);
- Announced the closure of their florida feature-film animation department;
- Comcast makes a $66 billion unsolicited bid to buy The Walt Disney Company (Comcast withdraws its bid in April);
- Disney purchases rights to The Muppets;
- Company stockholders give Michael Eisner a 43% vote of no confidence; as a result, Eisner is removed from the role as chairman of the board (but maintains his position as CEO) and George J. Mitchell becomes chairman in his place.
- After investing $6 million into production of the documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore, Walt Disney Pictures announced their previously mentioned intentions of not distributing the film. The director and the heads of Miramax arrange an alternate distribution arrangement and the film becomes the most successful documentary film of all time. At $100 million+, that film earns more than most of Disney's other film releases that year.
Notable feature films under the Disney label
Notable feature films produced by the studio over the years include:
1940s in Disney
The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation
Mufasa, from the Lion King
Lilo & Stitch hula sequence
Notable television series
This includes those by the subsidiaries.
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