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The Walt Disney Company

For other uses, see Disney (disambiguation)

The Walt Disney Company (also known as "Disney") 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. Disney 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.



Disney's main operating units are Studio Entertainment, Parks and Resorts, Media Networks, and Consumer Products.

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 International .

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 until 2003.

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.

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 web portal, based on the old Infoseek search engine which it purchased in 1998, and leading websites such as,, and

Consumer Products

Its 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 children's magazine.

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 in 2004.



  • 1923: The Disney Bros. Studio, founded on October 16 by brothers Walt and Roy Disney and animator Ub Iwerks, produces the Alice in Cartoonland series.
  • 1925: At Walt Disney's insistence, the company is renamed Walt Disney Studios.
  • 1927: The Alice series ends; Disney picks up the contract to animate Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
  • 1928: Walt loses of the Oswald 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 Donald Duck


  • 1937: Studio produces its first feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • 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 begins
  • 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




Highlights (Fiscal year ended September 30) ($ in millions)
Business Revenue Operating income Operating profit margin %
Media Networks 11,778 2,169 18.4
Parks and Resorts 7,750 1,123 14.4
Studio Entertainment 8,713 662 7.6
Consumer Products 2,511 534 2.1
Total 30,752 4,488 14.6

Management, 1923-present

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

Disney Chairmen of the Board

Disney CEOs

Disney Presidents

See also

External links


Last updated: 06-01-2005 23:23:37
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