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Creator: Disney

The Walt Disney Company (commonly referred to as Disney, so much so that in recent years it has begun crediting itself as such too) is the largest media group in the world.

Founded in 1923 as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio by Walt Disney and his older brother Roy, the studio started out by making short animated productions, then moved on to larger animated films, live-action films and eventually everything else.

They started out with making shorts featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but after only twenty-six shorts were made the rights to Oswald were taken away from Walt Disney and his partner Ub Iwerks, who (along with Roy and apprentice animators Les Clark and Wilfred Jackson) were left to run the company themselves. Needing a new character, they created Mickey Mouse, who was the star of the first ever animation to feature synchronised sound, Steamboat Willie. Soon after the Silly Symphony cartoons followed, which evolved to become the studio's animation evolution showcase where the latest techniques and narrative experiments were tried out commercially.

In 1934 they decided to go one step further and create their first full-length film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Everybody predicted failure and told them to stop before it was too late. It became the highest grossing movie of all time (until Gone with the Wind took the crown 2 years later) and won eight (admittedly honorary) Oscars. With the success of Snow White the company could expand and create the films from the forties such as Dumbo and Bambi. Unfortunately, World War II meant much of the European market was closed and most of the new feature films bombed. Around the same time there was also a bitter labor strike over the issue of unionizing animators that destroyed the studio camaraderie, with the striking animators complaining that Walt was a money-wasting control freak and Walt taking the strike as a personal betrayal while his studio was struggling. To keep the studio alive, the studio did instructional and propaganda films for the US government while the company's own movie-making was slow, meaning films that were in production from before the war didn't get released until afterwards (such as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan). After the war ended, Disney, still burdened with considerable debt, moved into the Documentary film genre with the True-Life Adventures and produced cheaper packaged animated feature films that were essentially animated shorts edited together.

Eventually, Disney gambled for a true feature with one story like in its prime and created the hit, Cinderella. This success began one of the company's busiest era's releasing five or six pieces every year - many eventually becoming classics. The first Disneyland was opened in 1955 and the studio moved into all live action dramatic films like Treasure Island and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The studio also moved into television with Disneyland that would become in various incarnations a long running television showcase for Disney's productions such as the "Davy Crockett" series while the syndicated Mickey Mouse Club secured the youth audience.

Unfortunately, the 1959 failure of the lavish feature film Sleeping Beauty (due to the huge budget despite good box office), prompted both a downsizing of the animation studio and a retreat from fairy tales for years. These changes showed in their next feature, 101 Dalmatians, their first film to be ambiguously set in contemporary times. Furthermore, the studio took advantage of a new technology called xerography, a dry photocopying process that eliminated the need to hand-ink the animation, but it only allowed for black outlines, which forced a hard scratchy visual style for years. However, the studio also hit a creative peak in 1964 with Mary Poppins, one of the great film musicals that combined the best of Disney's artistry of animation and live-action into a cinematic classic. Unfortunately, Walt Disney, who had been losing interest in animation by then in favor of TV and theme park projects, died of lung cancer, and his brother Roy came out of retirement to run the company. One of his first acts was renaming Disney World as "Walt Disney World" in honor of his brother. The last films Walt Disney worked on, The Jungle Book and The Happiest Millionaire were released in 1967. Roy himself died shortly after Walt Disney World was opened in 1971.

In the years after that, the company continued with its creative momentum gradually draining with the more ambitious members of the management frustrated by the constant overhang of "What would Walt do?" Through the 1970s, the obvious answer to that of emulating Walt's penchant for taking big budgeted creative dares was not one of them as the company's live action films became largely a bunch of family safe comedies and sequels to their one really successful post-Walt film The Love Bug.

The animation department was no better off with sporadic new films with limited budgets punctuated by endless rereleases of their older films on a regular schedule even while the graduates of Walt Disney's CalArts school came on board like John Lasseter and Tim Burton. Furthermore, while the studio was able to advance such as improving the xerography processing in animation to finally get rid of the scratchy outline visuals in The Rescuers, more ambitious animators, especially Don Bluth, finally had enough feeling creatively stifled by 1979 and walked.

When the senior management finally fell to Walt's son in law, Ron Miller, in that same period, the company was its nadir with only the theme parks being consistently profitable. To his credit, Miller did make some positive moves like taking a chance with innovative films like TRON and planned to create more adult oriented fare through the new branch, Touchstone Pictures.

However, these efforts weren't enough and in 1984, shareholder Saul Steinberg launched a brief hostile takeover bid of the company with the intention of closing it and selling off its various assets. In response, Roy Disney Jr. and Stanley Gold reached out to investor Sid Bass with the hopes of convincing him to buy a major stake in the company in order to ward off Steinberg. Bass agreed, but only on the condition that Disney's management underwent a serious change. And so, in a board room coup, Miller was ousted and Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg (both from Paramount) and Frank Wells (from Warner Bros.) were placed in charge of the company. In its ten years of existence, this management trio revived the company with inexpensive but well received adult fare like the comedy films with relatively faded stars at the time like Nick Nolte and Bette Midler. Eventually, the company purchased the noted independent film distributor/studio Miramax to produce more artistically ambitious fare, which paid off with the audacious and critically hailed 1994 box office hit, Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino.

The trio's faith in Disney's Animation proved a dicier proposition with the department's one grandfather feature film project, The Black Cauldron proved a major flop. However, the much cheaper and more successful subsequent film, The Great Mouse Detective in 1986 convinced the trio to give the animators a chance. This paid off handsomely as the expensive later film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit proved a sensation in 1988 and The Little Mermaid in 1989 set off the Disney Renaissance with a series of spectacular blockbusters that brought the company more money and prestige than they ever dreamed. Meanwhile, the company made their own waves on TV with a new commitment to TV animation with superb big budgets and well done animated series like Adventures of the Gummi Bears, DuckTales and Gargoyles dramatically raising the bar of what TV animation could be.

Unfortunately, the trio fell apart when Frank Wells was killed in a skiing helicopter accident and the moderator to Eisner's ego was removed. This led to infighting with Jeffrey Katzenberg who eventually left to form DreamWorks and Eisner assumed more control with the company declining with his increasingly inept hands, even as he made bold acquisitions like the ABC TV network. At the same time, the contracted computer animation house, Pixar, owned by Steve Jobs, transformed feature animation with its astounding series of critically lauded smash hit animated features while Disney's in house cel-animated films were increasingly overshadowed. Even worse for Disney, the new field of computer animation allowed competitors to finally sidestep the All Animation Is Disney public prejudice and allowed new competitors to get their own piece of the pie, most notably DreamWorks Animation.

Eventually, Roy Jr. and others had enough with Eisner's escalating business blunders. This climaxed with him alienating Steve Jobs and his Pixar studio by insulting them by claiming that their upcoming film, Finding Nemo, was sure to be a flop that would take them down a peg. After that film broke all box office records for feature animation and won an Oscar, Eisner looked like a complete incompetent at the worst possible time with Disney's contract with Pixar being due to expire soon and Jobs loathing Eisner personally and eager to walk. To fix that calamity of losing such a valuable studio, the board of directors ousted Eisner and placed Robert Iger in charge.

Since taking over as CEO, Bob Iger has taken a much more hands-off approach to things, most likely as an effort to undo the damage of his predecessor's legendary Executive Meddling. His primary accomplishments have been inking the multi-billion dollar buyouts of Pixar (A corporate feat made easier for the fact that Iger and Jobs' wives had been roomates in university), Marvel, and Lucasfilm, easily making back their money by sitting back and just letting them do what they do best. He also restructured studio management appointing John Lasseter as overseer for Feature Animation, Pixar, and DisneyToon Studios, with the former getting back to its roots and no longer trying to compete with Pixar and the latter getting out of the cheapquel game and focusing more on higher quality works like the Tinkerbell franchise and the Cars spinoff, Planes. As for Feature Animation, they managed to rebuild with a return to traditional animation with middling success like The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh, but really reestablished their place with successful CGI features like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. Furthermore, the essential innovative spirit of Disney found an echo again after so long as the studio suggested an artistic middle ground is possible with their Oscar winning short, Paperman, that experimented with a visual technique that fused the best qualities of hand-drawn and digital animation. Iger is set to retire in 2016.

Over the years, Disney has acquired various other companies to join its mass media productions such as Miramax Films (in 1993), ABC in 1996 (a deal which included ESPN and DIC Entertainment), Pixar in 2006 (before they were merely the distrubutors of their films), and Marvel Comics in 2009. Of those, Miramax and DIC were sold off (Miramax to an investor consortium named Filmyard Holdings in 2010, and DIC back to Andy Heyward in 2000).

On October 30th 2012 they announced a 4 Billion dollar deal to purchase Lucasfilmnote  and the rights to Star Wars with a seventh film now scheduled for 2015. Much like following the Marvel purchase, Internet Backlash ensued immediately with the expected cries of ruination from people who clearly have either forgotten about that one movie that was a product of the Marvel acquisition or are ignorant of the fact that Disney has made non-Disney branded films for almost three decades; and how many complaints there were about George Lucas' later handling of his Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.

Currently, they're among several companies (also including 21st Century Fox, Google, Apple, Amazon, and Verizon) that are being speculated as potential buyers for TimeWarner.

See: Noteworthy Disney Staff, Disney's Nine Old Men and Walt Disney.

The company has also been a force in family programming for decades, with Disney-themed shows spanning all three "traditional" U.S. broadcast networks (see Walt Disney Presents)

See the following for Disney-related media:

    open/close all folders 

    Shorts 

    Animated Films 

Also see Walt Disney Animation Units for animation studios outside of Pixar.

    Television 

Networks and Programming Blocks

Shows Not Covered by Any of the Above

    Comics and Magazines 

    Video Games 

    Literature 

    Franchises 

    Theme Parks and Shows 

    Live-Action Films 

    Acquired Franchises 

    Other Disney Brands 

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alternative title(s): Disney; Walt Disney Pictures
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