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Creator / Disney

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"I do not make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in all of us, whether we be six or sixty. Call the child 'innocence.' The worst of us is not without innocence, although buried deeply it might be. In my work I try to reach and speak to that innocence, showing it the fun and joy of living; showing it that laughter is healthy; showing it that the human species, although happily ridiculous at times, is still reaching for the stars."

The Walt Disney Company (commonly referred to simply as "Disney", so much so that in 2012 it began crediting itself as such too) is, as of 2019, the largest media group in the worldnote . Chances are that this company has had some sort of impact to your life. You may have very likely heard the name "Disney" at least once, have at least watched one of its cartoons, or have seen a movie under their name. They're that influential to the field of entertainment. In fact, in terms of the history of animated films, Disney could often be considered the studio that started it all and still dominates it through sheer input and prestige.

Founded in 1923 as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio by Walter Elias "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. The history of the company is long, and even broken down this is just a summation:

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    The Early Years 
Walt & Roy started out making shorts called the Alice Comedies for Universal Pictures. After completing the Alice Shorts, they moved onto 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 by Universal's executive board, and the two (along with Roy and apprentice animators Les Clark and Johnny Cannon) were left to basically fend for 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 Symphonies cartoons followed, which evolved to become the studio's animation evolution showcase where the latest techniques and narrative experiments were tried out commercially.

In 1937 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.

    The Postwar Era and Visionary Walt 
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 eras, releasing five or six pieces every year - many eventually becoming classics. Additionally, Walt began pushing for a vision of the company doing things outside of visual media entirely and wanted to create a recreational park unlike any the world had previously known (and one that would begin to crystallize his ideas about urban planning and the future.) The first Disneyland, then, was opened in 1955 and the studio moved into all live action dramatic films like Treasure Island and 20,000 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 The Mickey Mouse Club secured the youth audience.

Unfortunately, the 1959 failure of the lavish feature film Sleeping Beauty (due to the huge budget despite a good box office showing) 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 (and especially wanted to go all-in on his "Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow", or EPCOT, to help push forward a lot of the city and design planning the company had learned in having to manage Disneyland) 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 (although he was unable to convince the rest of the Disney board to make EPCOT anything even remotely approaching Walt's grand vision for the place). The last films Walt Disney worked on, The Jungle Book (1967) and The Happiest Millionaire were released in 1967. Roy himself died shortly after Walt Disney World was opened in 1971.

    Disney Without Walt: The 70s 
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. To make things more complicated for them, Disney had developed a reputation in the 1970s as being the studio that caught actors on their way up or on their way down. Few established actors were willing to work with the studio because of this, and in turn the public had grown more skeptical to new releases without the "Walt Disney Presents" billing in the title. What's worse, Disney's position as the go-to studio for family friendly pictures was challenged for the first time after the end of the New Hollywood era and with the rise of all-ages blockbusters. Furthermore, the young artists involved in these blockbusters embodied much of Walt's best qualities, such as George Lucas taking ambitious creative risks with Star Wars and Jim Henson with The Muppet Movie as a man who proved to be as much an artistic giant with puppetry as Walt was with Western Animation.

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 in 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 he planned to create more adult oriented fare through the new branch, Touchstone Pictures.

    Under New Management: The 80s, the 90s and the Eisner Era 
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, Disney board chairman Ray Watson 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 when 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 (1989) set off the Disney Renaissance with a series of spectacular blockbusters that brought the company more money and prestige than they ever dreamed of. 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 (1987) 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 Katzenberg who eventually left to form DreamWorks SKG and Eisner assumed more control. The company started declining while in 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 Animationnote .

    The House the Mouse Built: The Iger Era, the New Millennium, and Media Dominance 
Eventually, Roy E. Disney, Walt's nephew, and others had enough with Eisner's escalating business blunders. This climaxed with him alienating Steve Jobs and his Pixar studio by insulting them with 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 (previously head of ABC) 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 roommates 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 Disney Fairies franchise and the Cars spin-off 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 (2011), 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 was originally set to retire from Disney in 2018 however in 2016 his expected replacement, then COO and Parks head Tom Staggs, left the company after taking blame for issues with the construction of the Shanghai resort. Disney announced that Iger's contract was delayed the next year and would serve as a consultant for the following three years.

Over the years, and particularly beginning in the 1990s, Disney has acquired various other companies and folded them into its overall mass media production pipeline, with examples such as Miramax (in 1993), Capital Cities/ABC in 1996 (a deal which included ESPN, A&E, The History Channel, Lifetime, and DiC Entertainment), Fox Family Worldwide from News Corporation and Haim Saban in 2001, The Muppets (from Henson) in 2004note , Pixar in 2006 (previously Disney had been merely distributors of their films), and most notably, 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). Since the ABC acquisition, Touchstone Television Studios (naturally the television division of Touchstone Pictures) has been renamed ABC Studios for better brand alignment. Likewise, Fox Family was renamed ABC Family, though this created an awkward situation as that network moved to air racier content away from the "family" image but was stuck with the "Family" namenote ; however, it finally renamed to Freeform in 2016. Disney has also launched its own media ventures independent of these acquisitions. These include the cable outlets Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Toon Disney which in 2009 was relaunched as Disney XD and Disney Television Animationnote , an entity unrelated to any previous Disney animation studio that produces strictly animated content for television and primarily for the aforementioned cable outlets.

On October 30th, 2012, they announced a $4 billion deal to purchase Lucasfilmnote  and the rights to Star Wars with a new trilogy planned, the first of which came out in December 2015. It would be followed by The Last Jedi in 2017 and The Rise of Skywalker in 2019. The company also created the animated series Star Wars Rebels, which ran from 2014 to 2018, and two spin off Anthology films, Rogue One, released in 2016, and Solo, released in 2018. After a long stint in Development Hell, Disney would also reignite the Indiana Jones series with a fifth installment in 2023, expected to be Harrison Ford's swan song as the main character.

Finally, on December 14, 2017, Disney firmly solidified its position in the media world by announcing it would acquire the majority of 21st Century Fox, including Twentieth Century Fox (who, ironically, distributed the first six Star Wars films) and its divisions and television units, the FX Networks, the Fox Sports Regional Networks, and almost all of Fox's international assets from Rupert Murdoch for $66.1 billion. The deal would give Disney a massive global foothold unparalleled by any other media company, ensuring its future for a long, long time. However, the future note  wasn't certain, given that Comcast were heavily pushing for a purchase of Fox themselves. Comcast eventually dropped out after Disney offered a higher bid of $71.3 billion, and shortly after, gained approval from The United States Department of Justice Antitrust Divisionnote . On July 27th, 2018, the deal was made official when Fox shareholders voted overwhelmingly in Disney's favor, paving the way for Walt's little animation studio to become the biggest media empire humanity has ever known... and, despite the DoJ's acquiescence, leading to howls of trust-ism from many other corners of the industry and the world at large.

Disney's 2019 was notable for a variety of reasons. Chief among them was their official acquisition of 21st Century Fox, completed on March 20, 2019. (With the deal, Rupert Murdoch's family became some of the company's largest indidvidual shareholders.) Shortly after the deal was finalized in April 2019, Iger revealed his intent to step down as CEO of the company when his contract expires in 2021, claiming plans for his successor were already in place. That same month, they also formally revealed their rollout strategy for the long-discussed Disney+ streaming service. Launched in November 2019 and touted as a potential "Netflix killer" in the press, Disney+ features a combination of existing content from the vast libraries of Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, National Geographic, and their newly-acquired Twentieth Century Foxnote , as well as new original content (films, series, and documentaries) from each of those brands. The Killer App launch series The Mandalorian was so successful that the company has decided to focus more future Star Wars stories on television rather than film. Of course it was still the company's biggest year ever at the box office, seeing the release of Avengers: Endgame which became the highest grossing film of all timenote , while Toy Story 4, Captain Marvel (2019), Frozen II, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and remakes of Aladdin and The Lion King all passing the billion dollar marknote .

On February 25, 2020, Iger stepped down as the CEO of and was replaced by Bob Chapek, who was the chairman of Disney's parks business. Iger stayed with Disney as an executive chairman until December 2021 and continued to play a major role in the company's direction.

On October 12, 2020, in response to the massive worldwide success of Disney+, and the continued industry-wide shift into direct-to-consumer and streaming (not helped by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic keeping movie theaters below capacity), Disney announced a major restructuring in which all distribution units and streaming services would be centralized under one large unit, while the company's production units were restructured into studios (movies), general entertainment (television) and sports (ESPN). The restructuring is meant to give the units more resources to provide additional content to its streaming platforms.

On November 20, 2022, Chapek stepped down as CEO after a rocky tenure, with Iger returning to retake his old position. Disney later reshuffled its units again, restructuring its filmed entertainment, streaming/distribution and television units under one roof. By the following year, Disney shuttered Marvel Entertainment leaving the Marvel brand under the control of its entertainment, publishing and licensing divisions.

On February 7, 2024, Disney announced plans to partner with Epic Games and take an equity stake in that company. That same year, Disney announced that it would merge their entire Indian media business (including the Star TV network, and its film distribution business there) with Reliance Industries' Viacom18 (which is co-owned with Paramount Global, but their stake needs to be offloaded first, which is still pending approval). Disney would take a stake in the combined company while Reliance and TV18 take stakes in the venture, which is set to be completed by the end of this year or early 2025.

For further reading, take a look at 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).

Trope Namer of:

Disney People:

Disney Media:

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    Short Films 

    Feature Films — Animated 

    Feature Films — Live-Action 
Active Distribution Labels

Former Distribution Labels

Television Production Studios

Networks, Programming Blocks and Streaming Platforms

Shows Not Covered by Any of the Above

Buena Vista / Disney-ABC Domestic TV series

    Comics and Magazines 


    Video Games 

Video games created outside Disney Interactive Studios

  • Walt Disney Records (formerly Disneyland Records)
  • Hollywood Records (1989-Present)
    • Lyric Street Records (1997-2010)
  • Fox Music (2019-Present)


    Tabletop Games 

    Theme Parks and Shows 

    Primary Franchises 

    Acquired Franchises 
Properties Acquired Before the Fox Merger
20th Century Studios* (2019-present)


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Walt Disney Telecommunications And Non Theatrical Company, Walt Disney Home Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Walt Disney Home Video, The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Productions, Walt Disney Studios, The Walt Disney Studios


Cancelation of Gigantic

Due to the cancelation of Disney's Gigantic, that easter egg in Zootopia, foreshadowing the release of the movie, now makes no sense.

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4.39 (18 votes)

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Main / OrphanedReference

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