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The world's most noticeable media conglomerate
Walt Disney Company or Disney, is one of the most commonly known entertainment and media conglomerates in the world. It was founded on the 16th of October, 1923, by the brothers Walt and Roy Disney. The company is since 1940 headquartered in Burbank, California, and was until 1986 called Walt Disney Productions. Movie wise, the company has a long array of blockbusters, for example: Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and The Jungle Book.
From Mickey Mouse to ESPN
The company brand consists of three large round circles, forming the head and ears of the beloved character Mickey Mouse. They are primarily known for their film studio division, Walt Disney Studios, which includes Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios, 20th Century animation, and Searchlight Pictures.
Although the core of the company still is the movie studio Walt Disney Pictures, the company today has evolved into an enormous group, spread over four main business areas:
Disney Studio Entertainment: Mainly film companies. In charge of creating characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
Disney Parks and Resorts: Theme parks, hotels, restaurants and cruise ships.
Disney Media Networks: Includes companies in tv-, streaming- and radiosfere. Among the owned tv-channels are American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the sports channel ESPN, the multinational children’s channels Disney Channel and Disney XD, Freeform, FX, National Geographic, and also several other subsidiaries. The streaming services consist primarily of Disney+, ESPN+, Star+, Hulu, and Hotstar.
Disney Consumer Products: Producing and selling toys and other products.
Disney International: Managing Disney's international operations. These are separated into The Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe. The company conducts business in over 40 countries.
From Kansas to Hollywood
Walter Elias “Walt” Disney was originally a poor boy, born 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. During his lifetime, he became one of the most influential animators, film producers, entrepreneurs and voice actors in American history. During his early years, Walt was very interested in painting pigs and other round animals using a piece of coal. After serving as a volunteer ambulance driver at the red cross in France during World War 1, Walt returned to the US in 1919. He started working at an art studio in Kansas City, and was soon introduced to Kansas City Film Ad Company, which produced cartoons. This is also where he met Ub Iwerks who he collaborated with all the way until his death in 1966.
After making cartoons in Kansas City, Walt and his brother Roy Disney, in 1923 decided to go to Hollywood, where they founded Disney Bros Studio. Five years later, the anthropomorphic mouse with red shorts, yellow shoes, and white gloves, Mickey Mouse, first saw the light of day. In the early days, Disney established themselves as a leader in the American animation industry before diversifying into live-action film production, television, and theme parks. The company has created and acquired businesses since the 1980’s in order to market more mature content than their flagship family-oriented brands.
Expanding with amusement parks
In 1955 Walt Disney did something that would come to revolutionize Anaheim, California as a vacation destination—he created Disneyland. In the park, four different themed sections were available to the visitors: Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and Fantasyland. Walt pondered the idea of an amusement park for years. He spent the late 1940’s and early 1950’s visiting various parks and carnivals, forming a vision of what later would become Disneyland. A theme-based park where families could take part of the magical world that could be seen in his films.
Walt had a strong belief that the thriving, post World War 2 economy, would drive American families to spend more money on travel and entertainment, making Disneyland an attractive destination. Today, one of the biggest Disney Parks, Disney World, is located in Orlando, Florida. It measures 25000 acres or 110 square kilometers. Other substantial parks include among others: Disneyland in Anaheim, Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, and Magic Kingdom in Florida.
Their Parks, Experience and Products segment has theme parks and resorts in Florida, California, Hawaii, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Revenue is mainly based on admission sales, food, beverages, merchandise, resort and vacation packages, and royalties from licensing immaterial rights.
The acquisition of Lucasfilm
In 2012 Disney decided to broaden their already world-class portfolio of brands, consisting of, for example: Disney, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel, and ABC. In order to enhance their ability to create a broad range of world-class, quality content for their customers, they were looking for the right candidate to partner with. This led Disney into the acquisition of the legendary Star Wars creator Lucasfilm, combining the widely known characters Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, with Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, and Iron Man. The deal was worth $4.05 billion in cash and stock, an investment that paid off in only a few years.
Lucasfilm was before the acquisition 100% owned by the founder George Lucas, he said the following about the deal:
“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed on from one generation to the next, It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers”.