If you ask anybody what their favorite Disney movie is, there is a 99.99999% chance that they will have a list of them. Some people are Disney movie fanatics, collecting all the movies and memorabilia they can get their hands on. Disney is a household name, and it is a name that brings about memories of childhood in most adults today. From humble beginnings to a global conglomerate, Disney’s story is one of determination, passion, and evolution
The Unexpected Success of Alice
In 1922, Walt Disney began his legacy with a small studio called Laugh-O-Gram Films that he founded with his friend Ub Iwerks in Kansas City. The studio mainly produced animated films based on fairy tales and fables. Only a year later, Disney filed for bankruptcy and left for Hollywood after producing Alice in Cartoonland.
Disney’s 1923 Alice film was an unexpected success, and distributors began to ask for more Alice films. So, Disney and his brother Roy opened up a shop in Hollywood. Their production team from Kansas City also relocated to work at the new studio. This new company, led by Walt and Roy Disney, focused mostly on produced Alice films for the next few years.
Mickey Mouse is Born
After losing the rights to the main character in his first animated films in 1927, Disney altered the appearance of the character, named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and created Mortimer Mouse. The name was quickly changed to Mickey Mouse after Disney’s wife insisted on it. Two silent films were made starring Mickey, and the third film starring the famous mouse contained sound. This film was called Steamboat Willie and was released in 1928 – it was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon ever released.
Mickey Mouse was an instant success. Disney’s company, which was named Walt Disney Productions by this time, continued to create animated films. The years following Mickey introduced other beloved characters like Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy.
Becoming the Maker of Animated Classics
Walt Disney made an incredibly bold move and released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, which completely revolutionized the animated film industry by showing that a full-length animated movie could be successful. Disney continued to make successful animated films in the style his company was known for – animated but realistic characters and events that were made as if they were live-action films. The company prospered through the 1960s.
Expanding the Brand
The first Disney themed park was opened in Anaheim, California in 1955. Disney continued to produce animated films and began producing TV shows like The Mickey Mouse Club. The company’s films were achieving national recognition, winning many Academy Awards. In 1965, Walt Disney bought 45 acres of land in Florida with a goal of opening the Walt Disney World Resort.
Death Changes Everything
Because Walt Disney valued the quality of his movies over the money he made off of them, his death in 1966 left the company in financial troubles. Roy Disney became the supervisor of the company and the resort project. In 1971, the Walt Disney World Resort opened. In 1982, Epcot Center was added to the theme park. The theme parks were and still are very successful.
In the years following, there weren’t many successful films released. New producers weren’t as talented as the old producers. The main profits for the Disney company came from their old movies and Disney World.
Making a Comeback
Disney’s son-in-law, Ron Miller founded Touchstone Pictures in the early 1980s, making it a subsidiary of the Disney company that catered to adult audiences. This production company released some extremely successful moves throughout the 1980s and 1990s such as Three Men and a Baby, Dead Poets Society, and Pretty Woman. Two more film subsidiaries were eventually added – Hollywood Pictures in 1989 and Miramax Films in 1993.
Then, The Little Mermaid’s release brought Disney back to the forefront of the animated film industry in the 1990s. Disney began teaming up with Pixar Animated Studios and producing live-action feature films – both projects saw success.
Entering a New Century
Since the beginning of the 21st century, Disney has become a global conglomerate. Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong gained Disney theme parks. A Disney cruise line was introduced. The company expanded. More movies were made. In 2005, Robert Iger became Disney’s CEO and completely transformed the brand, buying both Pixar Animated Studios, Marvel Entertainment, and Lucasfilm Ltd. The most recent addition to the Disney brand is 20th Century Fox, which was made official in 2019.
Continuing to Dominate
The Walt Disney Company dominates the industries of American animation, live-action film production, television, and theme parks. The company remains successful because of its incredibly effective marketing strategies. Disney capitalizes on the nostalgia that is associated with its old films and the brand loyalty it has gained through years of production.
The company seeks to inspire with its new animated films and makes sure to create stories that resonate with the current generation. The company also makes sure to target the tastes of different generations to keep all ages interested in its content. Another marketing strategy Disney has mastered is the branding of its theme parks. Because of its ability to adapt to changing times, the Disney brand currently ranks #14 in the entire world!
The Current State of Disney
A single look at recent news regarding Disney proves that this company has still got what it takes to succeed. The 2022 Special Olympics are slated to be hosted by The Walt Disney World Resort. The NBA Experience has opened at Disney World. The Disney Channel’s “Descendants 3” is the highest-rated telecast among kids, and the company’s recently released movie The Lion King has already grossed 1 billion.
A Global Phenomenon Started by a Single Man
There is no denying it – The Walt Disney Company shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. It has thrived for almost its entire existence – an existence made possible by a man’s dream to make movies. Walt Disney may be gone, but his spirit and his passion live on in his company and its continued success.