DISNEY CORPORATION. The Walt Disney Company was incorporated by Walt and Roy Disney in 1923, first as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, then as the Walt Disney Studio. Based in Los Angeles, California, the company produced short animated films that were distributed by other film companies and appeared before feature-length films in movie theaters around the world.
Never one of the major studios, the company grew gradually, always with financial difficulties, and established itself as an independent production company in Hollywood. The Disney brothers built a reputation for quality animation, utilizing cutting-edge technological developments such as sound and color, and producing feature-length animated films. The popularity of Disney's products, which included merchandise based on their animated characters, such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Snow White, was instantaneous and unmistakable, not only in the United States but in other countries.
Setting the foundations for the diversification that emerged in the ensuing decades, during the 1950s Disney expanded to include television production and live-action feature films. In 1953 the company opened Disneyland, the first of many theme parks. During this period, the company also started distributing its own films. By the mid-1970s, however, the company appeared to be stagnating until a management and ownership shuffle rejuvenated its established businesses and developed new investments.
At the end of the twentieth century, the Walt Disney Company was the second largest media conglomerate in the world (behind AOL Time Warner), with a wide array of domestic and international investments. The company's revenues for 2000 were over $25 billion. Disney owned the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) television network, broadcast TV stations, and radio stations and networks, and maintained partial ownership of several cable networks, including 80 percent of ESPN and 38 percent of A&E and Lifetime. Walt Disney Studios produced
films under the Touchstone, Hollywood Pictures, and Miramax labels. In addition, the company was also involved in home video, recorded music, theatrical productions, and consumer products, which were sold at over 600 Disney Stores around the world.
Disney's theme parks and resorts division encompassed six major theme parks in the United States, including Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida (EPCOT, The Animal Kingdom, Disney-MGM Studios). Other theme park sites were Tokyo Disney, Disneyland Paris, and, by 2003, Hong Kong Disneyland. The company also owned extensive hotel and resort properties, a variety of regional entertainment centers, a cruise line, sports investments, and a planned community in Florida called Celebration. The Walt Disney Internet Group included sites such as ABC.com, Disney Online, and ESPN.com.
Smoodin, Eric, ed. Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. New York: Routledge, 1994.
Wasko, Janet. Understanding Disney: The Manufacture of Fantasy. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2001.