Celebrating 100 Years of Disney

Disney has been around for 100 years and as they are within our licencing portfolio, we’re celebrating it with a fun look back at the history of Disney.

We’ll be taking you on a tour of the company’s history, from its humble beginnings as an animation studio in Los Angeles to its current status as one of the most influential media companies in existence. We’ll also take a look at some fun facts about Disney’s past, like:

– The Mickey Mouse Club used to be an actual club where kids could meet their favourite Mouseketeers!

– The first theme park opened in 1955 at Disneyland, but it wasn’t until 1971 that Epcot was opened in Florida.

– The first animated feature film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which premiered in 1937!


In 1923, Walt Disney and his brother Roy founded the Disney Brothers Studio in Los Angeles. The studio produced animated films and distributed them through the newly-formed Walt Disney Studios Distribution Company. In 1928, Walt started a weekly newspaper called “The Mickey Mouse Weekly” which ran for three years. It was during this time that Walt created his first character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who appeared in over 100 cartoons from 1927 to 1928.

In 1929, Walt formed his own distribution company called United Artists which he used to distribute his films through. He also created two new characters: Mickey Mouse and Pluto. In 1932, the studio became profitable enough for Walt to buy the land surrounding their studio, which would eventually become their permanent home – Disneyland.

In 1937, after several successful releases including “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” Walt wanted a new medium in which to tell stories so he began work on a project called “Fantasia.” The film was released in 1940 and featured animated segments set to classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski. The film was a commercial failure, but Walt learned from his mistakes and began working on “Bambi” in 1942. It became the first animated feature to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. After the success of “Bambi” Walt wanted to try again with another project based around classical music called “Fantasia 2000.”

The film was released in 1999 and featured new animation set to classical music conducted by Erich Kunzel. The film was a commercial success and won two Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction.

“Fantasia 2000” was the last film Walt worked on before his death in 1966.

After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, his brother Roy took over the company. Roy’s vision was to expand the company’s reach beyond their animation studios, so he began building theme parks around the world.

The next year, Disney began to expand their theme park business with the opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was quickly followed by Disneyland Paris (1992), Tokyo Disneyland (1983) and Hong Kong Disneyland (2005).

In 1984, Michael Eisner was hired as CEO and began to implement his vision for the company. Eisner wanted to expand the company’s reach into television, feature films, and theme parks.

Under Eisner’s leadership, Disney acquired Capital Cities/ABC in 1995 and unveiled a new logo in 1997. The following year, Disney purchased Miramax Films and created the Buena Vista Home Entertainment label (later renamed Walt Disney Home Entertainment). In 1999, Disney purchased Pixar Animation Studios.

In 1989, The Lion King hit cinemas and became one of the highest-grossing films of all time. It won two Oscars®, including Best Original Musical or Comedy Score and Best Original Song (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”).

In 1994, Walt Disney Pictures released Pocahontas, which became a major box office success. The film has been nominated for two Oscars® and won an Academy Award® for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score by Alan Menken (who also worked on Beauty and The Beast).

In 1998, Walt Disney Pictures released Mulan, another box office success that was nominated for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score by David Zippel.

In 2001, Disney Parks & Resorts launched a multi-billion dollar expansion of its Florida resort with two new parks: Blizzard Beach Water Park and Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, a luxury hotel and major renovation projects at Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom Park and Epcot Center.

In 2003, Bob Iger replaced Eisner as CEO; Iger has been responsible for over $40 billion in acquisitions since taking over as chief executive officer from Eisner in 2005—including Pixar Animation Studios (2006), Marvel Entertainment (2009), Lucasfilm Ltd. (2012), 21st Century Fox (2019) – including all 20th Century Fox film assets except news.

The Walt Disney Company concluded 2019 with several major additions, starting with the acquisition of 20th Century Fox in March, and then the remarkable launch of Disney+ in November. Disney+, which, together with ESPN+, Hulu and Disney+ Hotstar, delivers the Company’s iconic brands and incredible stories directly to consumers, gave us new movies and streaming series such as High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, a new retelling of Lady and the Tramp, The Simpsons, The Imagineering Story and, of course, The Mandalorian.

The Walt Disney Studios had a hugely successful year, releasing notable titles including Aladdin, The Lion King, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2. Marvel Studios released Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, which was the climactic finale to the Studios’ remarkable first 10 years of cinematic adventure. And Lucasfilm concluded the Skywalker saga with the epic Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, with a lavish Hollywood premiere and rollout in December.

In 2020 Disney delivered more beloved films and TV series from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, 20th Century Studios and National Geographic, Disney+ delivered scores of new entertainment to viewers around the world. Including Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, Stargirl, Prop Culture, Artemis Fowl, Broadway’s Hamilton, the live-action Mulan and Pixar’s wondrous Soul.

Bob Chapek was named Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company in February of 2020, with former CEO and Chairman Bob Iger assuming the role of Executive Chairman.

Early in 2021, two Disney+ series from Marvel Studios became instant hits—WandaVision, which debuted in January, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, in March. Also in March, the animated Raya and the Last Dragon premiered to rave reviews. After more than a year of closure due to the pandemic, Disneyland Park welcomed guests back to Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom on April 30th, before Avengers Campus officially opened its gates at Disney California Adventure on June 4th. The Walt Disney World Resort also prepared in earnest for its 50th anniversary festivities, kicking off The World’s Most Magical Celebration on October 1st, 2021. Featuring the opening of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at EPCOT, and the debut of several new entertainment offerings, including Harmonious, also at EPCOT, and Disney Enchantment at Magic Kingdom Park, the 18th month celebration will welcome guests from across the globe to help celebrate this momentous milestone.

In 2022, more fantastic shows were released to both Disney+ and in cinemas like the critically acclaimed Turning Red, Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness, Lightyear, Thor: Love and Thunder, Spiderman: No Way Home and the long awaited incredible Avatar: The Way Of Water.

For a century, The Walt Disney Company has created entertainment of the very highest quality. From humble beginnings as a cartoon studio in the early 1920s to the company of today—which includes Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Searchlight Pictures and 20th Century Studios, along with Disney Parks and Resorts around the world—Disney continues to provide timeless entertainment for the entire family.

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