DISNEY: A BRIEF HISTORY
Disney was first established as the Disney Brothers Studio by brothers, Roy and Walt Disney. The first project undertaken by Disney, ‘Alice Comedies’ was a series which ran from October, 1923 to late 1927. Although the ownership remained equal, the company was renamed to Walt Disney Studio. After a series of difficult years that involved being undercut by his distributor, Walt finally created the symbol that most associate with Disney even today- Mickey Mouse. From 1928- 1932, Walt created critically acclaimed series’ and animated feature films, even winning the Academy Award in 1932. It was the rising popularity of Mickey Mouse cartoons that started Disney’s merchandising empire which had more than 725 stores worldwide by 1999, when Mickey was licensed out for $300 by Walt. Following two decades of success seen by iconic features like ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, 1955 saw the creation of Disneyland in Anaheim, California coining the term ‘theme-park’.
After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, the company was primarily controlled by his brother Roy. Under his leadership, Disney opened a second theme-park in Orlando, Florida called Disney World. The next big transformation for Disney came in 1983, with the launch of Disney channel. This is the same year that Tokyo Disney was launched, followed by the 1992 launch of Euro Disney signifying an increased global presence. Disney also solidified their interest in the teen-film business and launched Touchstone Pictures, a film label under Walt Disney Studios. 1991 was another important year for Disney as they entered the writing and publishing industry with the launch of, “Hyperion Books, Hyperion Books for Children, and Disney Press which published Disney and non-Disney subjects” (Disney history). The company was also awarded their very own NHL team, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1993.
ACQUISITIONS AND SUBSIDIARIES
As is mentioned above, Disney owns a large network of subsidiaries and has a vast number of partnerships in the media realm. Miramax Film Corporation was an organization that was owned and operated by the Weinstein brothers; after its purchase by Disney in 1993, a partnership of sorts ensued wherein it was still operated by the Weinstein’s but under the supervision of the new owners. This partnership was extremely dysfunctional and consisted of frequent public disagreements between both parties. Finally, this company was sold to Tutor-Saliba Corp, a construction company. However, this was followed by years of landmark acquisitions most of which turned out to be extremely profitable. In 1995, Disney acquired Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion, gaining access to the cable networks of ABC and ESPN. Further, a partnership with animation company Pixar which began in 1997 for the creation of five motion films, resulted in Disney acquiring the studio for $7.4 billion in 2006. Marvel Entertainment, which owns characters such as Spiderman and Captain America was bought over by Disney in 2009, citing its earning potential outside of films due to its multimedia potential, licensing and merchandising. This was the same year Disney expanded into online streaming with the purchase of Hulu, directly expanding to online audiences. The maker of Star Wars, Lucasfilm, was next to be acquired by Disney in 2012 for $4 billion. Finally, in one of the most anticipated mergers of the year, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox Studios for $71.3 billion. Disney Channels Worldwide, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company has a presence in several countries around the world including India, UK, Russia, and France. Customized channels such as Hungama in India that broadcast Hindi adaptations of Disney Channel Original programs is an example of Disney exporting American culture abroad.
As this paper has shown, Disney has several subsidiaries that function under its umbrella. The series of acquisitions explored above showcase the several segments Disney is present in including media networks, theme parks, studio entertainment, streaming platforms, and publishing. In addition, Disney also has a presence within industries of interactive gaming, music, and theatre. Disney’s enormous success can be seen in its revenues and earnings. Table (1) showcases the net income attributable to the Walt Disney Company for the past three fiscal years 2019, 2018, and 2017. While the net income varies yearly, it generally remains extremely high and allows for increased investor confidence and more economic activity in the market.
Table (2) further showcases Disney’s earnings from its different media segments as explored throughout this paper. This report has indicated that using strategies of acquisitions and partnership have helped Disney expand globally. Table (3) below indicates that although revenues made by Disney in the United States and Canada easily outnumber the revenues made in Europe, AsiaPacific, and Latin America combined, Disney’s presence in these places can by no means to be overlooked.
This paper has analyzed the case of The Walt Disney Company to understand its importance in the American media sphere. Further, it has analyzed the history of Disney, from a cartoon studio to a multi-billion-dollar media conglomerate in order to understand its long-term financial success. The 2019 Business earnings report included indicates that Disney continues to make large profits every year. The segmented breakdown of revenues also suggests that while some media segments such as Media Networks generate more income, acquisitions by Disney have largely paid off. Further, the presence of Disney in countries such as India, France, UK, and Japan are indications of a successful attempt to export American culture to other countries. As this paper has portrayed, Disney’s goal to expand globally and monetize on its cultural capital continues to become glaringly obvious.
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