The history of The Walt Disney Company does not only follow the stories of brothers Walter Elias and Roy Disney but also tells the greater history of the American film and television industry, and American business.
On 16 October 1923, upon signing a contract with M. J. Winkler to produce the animated series Alice Comedies, the small independent animation studio founded by brothers Walter Elias and Roy Disney took off. The Disney Brothers Studio subsequently began producing more animated series for television, thereby creating characters that eventually became household names.
Introducing Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is undeniable one of the greatest creations of the company. The first Mickey Mouse reel was created between February to March of 1928. The series was called Plane Crazy but its first two episodes were never shown before the public because W. Disney was unsuccessful in finding a distributor.
W. Disney pushed for another shot when he produced the third episode Steamboat Willie. The episode premiered in Colony Theater in New York on 18 November 1928. Mickey Mouse received wide popularity even outside the United States, thus becoming a global phenomenon. In 1932, W. Disney received an Academy Award for this breakthrough character.
Further entertainment ventures
Several milestones marked the early history of The Walt Disney Company. The first full-color cartoon produced by the company, Flowers and Trees, was released on 30 July 1932. It was also the first of its kind in the entire history of animation and film production. The company also introduced newer characters alongside Mickey Mouse to include Donald Duck.
W. Disney also ventured into animating folk tales from different literary sources, as well as producing socially relevant contents and education shows for children. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was released in film theaters on 21 December 1937. This was the first full-length animated film of the company.
The company was unstoppable in its expansion. Not only it ventured into full-length film production, it also diversified into other businesses. First, W. Disney designed a large-scale theme park in 1959 that was later opened in 1955 in Anaheim, California. He called it Disneyland. Another theme park was built in 1971 in Florida. It was named The Walt Disney World. The company also ventured into publishing and toy merchandises.
Consolidation and internationalization
In 1980, the various business activities and units of the company were consolidated under The Walt Disney Company. This marked a major turning point in the history of The Walt Disney Company.
The Walt Disney Company extended its business beyond American borders. From 1980s to 1990s, the company entered and completed a series of acquisitions and expansions. In the process, it opened Buena Vista Distribution, Disney Channel, and Touchstone Pictures during the 1980s, and it acquired independent film distributor Miramax and put up the book publishing arm Hyperion during the 1900s.
By the end of 1990s, the company has become a global empire with strong business interests in various facets of mass media to include television, film, publishing, and music. Some of its media outfits have enjoyed international exposures. Its film production and distribution arms alone have widespread global reach.
Apart from its business interest in media, its parks and resorts, and consumer products are also operated, manufactured, or distributed in several parts of the globe. This diversification not only captured the global market but also expanded the operation of the company, thus turning it from an American business to a true global conglomerate.