Disney, entertainment and media company based in Burbank, California, founded in the early 1920s by the artist and cartoonist Walt Disney. Disney became a leading name in family entertainment for much of the 20th century, created the popular animated character Mickey Mouse, and continues to produce popularly animated and live-action films.
Since the mid-1980s Disney has increasingly diversified into broadcasting, sport, the Internet, publishing, and retail. The company purchased Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. in 1996, including the sports cable network ESPN. Among Disney’s assets are the film companies Walt Disney Pictures, Miramax Films, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, and Pixar Animation Studios; Buena Vista Entertainment; the Disneyland theme parks; and the ABC Television Network.
II WALT DISNEY’S EARLY LIFE AND WORK
The American animator and producer Walt(er Elias) Disney (1901-1966) was raised in the American Midwest and trained as a commercial artist. He moved into animation in Kansas City, where he set up his own company in 1920 with Ub Iwerks, called Laugh-O-Grams. After the first series of cartoons failed to make any money, Disney turned to the cheaper combination of live action and animation of the type pioneered by Max and Dave Fleischer. He recruited more animators, and his elder brother Roy, and moved his operation to Los Angeles in 1923 to produce the “Alice in Cartoonland” series. These were quite successful, but limiting to Disney’s ambition, and in 1927 he started a new series with full animation, starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. When the rights to this character were taken from him, he and Iwerks designed a new character, Mickey Mouse, in 1927. The addition of sound to the third of the series, Steamboat Willie (1928), made it a great success.
III FEATURE FILMS AND THEME PARKS
Disney acted as the producer and story editor, rather than as an artist, and always pushed to improve the quality of his studio’s animation by hiring and training the most promising talent. The Disney Studio was the first to move into Technicolor production in 1932, and a series of further starring characters, such as Donald Duck, was created. More expansion into feature-length animation followed with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937); Pinocchio (1940); Fantasia (1940), an ambitious film that combined groundbreaking animation with classical music; Dumbo (1941); and Bambi (1942); while the merchandising of the Disney cartoon characters made more profits for the studio. After World War II, animated features produced by the Disney Studio included Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959), 101 Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), and The Jungle Book (1967), but the number of production decreased, and there was a move into live-action features (Treasure Island, 1950; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1954; The Shaggy Dog, 1959; The Absent Minded Professor, 1961; The Love Bug, 1968) and nature documentaries (Seal Island, 1948). (The film Mary Poppins (1964) used an innovative combination of live action with animation.) Disney also started a weekly television programme in 1954 and opened a theme park, Disneyland, near Los Angeles in 1955. Disney World planned by Disney before his death opened in Florida in 1971. All these enterprises were very successful commercially, but the quality of the films declined in the 1970s.