Timeline of The Walt Disney Company

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This is a timeline of The Walt Disney Company, listing notable business events for the organization.


The Walt Disney Company was founded in 1923, and found much success under Walt Disney's leadership through his death in 1966.

Year Notable Business Events Notable Theatrical Releases Notable Theme Park/destination Openings Other Premieres
  • Walt Disney signed a contract with M.J. Winkler to produce a series of Alice Comedies, beginning the Disney company under its original name "Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio", with brothers Walt and Roy Disney, as equal partners.[1]
  • "Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio" changes name to "The Walt Disney Studio" shortly after moving into the new studio on Hyperion Avenue in the Silver Lake district.
  • Walt loses the Oswald's series contract.
  • Walt and Roy come up with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
  • On December 16, "The Walt Disney Studio" is replaced by "Walt Disney Productions, Ltd". Three other companies, "Walt Disney Enterprises", "Disney Film Recording Company", and "Liled Realty and Investment Company", are also formed.
  • Walt Disney's first feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released
  • On September 29, "Walt Disney Enterprises", "Disney Film Recording Company", and "Liled Realty and Investment Company" and "Walt Disney Productions, Ltd." are merged to form "Walt Disney Productions".
  • Studio moves to Burbank, California
  • Company goes public
1942 Donald Duck comics by Carl Barks
1943 Saludos Amigos is released
  • The company is short on money; a theatrical re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs generates much-needed revenue and begins a reissue pattern for the animated feature films.
  • The studio begins production on its first all-live action feature, Treasure Island
licensed Ice Capades Disney segment[2]
1952 Uncle Scrooge comics by Carl Barks
  • Disneyland anthology TV series on ABC (First Disney TV program & Disneyland funding program)
  • The studio purchases the film and merchandise rights to A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh books, which are a huge source of revenue (as well as litigation issues) to this day.[6]
1963 Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room opens at Disneyland. This is the first attraction to feature audio-animatronics.
  • Disney News begins publication


After Walt's death in 1966, the company began a slow decline with no clear direction, which culminated in an unsuccessful greenmail attempt to buy the company from current shareholders.

Year Notable Business Events Notable Theatrical Releases Notable Theme Park/destination Openings Other Premieres
1967 The Jungle Book Pirates of the Caribbean opens at Disneyland
1969 The Haunted Mansion opens at Disneyland
  • The Walt Disney World Resort opens
  • Walt's nephew Roy E. Disney, resigns from the company citing a decline in overall product quality and issues with manager.
  • Don Bluth and 12 fellow animators leave Disney to found their own studio.
  • The Black Hole (the first PG-rated Disney film, reversing a G-only policy that began with the 1968 introduction of the MPAA ratings system)
  • Dumbo is the first animated Disney home video release
  • Disney Channel begins, while the anthology series ends.
  • The live action studio is renamed "Walt Disney Pictures".


Michael Eisner is hired from Paramount to be the new CEO, along with Frank Wells as president. They bring leadership vision and place an emphasis on theme park expansion and improving the quality of the theatrical releases.

Year Notable Business Events Notable Theatrical Releases Notable Theme Park/destination Openings Other Premieres
  • February 2: The anthology series is revived on ABC.
  • February 6: The company's name is changed from "Walt Disney Productions" to "The Walt Disney Company".
  • Bankruptcy of Eastern Airlines forces Walt Disney World to re-designate Delta Air Lines as its official airline. Eastern-sponsored "If You Had Wings" in the Magic Kingdom is later revamped and renamed "Delta Dreamflight".
  • The distribution company's name is changed from "Buena Vista Distribution Company" to "Buena Vista Pictures Distribution".
  • Disney teamed up with Studio Ghibli to distribute anime films internationally.
  • Jim Henson's death extinguishes the deal to buy his holdings.
  • The anthology series is canceled for the second time.
  • The Disney Afternoon television syndication block debuts.
  • "Hollywood Pictures" is created to produce films aimed towards more mature adult audiences.
  • Disney Adventures magazine begins publication.
  • Disney acquires independent film distributor Miramax Films.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh merchandise outsells Mickey Mouse merchandise for the first time.
  • The Anaheim Mighty Ducks play their first game at the Anaheim Arena, a brand-new arena located just three miles (5 km) east of Disneyland.
  • September 28: The anthology series is revived for a third time.
  • The home video division releases its first DVDs.
  • Disney takes control of the Major League Baseball franchise the California Angels of the American League, renaming the team the Anaheim Angels in order to coincide with Disney's hockey team the Mighty Ducks and to draw more tourism to Anaheim and nearby Disneyland.
  • The Lion King (musical) opens on Broadway.
  • Disney buys Fox Family Network including Saban Entertainment, owner of entertainment juggernaut Power Rangers, for $3 billion in July, giving Disney programming and cable network reaching 81 million homes.
  • Disney changes Fox Family Network to ABC Family.
  • Fort Worth billionaire Sid Bass is forced to sell his Disney holdings due to a margin call caused partially by the stock market fall that followed the 9/11 attacks.
  • Disney begins its Platinum Edition DVD line with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as well as the Walt Disney Treasures DVD box set line for the collector's market.
  • Miramax acquires the USA rights to the Pokémon movies starting with the fourth movie.
  • Miramax also acquire the distribution rights of the first three Bionicle movies.
  • Disney teams up with famous video game company Square (later known as Square Enix) to release their first ever role-playing game with various Disney characters, Kingdom Hearts.
  • Disney releases Spirited Away in the United States, which goes on to be the first anime film to win an Oscar for Best Animated Film.
  • Disney begins joint venture business with Sanrio for Sanrio's greeting cards.
  • Roy E. Disney resigns as the chairman of Feature Animation and from the board of directors, citing similar reasons to those that drove him off 26 years earlier. Fellow director Stanley Gold resigns with him. They establish a group called "Save Disney" to apply public pressure to oust Michael Eisner.
  • Talks to extend distribution agreement with Pixar break down, and Pixar announces plans to seek a new distribution partner.[7]
  • Disney sells the Angels to billboard magnate Arturo Moreno.
  • Disney released their first (non-Touchstone/non-Miramax/non-Dimension/non-Hollywood) PG-13 rated film under the regular Walt Disney Pictures label was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.


After becoming CEO, Robert Iger begins to rebuild the Disney brand by redirecting focus on core assets, such as feature animation and the theme parks. One early accomplishment was repairing the Disney-Pixar relationship, resulting in Disney's purchase of Pixar for $7 billion.

Year Notable Business Events Notable Theatrical Releases Theme Park/destination Openings Other Premieres
  • Disney signs the Cheetah Girls on as a recording act.
  • Disney sells the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to Henry Samueli of Broadcom, who changes the team name to Anaheim Ducks.
  • On July 8, Roy E. Disney rejoins the company as a consultant with the title of Director Emeritus.
  • Disneyland celebrates its 50th anniversary on July 17.
  • Bob Iger replaces Eisner as CEO.
  • Disney Magazine ceases publication.
  • Wayne Allwine, who had voiced Mickey Mouse starting with Mickey's Christmas Carol, dies; he is succeeded by Bret Iwan.
  • Disney XD and DisneyXD.com are launched, replacing Toon Disney and Jetix.[12]
  • Disney announces the formation of D23, an official fan community.
  • Walt Disney Studios enters a distribution deal with DreamWorks Pictures, wherein upon DreamWorks' films will be distributed through Touchstone Pictures.
  • Wondertime magazine ceases publication.
  • December 16 - Director Emeritus Roy E. Disney dies of stomach cancer.
  • December 31 - Disney acquires Marvel Entertainment and its properties.[13][14]
  • April 14: Construction on a 14-acre Star Wars-themed land begins at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios.
  • DreamWorks ends its film distribution deal with Disney.
  • May 10: Disney Interactive Studios exited from publishing its own games in order to focus on third-party development of video game adaptations of its franchises by other developers.


  • Notable Theatrical Releases are films that were the first to use a particular technology (sound, color, etc.), received major award nominations (Academy Award, Golden Globe, etc.), or are otherwise historically significant to The Walt Disney Company. Not all films released by Disney appear in this list; please see Lists of films released by Disney for a complete company listing.
  • Theme Park/destination Openings indicate when Disney theme parks open. The opening of attractions and park name changes will not appear in this list.
  • Other Premieres are the premiere dates for other notable Disney products, such as TV franchises (The Cheetah Girls, Hannah Montana, The Jonas Brothers), consumer products, video games (Kingdom Hearts), or home media premieres that were the first to use a particular technology. Other notability requirements include major award nominations (Emmy Award, Grammy Award), or are otherwise historically significant to The Walt Disney Company. Not all Disney products, TV programs, video games, or home media releases appear in this list.


  1. ^ "Company History". Corporate Information. The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  2. ^ Korkis, Jim (September 13, 2005). "Wednesdays with Wade: 25 years of "Disney on Ice"". JimHillMedia. Retrieved July 30, 2015. 
  3. ^ Aberdeen, J. A. (2000). "Disneyland". Hollywood Renegades. Cobblestone Entertainment. ISBN 1-890110-24-8. Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Disneyland Tabs $2.29 Per Capita; See Small Net First Yr.". Billboard. January 28, 1956. p. 69. Retrieved May 6, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Annual Report 1955" (PDF). University of Penn. American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc. pp. 21, 27. Retrieved April 8, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Leonard, Devin; Burke, Doris (January 20, 2003). "The Curse of Pooh". Fortune. Time, Inc. Retrieved July 11, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Pixar dumps Disney". CNN. 2004-01-30. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  8. ^ New service is the first of its kind in family entertainment Retrieved December 19, 2008
  9. ^ "Now available On Demand: Disney Family Movies". Cox San Diego. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  10. ^ Barnes, Brooks (18 September 2008). "Fuzzy Renaissance". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  11. ^ "Disney jumps ship on next 'Narnia'". Holywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 25, 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  12. ^ Disney launches Disney XD network, Web site
  13. ^ Marvel Shareholders OK Disney Acquisition, Marketwatch, December 31, 2009
  14. ^ "Disney Completes Marvel Acquisition". Marvel. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  15. ^ New York Times March 15, 2010
  16. ^ IGN July 30, 2010
  17. ^ The Deadline Team (December 21, 2012). "Disney Completes Acquisition Of Lucasfilm". Deadline.com. Archived from the original on September 14, 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2013.