The Walt Disney Studios (division)

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The Walt Disney Studios
Division
Industry Entertainment
Founded 1923
Headquarters 500 S. Buena Vista Street, Burbank, California, United States
Key people
Number of employees
166,000 (2013)
Parent The Walt Disney Company
Divisions
Subsidiaries
Website waltdisneystudios.com

The Walt Disney Studios is an American film studio, one of the four major businesses of The Walt Disney Company and the main component of its Studio Entertainment segment.[2] The studio, best known for its multi-faceted film division, which is one of Hollywood's major film studios, is based at the eponymous Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.

The Studios generated an estimated income of $1.549 billion during the 2014 fiscal year.[3] The studio entertainment business alone (live-action and animated motion pictures, direct-to-video content, musical recordings and live stage plays) brought in $5.83 billion in 2012.[4]

The Walt Disney Studios is a member of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).[5]

Background[edit]

Walt Disney Productions began production of his first feature-length animated film in 1934. Taking three years to complete, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, premiered in December 1937 and became highest-grossing film of that time by 1939.[6] In the 1940s, Disney began experimenting with full-length live-action films, with the introduction of hybrid live action-animated films such as The Reluctant Dragon (1941) and Song of the South (1946).[7] That same decade, the studio began producing nature documentaries with the release of Seal Island (1948), the first of the True-Life Adventures series and a subsequent Academy Award winner for Best Live-Action Short Film.[8][9]

Walt Disney Productions had its first fully live-action film in 1950 with the release of Treasure Island, considered by Disney to be the official conception for what would eventually evolve into the modern-day Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.[10] By 1953, the company ended their agreements with such third-party distributors as RKO Radio Pictures and United Artists and formed their own distribution company, Buena Vista Distribution.[11]

History[edit]

By the 1980s, The Walt Disney Company's collection of film units emerged as one of Hollywood's "Big Six" film studios, mostly due to newly designed efforts in branding strategies, a resurgence of Walt Disney Pictures' animated releases and unprecedented box office successes, particularly from Touchstone Pictures.[12] The Walt Disney Productions film division was incorporated on April 1, 1983 as Walt Disney Pictures.[13] In April 1983, Richard Berger was hired by Disney CEO Ron W. Miller as film president. Touchstone Films was started by Miller in February 1984 as a label for their PG-rated films with an expected half of Disney's 6 to 8 movies yearly slate would be released under the label.[14] Berger was pushed out as a new CEO was appointed for Walt Disney Productions later in 1984, as Michael Eisner brought his own film chief, Jeffrey Katzenberg.[15]

Organized in 1985, Silver Screen Partners II, L.P. financed films for Disney with $193 million in funding. In January 1987, Silver Screen III began financing movies for Disney with $300 million raised, the largest amount raised for a film financing limited partnership by E.F. Hutton.[16]

In April 1988, Touchstone became a unit of Walt Disney Pictures with newly appointed head Ricardo Mestres.[17] With several production companies getting out of film production or closing shop by December 1988, Disney Studios announced the formation of Hollywood Pictures division, which would only share marketing and distribution with Touchstone, to fill the void.[15] Walt Disney Television and Touchstone Television were grouped together under Garth Ancier as president of network television for the Walt Disney Studios on April 18, 1989.[18]

In September 1990, The Walt Disney Company arranged for financing up to $200 million by a unit of Nomura Securities for Interscope films made for Disney. On October 23, 1990, Disney formed Touchwood Pacific Partners I to supplant the Silver Screen Partnership series as their movie studios' primary funding source.[19] In 1992, Walt Disney Studios agreed to fund a production company, Caravan Pictures, for then 20th Century Fox chairman Joe Roth.[20][21] In 1993, Miramax Films was purchased for $60 million by Disney.[22]

On August 24, 1994 with Katzenberg's resignation, Walt Disney Studios was reorganized spinning out a new TV group. Richard Frank became head of newly formed Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications (WDTT). Roth moved up from Caravan Pictures to helm the remaining Walt Disney Studios.[23]

In April 1996 due to ongoing post Disney-CC/ABC merger realignment and retirement of its president, WDTT group's division were reassigned to other groups with most transferred to the Walt Disney Studios or CC/ABC. Units returning to the studio were the television production companies, Walt Disney Television, Disney Television Animation, Touchstone Television and Buena Vista Home Entertainment.[24]

In 1998, the Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group was formed by Joe Roth to unite the Touchstone, Hollywood, and Disney film studios with leadership under David Vogel.[25] This was in order to centralize the various production units and to make live-action film production within Disney more cost-efficient. Roth also determined that the studio's year production slate should be cut. So in August 1998, Roger Birnbaum, Caravan's co-founder, left to co-found Spyglass Entertainment at Roth's prompting in which Disney gave Caravan's development slate, a five year distribution agreement and an advance. Caravan after the remaining three films are release when inactive.[26] By May 2000, Disney had taken an equity stake in Spyglass.[27]

Peter Schneider was promoted to Studio president in January 1999, while Thomas Schumacher was promoted to president of Walt Disney Feature Animation and Walt Disney Theatrical Productions while both are made co-presidents of Disney Theatrical.[28] In July, Walt Disney Television, including Buena Vista Television Productions, were transferred out of the Disney Studios to ABC Television Network[29] to merge with ABC's prime-time division to form the ABC Entertainment Television Group.[30]

2000s[edit]

Roth left to form his own production company in January 2000.[27] In 2002, Dick Cook was named as Studio chairman to replace Peter Schneider.[31]

In January 2003, Disney initiated a reorganization of its theatrical and animation units to improve resource usage and continued focus on new characters and franchise development. Walt Disney Feature Animation — sans Walt Disney Television Animation — and Buena Vista Theatrical Worldwide were organized under The Walt Disney Studios.[32][33]

In 2003, the Walt Disney Pictures banner released its first PG-13-rated film, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which was based on the famous Disneyland attraction. Film director M. Night Shyamalan, who had done The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and The Village with Disney clashed with the Group's executives during pre-production of his 2006 film, Lady in the Water. Shyamalan left the studio after Nina Jacobson and others become, in Shyamalan's eyes, overly critical of his script, which would eventually be produced by Warner Bros. Pictures. Shyamalan was said, in a book about this period of time, to have "had witnessed the decay of her creative vision right before his own wide-open eyes. She didn't want iconoclastic directors. She wanted directors who made money." In her own defense, Jacobson said, "in order to have a Hollywood relationship more closely approximate a real relationship, you have to have a genuine back and forth of the good and the bad. Different people have different ideas about respect. For us, being honest is the greatest show of respect for a filmmaker."[34]

In July 2006, Disney announced a shift in its strategy of releasing more Disney-branded (i.e. Walt Disney Pictures) films and fewer Touchstone titles. The move was expected to reduce the Group's work force by approximately 650 positions worldwide.[35] After being transferred to various other division groups since they were acquired in 2004 in 2006, The Muppets Studio was incorporated into the Walt Disney Studios' Special Events Group.[36] In April 2007, Disney retired the Buena Vista brand, renaming Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group and Buena Vista Pictures Distribution as Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, respectively.[37][38]

In April 2009, the Studio announced the formation of Disneynature; a nature film production label.[39] The Studio launched its Kingdom Comics division in May, led by writer-actor Ahmet Zappa, TV executive Harris Katleman and writer-editor Christian Beranek. Kingdom was designed to create new properties for possible film development and re-imagine and redevelop existing Disney library movies, with Disney Publishing Worldwide getting a first look for publishing.[40]

On February 9, 2009, DreamWorks Studios entered a 7-year, 30-picture distribution deal with the studio's Touchstone Pictures banner starting in 2011.[41] The deal also includes co-funding by Disney to DreamWorks for production.[42] In late 2009, Miramax Films, a formerly independent Disney film unit, was transferred to the Walt Disney Studios,[43] until its sale in 2010 to Filmyard Holdings.[44] The Kingdom Comics unit's creatives/executives moved its deal to an independent Monsterfoot Productions.[45]

2010s[edit]

After The Walt Disney Company's purchase of Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion in 2009, Disney began distributing Marvel Studios' films in 2012, acquiring the distribution rights for The Avengers and Iron Man 3 from Paramount Pictures on October 18, 2010.[46]

In May 2011, Disney India and UTV Motion Pictures agreed to co-produce Disney-branded family films with both handling creative function and UTV producing, marketing and distributing the films.[47] In 2011, Disney fired Marvel Studios' marketing department[48] taking over marketing of their films beginning with the 2012 film The Avengers.[49]

On October 30, 2012, Lucasfilm agreed to be purchased by The Walt Disney Company and a Star Wars trilogy was announced[1] and was finalized on December 4.[50] Later that year on December 4, Disney agreed to have Netflix as its exclusive U.S. subscription television service for first run Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios and Disneynature feature films starting in 2016 to replace its agreement ending in 2015 with Starz.[51]

In April 2013, the Walt Disney Studios laid off 150 workers including staff from its marketing and home entertainment units.[52][53] In December of that year, Disney purchased the distribution and marketing rights to future Indiana Jones films from Paramount Pictures, while Paramount will continue to distributing the first four films and receive "financial participation" from the additional films.[54]

Studio structure[edit]

Studio units[55]
Walt Disney Motion
Pictures Group[38]
Disney Music Group Disney Theatrical Group Disney Studio Services[56][57] Special events group
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Studios (DisneyToon Studios)
Pixar
Disneynature
Lucasfilm
Distribution
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (Touchstone Pictures)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Walt Disney Records
Hollywood Records
Disney Music Publishing

Studio Production Services
Walt Disney Studios
Golden Oak Ranch
The Prospect Studios
Disney Digital Studio Services[59]
The Muppets Studio[36]
Former units include

Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group[edit]

Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, Inc. is the main production arm for Disney's motion pictures.[38] Walt Disney Pictures is a film banner that encompasses the release of its own live-action productions, in addition to films produced by the company's animation studios, mainly Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios.[61] Another film banner, Touchstone Pictures, releases films for more mature audiences including films produced by DreamWorks Studios.[62] In 2009, Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment, in addition to purchasing full ownership rights to Marvel Studios' films in 2010.[46] Disneynature is an independent film label devoted to nature documentary productions. In December 2012, Disney purchased Lucasfilm, and its intellectual properties.[50]

Hollywood Pictures was another division of Disney, which, like Touchstone, produced films for mature audiences, but was shut down in 2007. In 1993, Disney acquired Miramax Films and its Dimension Films genre label, with the former division operating as an autonomous unit until 2009, and the Dimension label becoming absorbed by The Weinstein Company in 2005.[63] By 2009, Miramax was folded into the Walt Disney Studios, and continued to serve as distribution label until it was sold by Disney to Filmyard Holdings in 2010.[60][64][65] From 2007 to 2010, Disney and ImageMovers ran a joint motion capture animation facility; ImageMovers Digital.[66][67]

All film productions mentioned above are distributed theatrically by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and on home media platforms by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.[68]

Disney Music Group[edit]

Main article: Disney Music Group

Disney Music Group is a music production group led by Ken Bunt, that consists of two record labels—Walt Disney Records and Hollywood Records—and multiple publishing entities that handle Disney's music.

Disney Theatrical Group[edit]

Disney Theatrical Group is the division producing live theatrical and stage events. It is currently under the leadership of Thomas Schumacher. The Disney Theatrical Productions division has been responsible for the production of many different musicals, touring events, ice shows and other live theatrical events. Their shows include: Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aida, Tarzan, Mary Poppins, Newsies and numerous incarnations of Disney on Ice.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]