The Walt Disney Company (most commonly known as Disney) (NYSE: DIS) is one of the largest media and entertainment corporations in the world. Founded on October 16, 1923 by brothers Walt and Roy Disney as a small independent animation studio, today it is one of the largest motion picture studios and also owns nine theme parks and several television networks, including ABC.
Disney's corporate headquarters and primary production facilities are located at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. The company is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It had revenues of $31.9 billion in 2005.
Walt Disney Studio Entertainment, also known as the Walt Disney Studios, is possibly the most important function of the company and is currently headed by Chairman Dick Cook. Until 1955 the Walt Disney Company's main form of business was motion pictures. Today, the Walt Disney Studios is the collective name of Disney's movie studios, record labels, distribution companies, television studios, animation houses and any other form of optical media.
The legacy of the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney himself is built on the company's rich history of animation. The company's flagship animation house, Walt Disney Feature Animation, has to date developed forty-five animated pictures, with a further three in production - nineteen of those pictures were produced by Walt Disney.
Upon developing many innovations in animation, in-house, Walt Disney Feature Animation created the very first full-length animated picture, in 1938; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The picture took ten years to perfect, and nearly made the studio bankrupt, but became a run away hit much to the surprise of animation critics. The traditional Disney films referred to by most fans are those with which Disney took a well-known fairy tale or story and injected its own, distinctively American, style, adding popular-style songs to make them into animated musicals. The animated picture became synonymous with Disney, but lost much of its popularity in the mid-1970s until the late 1980s, when the Walt Disney Company was brought under new management by Walt Disney's nephew and Roy O. Disney's son, Roy E. Disney, and the formula of the old Disney movies was tested and trialled again in 1988's Oliver & Company. Disney animation undertook a renaissance, beginning in 1989 with The Little Mermaid and ending in 1995 with Pocahontas, with a brief revival in 1998 with Mulan.
In the aftermath of the box office failures of some of its recent animated films and the stellar successes of computer-animated films from Pixar, Disney has shifted its production from "traditional" hand-drawn animated films (which in recent years have incorporated much work done on computer) to entirely computer-animated films. The last traditionally-animated film produced by Disney was Home on the Range (2004). Its first computer-animated film was Chicken Little (2005). Disney has fallen under much criticism for this change in direction, especially from fans who see the strength of a movie as its plot and its characters and not as the technology used to make it.
On January 24, 2005, Disney announced an agreement to purchase Pixar through stock. The combined Disney and Pixar animation units will be headed by Pixar executives Ed Catmull and John Lasseter. The deal, valued at $7.4 billion, made Steve Jobs the largest shareholder in Disney. Walt Disney Feature Animation will not be merged with Pixar, nor vice versa, and both will retain separate interests, although animators from both studios will share techniques and ideas, with the interest of developing both Walt Disney Feature Animation and Pixar's full potentials.