The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio
The Walt Disney Company began as a joint venture between Walt Disney and his brother, Roy. The company, then called the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, started on October 16, 1923. Within three years, the company had produced two movies and purchased a studio in Hollywood, but pitfalls in distribution rights nearly sank the company.
The creation of Mickey Mouse in 1928 changed everything. Around that time, Disney launched many other famous characters, such as Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck, which together became the foundation of a company that has now branched out well beyond animation. Today, many big studios, TV stations, and intellectual properties, including Marvel Entertainment, Lucasfilm, ABC, Pixar Animation Studios, and ESPN, fall under the Disney umbrella.
By 1932, the Disney Company won its first Academy Award for Best Cartoon, thanks to "Silly Symphony," a series of animated short films. In 1934, Disney started production on its first full-length feature film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." It was released in 1937 and became the highest-grossing film of its time. However, the massive production expenses created difficulties for Disney's next few animated films. World War II halted the production of Disney movies altogether as the company contributed its skills to the war effort by producing propaganda films for the U.S. government. After the war, the company found it difficult to pick up where it had left off, but 1950 proved to be a turning point, thanks to the production of Disney's first live-action film, "Treasure Island," and another animated film, "Cinderella." Disney also launched several television series during this decade. In 1955, "The Mickey Mouse Club" made its debut to a national TV audience.
That same year marked another landmark moment for Disney: the opening of the first Disney theme park, Disneyland, in California. The company continued to rise in popularity and survived the death of its iconic founder, Walt Disney, in 1966. Following Walt's passing, Roy Disney took over the supervision of the company and was succeeded by an executive team in 1971.
In the following decades, the company took advantage of merchandising opportunities, continued producing feature films, and constructed additional theme parks around the globe, including Disney's first international theme park, Tokyo Disneyland in 1983. During this time, the company endured takeover attempts, but it eventually recovered and got back on a successful path when Michael D. Eisner became its chairman in 1984.