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"The classic story of mouse and man."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

WALT DISNEY

Walter Elias Disney (December 5th, 1901 – December 15th, 1966) was an American entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer. A pioneer of the American animation industry, he introduced several developments in the production of cartoons. As a film producer, Disney holds the record for most Academy Awards earned by an individual, having won 22 Oscars from 59 nominations. He was presented with two Golden Globe Special Achievement Awards and an Emmy Award, among other honors. Several of his films are included in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901, the fourth son of Elias Disney (born in Canada to Irish parents) and Flora (an American of German and English descent). Walt's brothers were Herbert, Raymond and Roy; and a sister Ruth was born in December 1903. In 1906, when Disney was four, the family moved to a farm in Marceline, Missouri, where his uncle Robert had just purchased land. In Marceline, Disney developed his interest in drawing when he was paid to draw the horse of a retired neighborhood doctor. Elias was a subscriber to the Appeal to Reason newspaper, and Disney would practice drawing by copying the front-page cartoons of Ryan Walker. Disney also began to develop an ability to work with watercolors and crayons. He lived near the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway line and became enamored with trains. He and his younger sister Ruth started school at the same time at the Park School in Marceline in late 1909.

In 1911, the Disneys moved to Kansas City, Missouri. There, Disney attended the Benton Grammar School, where he met fellow-student Walter Pfeiffer, who came from a family of theatre fans and introduced Disney to the world of vaudeville and motion pictures. Before long, he was spending more time at the Pfeiffers' house than at home. Elias had purchased a newspaper delivery route for The Kansas City Star and Kansas City Times. Disney and his brother Roy woke up at 4:30 every morning to deliver the Times before school and repeated the round for the evening Star after school. The schedule was exhausting, and Disney often received poor grades after falling asleep in class, but he continued his paper route for more than six years. He attended Saturday courses at the Kansas City Art Institute and also took a correspondence course in cartooning.

In 1917, Elias bought stock in a Chicago jelly producer, the O-Zell Company, and moved back to the city with his family. Disney enrolled at McKinley High School and became the cartoonist of the school newspaper, drawing patriotic pictures about World War I, in addition to taking night courses at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. In mid-1918, Disney attempted to join the United States Army to fight against the Germans, but he was rejected for being too young. After forging the date of birth on his birth certificate, he joined the Red Cross in September 1918 as an ambulance driver (left). He was shipped to France but arrived in November, after the armistice. He drew cartoons on the side of his ambulance for decoration and had some of his work published in the army newspaper Stars and Stripes. Disney returned to Kansas City in October 1919, where he worked as an apprentice artist at the Pesmen-Rubin Commercial Art Studio. There, he drew commercial illustrations for advertising, theater programs and catalogs. He also befriended fellow artist Ub Iwerks.

In January 1920, as Pesmen-Rubin's revenue declined after Christmas, Disney and Iwerks were laid off. They started their own business, the short-lived Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists. Failing to attract many customers, Disney and Iwerks agreed that Disney should leave temporarily to earn money at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, run by A. V. Cauger; the following month Iwerks, who was not able to run their business alone, also joined. The company produced commercials using the cutout animation technique. Disney became interested in animation, although he preferred drawn cartoons such as Mutt and Jeff and Koko the Clown. With the assistance of a borrowed book on animation and a camera, he began experimenting at home. He came to the conclusion that cel animation was more promising than the cutout method. Unable to persuade Cauger to try cel animation at the company, Disney opened a new business with a co-worker from the Film Ad Co, Fred Harman. Their main client was the local Newman Theater, and the short cartoons they produced were sold as "Newman's Laugh-O-Grams". Disney studied Paul Terry's Aesop's Fables as a model, and the first six "Laugh-O-Grams" were modernized fairy tales.

In May 1921, the success of the "Laugh-O-Grams" led to the establishment of Laugh-O-Gram Studio, for which he hired more animators, including Fred Harman's brother Hugh, Rudolf Ising and Iwerks. The Laugh-O-Grams cartoons did not provide enough income to keep the company solvent, so Disney started production of Alice's Wonderland based on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which combined live action with animation; he cast Virginia Davis in the title role. The result, a 12-and-a-half-minute, one-reel film, was completed too late to save Laugh-O-Gram Studio, which went into bankruptcy in 1923.

Disney moved to Hollywood in July 1923. Although New York was the center of the cartoon industry, he was attracted to Los Angeles because his brother Roy was convalescing from tuberculosis there. Disney's efforts to sell Alice's Wonderland were in vain until he heard from New York film distributor Margaret J. Winkler. She was losing the rights to both the Out of the Inkwell and Felix the Cat cartoons, and needed a new series. In October they signed a contract for six Alice comedies, with an option for two further series of six episodes each. To produce the films, Disney and his brother Roy formed what was originally known as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, with Walt Disney and his brother, Roy, as equal partners, the company soon changed its name, at Roy's suggestion, to the Walt Disney Studio. The Disney brothers persuaded Davis and her family to relocate to Hollywood to continue production, with Davis on contract at $100 a month. In July 1924 Disney also hired Iwerks, persuading him to relocate to Hollywood from Kansas City.

Walt Disney once said, "It all started with a mouse." but the Walt Disney Studios, however, actually began five years before Mickey with a girl named Alice in a series of low-budget, one-reel comedies with an innovative blend of live action and animation. Virginia Davis (below left) was the original "Alice" in The Alice Comedies. Born in Kansas City she starred in the first 14 Alice Comedies starting at the age of four. She was pulled from production by her parents in 1925 because of a salary cut. Recalling her work on the "Alice" films, Davis said, "It was a great time – full of fun, adventure, and 'let's pretend.' I adored and idolized Walt." After "Alice" she went on to work at other Hollywood Studios as a child actress and, later, as a supporting actress. She sang, danced, and acted in such films as Flying Down to Rio, Vivacious Lady, Young and Beautiful, College Holiday, Song of the Islands, Three on a Match, The Harvey Girls and Weekend in Havana, among others. On several occasions, she used the screen name Mary Daily, and appeared in such films as Hands Across the Rockies with cowboy star Bill Elliott. During her Hollywood tenure, she also occasionally worked for her old boss, Walt Disney, did a vocal test for Snow White, voiced some supporting characters in Pinocchio and served a short stint in the Disney Studio's Ink-and-Paint department. In 1943, she married Navy aviator Robert McGhee, and the couple had two daughters. During their 59-year marriage, they resided in New Jersey, Connecticut, Southern California, and Idaho. Over a 25-year period, Virginia worked as a real estate agent mostly in the Irvine, California and Boise, Idaho areas. She died of natural causes on August 15th, 2009, aged 90.

When negotiations failed with Virginia Davis’ mother, a new actress was found. Born in 1920, Margie Gay (above right) was the second child actress to play Alice in The Alice Comedies. Her first Alice episode was "Alice Solves the Puzzle". Disney decided to update the look of Alice to a "mini-Louise Brooks" type with Margie who had short hair with bangs. Margie went on to play Alice in the series for most of the rest of the run, creating 31 episodes, being replaced by Lois Hardwick only for a handful of the final shorts when the series began to focus on the animation more and more and Alice less. Her final Alice film was "Alice’s Auto Race" in 1927 and she appears to have retired from acting. She died on November 14th, 2005 at age 85.

Dawn O’Day (above left) replaced Virginia Davis for only one episode in 1925 before Margie Gay would take over. She starred in Alice’s Egg Plant in 1925, but Disney couldn’t afford to pay O’day enough to sustain her family so she did not continue in the role. O’Day did go on to achieved a successful film career in supporting roles. She changed her name to Anne Shirley 10 years later after the character she played in "Anne of Green Gables" in 1934 and went on to star in Steamboat 'Round the Bend, Make Way for a Lady and Stella Dallas, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Lois Hardwick (above right) was a professional child actress who played a slightly older version of Alice for the last few episodes of the series. By the time Hardwick came about the series was already losing steam, but she seemed to treuly enjoy being Alice. Lois ended up doing 10 Alice cartoons, but only three have survived.

Early in 1925, Disney hired an ink artist, Lillian Bounds. They married in July of that year. The marriage was generally happy, according to Lillian, although according to Disney's biographer Neal Gabler she did not "accept Walt's decisions meekly or his status unquestionably, and she admitted that he was always telling people 'how henpecked he is'." Lillian had little interest in films or the Hollywood social scene and she was, in the words of the historian Steven Watts, "content with household management and providing support for her husband". Their marriage produced two daughters, Diane (born December 1933) and Sharon (adopted in December 1936, born six weeks previously). Within the family, neither Disney nor his wife hid the fact Sharon had been adopted, although they became annoyed if people outside the family raised the point. The Disneys were careful to keep their daughters out of the public eye as much as possible, particularly in the light of the Lindbergh kidnapping; Disney took steps to ensure his daughters were not photographed by the press.

By 1926 Winkler's role in the distribution of the Alice series had been handed over to her husband, the film producer Charles Mintz, although the relationship between him and Disney was sometimes strained. The series ran until July 1927, by which time Disney had begun to tire of it and wanted to move away from the mixed format to all animation. After Mintz requested new material to distribute through Universal Pictures, Disney and Iwerks created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a character Disney wanted to be "peppy, alert, saucy and venturesome, keeping him also neat and trim".

Within a year, Disney made 26 of these Oswald cartoons, but when he tried to get some additional money from his distributor for a second year of the cartoons, he found out that the distributor had gone behind his back and signed up almost all of his animators, hoping to make the Oswald cartoons in his own studio for less money without Walt Disney. On rereading his contract, Walt realized that he did not own the rights to Oswald - the distributor did. It was a painful lesson for the young cartoon producer to learn. From then on, he saw to it that he owned everything that he made.

Having lost most of his animation staff, Disney, Iwerks, and the few non-defecting animators secretly began work on a new mouse character to take Oswald’s place. The defectors became the nucleus of the Winkler Studio, run by Mintz and his brother-in-law George Winkler. When that studio went under after Universal assigned production of the Oswald shorts to an in-house division run by Walter Lantz, Mintz focused his attentions on the studio making the Krazy Kat shorts, which later became Screen Gems, and Harman, Ising, Maxwell, and Freleng marketed a Oswald-like character named Bosko to Leon Schlesinger and Warner Bros., and began work on the first entries in the Looney Tunes series.

To replace Oswald, Disney and Iwerks developed Mickey Mouse, possibly inspired by a pet mouse that Disney had adopted while working in his Laugh-O-Gram studio, although the origins of the character are unclear. Disney's original choice of name was Mortimer Mouse, but Lillian thought it too pompous, and suggested Mickey instead. Iwerks revised Disney's provisional sketches to make the character easier to animate, and Disney provided Mickey's voice until 1947. In the words of one Disney employee, "Ub designed Mickey's physical appearance, but Walt gave him his soul."

Mickey Mouse first appeared in May 1928 as a single test screening of the short Plane Crazy, but it, and the second feature, The Gallopin' Gaucho, failed to find a distributor. Following the 1927 sensation The Jazz Singer, Disney used synchronized sound on the third short, Steamboat Willie, to create the first sound cartoon. After the animation was complete, Disney signed a contract with the former executive of Universal Pictures, Pat Powers, to use the "Powers Cinephone" recording system; Cinephone became the new distributor for Disney's early sound cartoons, which soon became popular.

Steamboat Willie had opened to rave reviews at the Colony Theater in New York November 18th, 1928. A cartoon star, Mickey Mouse, was born. The new character was immediately popular, and while the cartoons were gaining popularity in movie houses, the Disney staff found that merchandising the characters was an additional source of revenue. A man in New York offered Walt $300 for the license to put Mickey Mouse on some pencil tablets he was manufacturing. Walt Disney needed the $300, so he said okay. That was the start of Disney merchandising. Soon there were Mickey Mouse dolls, dishes, toothbrushes, radios, figurines - almost everything you could think of bore Mickey's likeness. The first Mickey Mouse book was published in 1930, as was the first Mickey Mouse newspaper comic strip.

The original Disney Studio had been in the back half of a real estate office on Kingswell Avenue in Hollywood, but soon Walt had enough money to move next door and rent a whole store for his studio. That small studio was sufficient for a couple of years, but the company eventually outgrew it and Walt had to look elsewhere. He found an ideal piece of property on Hyperion Avenue in Hollywood, built a studio, and in 1926 moved his staff to the new facility. It was at the Hyperion Studio, after the loss of Oswald, were Mickey Mouse was born.

To improve the quality of the music, Disney hired the professional composer and arranger Carl Stalling, on whose suggestion the Silly Symphony series was developed, providing stories through the use of music; the first in the series, The Skeleton Dance (1929), was drawn and animated entirely by Iwerks. Also hired at this time were several local artists, some of whom stayed with the company as core animators; the group later became known as the Nine Old Men. Both the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies series were successful, but Disney and his brother felt they were not receiving their rightful share of profits from Powers at Universal Pictures.

In 1930, Disney tried to trim costs from the process by urging Iwerks to abandon the practice of animating every separate cel in favor of the more efficient technique of drawing key poses and letting lower-paid assistants sketch the in-between poses. Disney asked Powers for an increase in payments for the cartoons. Powers refused and signed Iwerks to work for him; Stalling resigned shortly afterwards, thinking that without Iwerks, the Disney Studio would close. Disney had a nervous breakdown in October 1931 which he blamed on the machinations of Powers and his own overwork so he and Lillian took an extended holiday to Cuba and a cruise to Panama to recover.

With the loss of Powers as distributor, Disney studios signed a contract with Columbia Pictures to distribute the Mickey Mouse cartoons, which continued to gain popularity, including internationally. Disney, always keen to embrace new technology, filmed Flowers and Trees (1932) in full-color three-strip Technicolor; he was also able to negotiate a deal giving him the sole right to use the three-strip process until August 31st, 1935. All subsequent Silly Symphony cartoons were in color. Flowers and Trees was popular with audiences and won the Academy Award for best Short Subject (Cartoon) at the 1932 ceremony. Disney had been nominated for another film in that category, Mickey's Orphans, and received an Honorary Award "for the creation of Mickey Mouse".

In 1933, Disney produced The Three Little Pigs, a film described by the media historian Adrian Danks as "the most successful short animation of all time". The film won Disney another Academy Award in the Short Subject (Cartoon) category. The film's success led to a further increase in the studio's staff, which numbered nearly 200 by the end of the year. Disney realized the importance of telling emotionally gripping stories that would interest the audience, and he invested in a "story department" separate from the animators, with storyboard artists who would detail the plots of Disney's films.

By 1934, Disney had become dissatisfied with producing formulaic cartoon shorts, and began a four-year production of a feature-length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, based on the fairy tale. When news leaked out about the project, many in the film industry predicted it would bankrupt the company; industry insiders nicknamed it "Disney's Folly". The film, which was the first animated feature made in full color and sound, cost $1.5 million to produce, three times over budget. To ensure the animation was as realistic as possible, Disney sent his animators on courses at the Chouinard Art Institute; he brought animals into the studio and hired actors so that the animators could study realistic movement. To portray the changing perspective of the background as a camera moved through a scene, Disney's animators developed a multiplane camera which allowed drawings on pieces of glass to be set at various distances from the camera, creating an illusion of depth. The glass could be moved to create the impression of a camera passing through the scene. The first work created on the camera, a Silly Symphony called The Old Mill (1937), won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film because of its impressive visual power. Although Snow White had been largely finished by the time the multiplane camera had been completed, Disney ordered some scenes be re-drawn to use the new effects.

Snow White premiered in December 1937 to high praise from critics and audiences. The film became the most successful motion picture of 1938 and by May 1939 its total gross of $6.5 million made it the most successful sound film made to that date. Disney won another Honorary Academy Award, which consisted of one full-sized and seven miniature Oscar statuettes. The success of Snow White heralded one of the most productive eras for the studio following with Pinocchio in early 1938 and Fantasia in November of the same year. Both films were released in 1940, and though technical masterpieces neither performed well at the box office partly because revenues from Europe had dropped following the start of World War II in 1939. The studio made a loss on both pictures and was deeply in debt by the end of February 1941.

In response to the financial crisis, Disney and his brother Roy started the company's first public stock offering in 1940, and implemented heavy salary cuts. The latter measure, and Disney's sometimes high-handed and insensitive manner of dealing with staff, led to a 1941 animators' strike which lasted five weeks. While a federal mediator from the National Labor Relations Board negotiated with the two sides, Disney accepted an offer from the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs to make a goodwill trip to South America, ensuring he was absent during a resolution he knew would be unfavorable to the studio. As a result of the strike, and the financial state of the company, several animators left the studio, and Disney's relationship with other members of staff was permanently strained as a result. The strike temporarily interrupted the studio's next production, Dumbo (1941), which Disney produced in a simple and inexpensive manner and the film received a positive reaction from audiences and critics alike.

Shortly after the release of Dumbo in October 1941, the U.S. entered World War II. Disney formed the Walt Disney Training Films Unit within the company to produce instruction films for the military such as Four Methods of Flush Riveting and Aircraft Production Methods. Disney also produced short Donald Duck cartoons to promote war bonds and several propaganda productions, including shorts such as Der Fuehrer's Face, which won an Academy Award, and the 1943 feature film Victory Through Air Power. Also during the war, Walt Disney made two films in South America, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.

The military films generated only enough revenue to cover costs, and the feature film Bambi, which had been in production since 1937, underperformed on its release in April 1942, and lost $200,000 at the box office. On top of the low earnings from Pinocchio and Fantasia, the company had debts of $4 million with the Bank of America in 1944. At a meeting with Bank of America executives to discuss the future of the company, the bank's chairman and founder, Amadeo Giannini, told his executives, "I've been watching the Disneys' pictures quite closely because I knew we were lending them money far above the financial risk. ... They're good this year, they're good next year, and they're good the year after. ... You have to relax and give them time to market their product." Disney's production of short films decreased in the late 1940s, coinciding with increasing competition in the animation market from Warner Bros. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Roy Disney, for financial reasons, suggested more combined animation and live-action productions. In 1948, Disney initiated a series of popular live-action nature films, titled True-Life Adventures, with Seal Island the first; the film won the Academy Award in the Best Short Subject (Two-Reel) category.

Disney continued to moved into live action production with Song of the South and So Dear to My Heart, but because audiences expected animation from Walt Disney, these films included animated segments. In early 1950, Disney produced Cinderella, his studio's first animated feature in eight years. It was popular with critics and theater audiences. Costing $2.2 million to produce, it earned nearly $8 million in its first year. Disney was less involved than he had been with previous pictures because of his involvement in his first entirely live-action feature, Treasure Island (1950), which was shot in Britain, as was The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952). Other all-live-action features followed, many of which had patriotic themes. He continued to produce full-length animated features too, including Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Peter Pan (1953). From the early to mid-1950s, Disney began to devote less attention to the animation department, entrusting most of its operations to his key animators, the Nine Old Men, although he was always present at story meetings. Instead, he started concentrating on other ventures.

The company was moving forward again this time into the new medium of television. After two Christmas specials, Disney went onto television in a big way in 1954 with the beginning of the Disneyland anthology series. This series eventually would run on all three networks, and go through six title changes, but it remained on the air for 29 years, making it the longest-running prime-time television series ever. The Mickey Mouse Club, one of television's most popular children's series, debuted in 1955 and aired intermittently to 1996 and returned again in 2017 on social media. Over the course of it's run it has made stars of a group of talented Mouseketeers from Annette Funicello, Dennis Day and Cheryl Holdridge to Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake.

Disney grew more politically conservative as he got older. A Democratic Party supporter until the 1940 presidential election, when he switched allegiance to the Republicans, he became a generous donor to Thomas E. Dewey's 1944 bid for the presidency. In 1946 he was a founding member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, an organization who stated they "believ[ed] in, and like, the American Way of Life... we find ourselves in sharp revolt against a rising tide of Communism, Fascism and kindred beliefs, that seek by subversive means to undermine and change this way of life". In 1947, during the Second Red Scare, Disney testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), where he branded Herbert Sorrell, David Hilberman and William Pomerance, former animators and labor union organizers, as communist agitators; Disney stated that the 1941 strike led by them was part of an organized communist effort to gain influence in Hollywood.

In 1949, Disney and his family moved to a new home in the Holmby Hills district of Los Angeles. With the help of his friends Ward and Betty Kimball, who already had their own backyard railroad, Disney developed blueprints and immediately set to work on creating a miniature live steam railroad for his backyard. The name of the railroad, Carolwood Pacific Railroad, came from his home's location on Carolwood Drive. The miniature working steam locomotive was built by Disney Studios engineer Roger E. Broggie, and Disney named it Lilly Belle after his wife; after three years Disney ordered it into storage due to a series of accidents involving his guests, but he was about to embark on an even bigger building project, and this one would have a train as well.

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For several years Disney had been considering building a theme park. When he visited Griffith Park in Los Angeles with his daughters, he wanted to be in a clean, unspoiled park, where both children and their parents could have fun. He visited the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark, and was heavily influenced by the cleanliness and layout of the park. In March 1952 he received zoning permission to build a theme park in Burbank, near the Disney studios. This site proved too small, and a larger plot in Anaheim, 35 miles (56 km) south of the studio, was purchased. To distance the project from the studio, which might attract the criticism of shareholders, Disney formed WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) and used his own money to fund a group of designers and animators to work on the plans; those involved became known as "Imagineers".

In mid-1954, Disney sent his Imagineers to every amusement park in the U.S. to analyze what worked and what pitfalls or problems there were in the various locations and incorporated their findings into his design. Construction work started in July 1954, and Disneyland opened in July 1955.

The park was designed as a series of themed lands, linked by the central Main Street, U.S.A., a replica of the main street in his hometown of Marceline.

The connected themed areas were Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. The park also contained the narrow gauge Disneyland Railroad that linked the lands; around the outside of the park was a high berm to separate the park from the outside world.

An editorial in The New York Times considered that Disney had "tastefully combined some of the pleasant things of yesterday with fantasy and dreams of tomorrow". Although there were early minor problems with the park, it was a success, and after a month's operation, Disneyland was receiving over 20,000 visitors a day; by the end of its first year, it attracted 3.6 million guests.

As well as the construction of Disneyland, Disney worked on other projects away from the studio. He was consultant to the 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow; Disney Studios' contribution was America the Beautiful, a 19-minute film in the 360-degree Circarama theater that was one of the most popular attractions. The following year he acted as the chairman of the Pageantry Committee for the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, California, where he designed the opening, closing and medal ceremonies.

Disneyland was a totally new kind of park. Observers coined the term "theme park," but even that does not seem to do Disneyland justice. It has been used as a pattern for every amusement park built since its opening, becoming internationally famous, and attracting hundreds of millions of visitors. Walt said that Disneyland would never be completed as long as there was imagination left in the world, and that statement remains true today. New attractions are added regularly, and Disneyland still is as popular as it was in 1955.

Despite the demands wrought by non-studio projects, Disney continued to work on film and television projects. In 1955 he was involved in "Man in Space", an episode of the Disneyland series, which was made in collaboration with NASA rocket designer Wernher von Braun. Disney also oversaw aspects of the full-length features Lady and the Tramp (the first animated film in CinemaScope) in 1955, Sleeping Beauty (the first animated film in Technirama 70 mm film) in 1959. The 1950s also saw the release of the classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the first in a series of wacky comedies The Shaggy Dog, and a popular TV series about the legendary hero, Zorro.

Heading into the 60s Disney produced One Hundred and One Dalmatians (the first animated feature film to use Xerox cels) in 1961 and The Sword in the Stone in 1963. In 1964, Disney produced Mary Poppins, based on the book series by P. L. Travers; he had been trying to acquire the rights to the story since the 1940s. It became the most successful Disney film of the 1960s, although Travers disliked the film intensely and regretted having sold the rights.

Disney provided four exhibits for the 1964 New York World's Fair, for which he obtained funding from selected corporate sponsors. For PepsiCo, who planned to tribute UNICEF, Disney developed It's a Small World, a boat ride with audio-animatronic dolls depicting children of the world; Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln contained an animatronic Abraham Lincoln giving excerpts from his speeches; Carousel of Progress promoted the importance of electricity; and Ford's Magic Skyway portrayed the progress of mankind. Elements of all four exhibits, principally concepts and technology, were re-installed in Disneyland, although It's a Small World is the ride that most closely resembles the original.

With income from Disneyland accounting for an increasing proportion of the studio's income, Disney continued to look for venues for other attractions. In late 1965, he announced plans to develop another theme park to be called "Disney World" (now Walt Disney World), a few miles southwest of Orlando, Florida. Disney World was to include the "Magic Kingdom", a larger and more elaborate version of Disneyland, plus golf courses and resort hotels. The heart of Disney World was to be the "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" (EPCOT), which he described as: "an experimental prototype community of tomorrow that will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing and testing and demonstrating new materials and systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise."

Disney's plans for the futuristic city of EPCOT did not come to fruition. After Disney's death, his brother Roy deferred his retirement to take full control of the Disney companies. He changed the focus of the project from a town to an attraction. At the inauguration in 1971, Roy dedicated Walt Disney World to his brother. Walt Disney World expanded with the opening of Epcot Center in 1982; Walt Disney's vision of a functional city was replaced by a park more akin to a permanent world's fair. In 2009, the Walt Disney Family Museum, designed by Disney's daughter Diane and her son Walter E. D. Miller, opened in the Presidio of San Francisco. Thousands of artifacts from Disney's life and career are on display, including numerous awards that he received.

During 1966, Disney increased his involvement in the studio's films, and was heavily involved in the story development of The Jungle Book, the live-action musical feature The Happiest Millionaire (both 1967) and the animated short Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.

Plans that Walt left behind carried the company for a number of years under the supervision of Roy Disney. The Jungle Book in 1967 and The Aristocats in 1970 showed that the company could still make animated classics, and The Love Bug in 1969 was the highest grossing film of the year. Disney got into educational films and materials in a big way with the start of an educational subsidiary in 1969.

Prior to Walt Disney's death the company purchased land in Florida, and the Walt Disney World project, located on some 28,000 acres near Orlando, was announced. It opened October 1st, 1971. In Florida, the company had the space it lacked in California. Finally there was room to create a destination resort, unencumbered by the urban sprawl that had grown up around Disneyland. Walt Disney World would include not only a Magic Kingdom theme park like Disneyland but also hotels, campgrounds, golf courses, and shopping villages. It did not take long for Walt Disney World to become the premier vacation destination in the world.

Disney's public persona was very different from his actual personality. Playwright Robert E. Sherwood described him as "almost painfully shy... diffident" and self-deprecating. According to his biographer Richard Schickel, Disney hid his shy and insecure personality behind his public identity. Kimball argues that Disney "played the role of a bashful tycoon who was embarrassed in public" and knew that he was doing so. Disney acknowledged the facade, and told a friend that "I'm not Walt Disney. I do a lot of things Walt Disney would not do. Walt Disney does not smoke. I smoke. Walt Disney does not drink. I drink." Critic Otis Ferguson, in The New Republic, called the private Disney: "common and everyday, not inaccessible, not in a foreign language, not suppressed or sponsored or anything. Just Disney." Many of those with whom Disney worked commented that he gave his staff little encouragement due to his exceptionally high expectations. Norman recalls that when Disney said "That'll work", it was an indication of high praise. Instead of direct approval, Disney gave high-performing staff financial bonuses, or recommended certain individuals to others, expecting that his praise would be passed on.

Walt Disney was a chain smoker his entire adult life, although he made sure he was not seen smoking around children. In 1966, doctors discovered a tumor in his left lung. Five days later a biopsy showed the tumor to be malignant and to have spread throughout the entire left lung. After removing the lung on November 11th, the surgeons informed Disney that his life expectancy was six months to two years. On December 15th, 1966, five weeks after his surgery and ten days after his 65th birthday, at 9:30 a.m., Disney died of acute circulatory collapse, caused by lung cancer. The last thing he reportedly wrote before his death was the name of actor Kurt Russell, the significance of which remains a mystery, even to Russell.

A long-standing urban legend maintains that Disney was cryonically frozen, and his frozen corpse stored beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, but Disney's remains were cremated on December 17th, 1966, and his ashes interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. The first known human cryonic freezing was in January 1967, more than a month after Disney's death. The urban legend remains, though later reported by a "Disney publicist", the source of the rumor was a group of Disney Studio animators with "a bizarre sense of humor" who were playing a final prank on their late boss.

Other rumors persisted and circulated after his death. Disney was long rumored to be antisemitic during his lifetime, although none of his employees including the animator Art Babbitt, who disliked Disney intensely, ever accused him of making anti-semitic slurs or taunts. The Walt Disney Family Museum acknowledges that ethnic stereotypes common to films of the 1930s were included in some early cartoons. Disney donated regularly to Jewish charities, he was named "1955 Man of the Year" by the B'nai B'rith chapter in Beverly Hills, and his studio employed a number of Jews, some of whom were in influential positions. In 2006 Disney biographer Neal Gabler, the first writer to gain unrestricted access to the Disney archives, concluded that available evidence did not support accusations of antisemitism. Disney got the reputation because, in the 1940s, he got himself allied with a group called the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, which was an anti-Communist and antisemitic organization. He willingly allied himself with people who were antisemitic, and that reputation stuck and was never really able to expunge it throughout his life. Disney eventually distanced himself from the Motion Picture Alliance in the 1950s.

Disney has also been accused of racism because some of his productions released between the 1930s and 1950s contain racially insensitive materials. Some Disney cartoons of the period sometimes displayed racially insensitive material and engaged in racial stereotyping. The controversy developed in later years because of changing attitudes and certainly none of this material would be accepted by the public today and remains permanently in the Disney vault. The feature film Song of the South was criticized by contemporary film critics, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and others for its perpetuation of black stereotypes, but Disney later campaigned successfully for an Honorary Academy Award for its star, James Baskett, the first black actor so honored. Despite the times, there is no evidence that Disney expressed any hatred or bigotry against any racial group, publicly or privately, and he hired employees of all racial backgrounds, religions, and nationalities throughout his career. Gabler writes that Walt Disney was no racist but, like most white Americans of his generation he was racially insensitive. Floyd Norman, the studio's first black animator who worked closely with Disney during the 1950s and 1960s, said, "Not once did I observe a hint of the racist behavior Walt Disney was often accused of after his death. His treatment of people, and by this I mean all people, can only be called exemplary." He also thoroughly enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird, a film dealing with racial justice, claiming "That's the kind of film I wish I could make."

Roy O. Disney, who after Walt's death oversaw the building and financing of Walt Disney World, died late in 1971, and for the next decade the company was led by a team including Card Walker, Donn Tatum, and Ron Miller, all originally trained by the Disney brothers.

While Walt Disney Productions continued releasing family-friendly films throughout the 1970s, such as Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Freaky Friday (1976), the films did not fare as well at the box office as earlier material. However, the animation studio saw success with Robin Hood (1973), The Rescuers (1977), and The Fox and the Hound (1981).

As head of the studio, Miller attempted to make films to drive the profitable teenage market who generally passed on seeing Disney films. Inspired by the popularity of Star Wars, Disney produced the science-fiction adventure The Black Hole in 1979 that cost $20 million to make, but was lost in Star Wars' wake. The Black Hole was the first Disney film to carry a PG rating in the United States. Disney also dabbled in the horror genre with The Watcher in the Woods, and financed the boldly innovative Tron; both films were released to minimal success.

Disney also hired outside producers for film projects, which had never been done before in the studio's history. In 1979, Disney entered a joint venture with Paramount Pictures on the production of the 1980 film adaptation of Popeye and Dragonslayer (1981); the first time Disney collaborated with another studio. Paramount distributed Disney films in Canada at the time, and it was hoped that Disney's marketing prestige would help sell the two films.

Finally, in 1982, the Disney family sold the naming rights and rail-based attractions to the Disney film studio for 818,461 shares of Disney stock then worth $42.6 million. Roy E. Disney objected to the overvalued purchase price of the naming right and voted against the purchase as a Disney board director. The 1983 release of Mickey's Christmas Carol began a string of successful movies, starting with Never Cry Wolf and the Ray Bradbury adaptation Something Wicked This Way Comes. The Walt Disney Productions film division was incorporated on April 1st, 1983 as Walt Disney Pictures and in 1984, Disney CEO Ron Miller created Touchstone Films as a brand for Disney to release more major motion pictures. Touchstone's first release was the comedy Splash (1984), which was a box office success.

With The Wonderful World of Disney remaining a prime-time staple, Disney returned to television in the 1970s with syndicated programming such as the anthology series The Mouse Factory and a brief revival of the Mickey Mouse Club. In 1980, Disney launched Walt Disney Home Video to take advantage of the newly emerging videocassette market. On April 18th, 1983, The Disney Channel debuted as a subscription-level channel on cable systems nationwide, featuring its large library of classic films and TV series, along with original programming and family-friendly third-party offerings.

Walt Disney World received much of the company's attention through the 1970s and into the 1980s. EPCOT Center opened in October 1982, inspired by Walt Disney's dream of a futuristic model city. EPCOT Center was built as a "permanent World's Fair", complete with exhibits sponsored by major American corporations, as well as pavilions based on the cultures of other nations. In Japan, the Oriental Land Company partnered with Walt Disney Productions to build the first Disney theme park outside of the United States, Tokyo Disneyland, which opened in April 1983 and was an immediate success in a country that had always loved anything Disney.

Despite the success of the Disney Channel and its new theme park creations, Walt Disney Productions was financially vulnerable. Its film library was valuable, but offered few current successes, and its leadership team was unable to keep up with other studios, particularly the works of Don Bluth, who defected from Disney in 1979.

By the early 1980s, the parks were generating 70% of Disney's income and in 1984, financier Saul Steinberg's Reliance Group Holdings launched a hostile takeover bid for Walt Disney Productions, with the intent of selling off some of its operations. Disney bought out Reliance's 11.1% stake in the company. However, another shareholder filed suit claiming the deal devaluated Disney's stock. The shareholder lawsuit was settled in 1989 for a total of $45 million from Disney and Reliance.

With the Sid Bass family purchase of 18.7 percent of Disney, Bass and the board brought in Michael Eisner from Paramount as CEO and Frank Wells from Warner Bros. as president. Eisner emphasized Touchstone and Disney hit new heights in 1988 and led Hollywood studios in box-office gross for the first time. Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Good Morning, Vietnam, Three Men and a Baby, and later, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Dick Tracy, Pretty Woman, and Sister Act passed the $100 million milestone. Disney moved into new areas by starting Hollywood Pictures, and acquiring the Wrather Corp. (owner of the Disneyland Hotel) and television station KHJ (Los Angeles), which was renamed KCAL. Eisner used expanding cable and home video markets to sign deals using Disney shows and films with a long-term deal with Showtime Networks for Disney/Touchstone releases through 1996 and entering television with syndication and distribution for TV series as The Golden Girls and Home Improvement. In merchandising, Disney purchased Childcraft and opened over 200 highly successful and profitable Disney Stores and also began limited releases of its previous films on video tapes in the late 1980s.

Beginning with Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988, Disney's flagship animation studio enjoyed a series of commercial and critical successes with such films as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992). In addition, the company successfully entered the field of television animation with a number of lavishly budgeted and acclaimed series such as Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Duck Tales, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck and Gargoyles. Disney moved to first place in box office receipts by 1988 and had increased revenues by 20% every year.

DISNEY AND THE MUPPETS

In 1984, Jim Henson considered purchasing the Disney company, which at the time was run by Ron Miller and under the threat of a hostile takeover by corporate raider Saul Steinberg. The idea never went further than inquiries, but after Michael Eisner, Frank Wells and Jeffrey Katzenberg took over management of Disney, the idea of a Disney/Henson pairing was revived but didn't go anywhere because any deal would not include the Sesame Street characters.

Jim Henson again had a desire to sell the company to Disney in 1989, and officially entered into a merger agreement reportedly valued at $150 million. The deal included Henson's programming library and Muppet characters (excluding the Muppets created for Sesame Street), as well as Jim Henson's personal creative services. However, Henson died suddenly in May 1990 before the deal was completed, resulting in the two companies terminating merger negotiations the following December.

All the character illustrators at Walt Disney World were asked to create concept sketches to choose from for the condolence card to be presented to the Henson family from Walt Disney World. Each artist created several. At right is one by Joe Lanzisero and Tim Kirk.

Though the merger didn't happen, throughout the 1990s The Jim Henson Company partnered with Disney. The Walt Disney Company produced and released The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, the first two Muppet movies made after Jim Henson died, and for a time in the early '90s, controlled the video release rights to The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, episodes of Fraggle Rock and Muppet Babies, and other properties, released through their Buena Vista Home Entertainment label (under a label titled Jim Henson Video). In addition, Walt Disney Home Video released a number of Sesame Street videos in the UK. Muppets Tonight was also produced for the Disney-owned ABC network and Disney Channel. Disney also produced Bear in the Big Blue House with The Jim Henson Company for Disney Channel.

In 2000, Henson Productions was sold to German media group EM.TV & Merchandising AG for $680 million. Following the sale, EM.TV was plagued with financial problems and the Henson family purchased the company back in 2003, with the exception of the rights to the Sesame Street characters, which were sold to Sesame Workshop.

Fourteen years after initial negotiations began, Disney purchased the Muppet intellectual properties from the Jim Henson Company for $75 million on February 17th, 2004.

The transaction included all Muppet assets, including the Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Animal characters, the Muppet film and television library, and all associated copyrights and trademarks, as well as all the Bear in the Big Blue House characters, television library, copyrights and trademarks. The transaction did not include the Sesame Street characters, which are separately owned by Sesame Workshop, nor did it include Fraggle Rock and other franchises, which The Jim Henson Company retained. The deal also included non-exclusive production and consulting agreements under which the Henson company would develop potential new programming featuring the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House for Disney. Sesame Workshop has permission from Disney to use old Kermit segments from Sesame Street in new DVD releases and online. The new company was named The Muppets Studio, LLC (formerly Muppets Holding Company, LLC) and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The first major production of The Muppets Studio was The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, a television movie that was already in development with ABC prior to Disney's purchase of the Muppets. In 2011, a new theatrical Muppet movie was released through Walt Disney Pictures, entitled The Muppets. This was followed by a sequel, Muppets Most Wanted, released by Disney in 2014.

Hollywood Records was formed to offer a wide selection of recordings ranging from rap to movie soundtracks. New television shows, such as Live With Regis and Kathy Lee, Empty Nest and Dinosaurs expanded Disney's television base. For the first time, Disney moved into publishing, forming Hyperion Books, Hyperion Books for Children, and Disney Press, which released books on Disney and non-Disney subjects. In 1991, Disney purchased Discover magazine, the leading consumer science monthly.

Over in France, the park, now known as Disneyland Paris opened on April 12th, 1992. Eagerly anticipated, the beautifully designed park attracted almost 11 million visitors during its first year. Disneyland Paris is complemented by six uniquely designed resort hotels and a campground. Dixie Landings and Port Orleans, and a well-received Disney Vacation Club enlarged lodging possibilities at the Walt Disney World Resort, and Mickey's Toontown helped increase attendance at Disneyland after its 1993 debut. Walt Disney World opened the All-Star Resorts, Wilderness Lodge, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Blizzard Beach, and redesigned Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, and at Disneyland, the opening of the Indiana Jones Adventure increased the number of visitors.

As a totally new venture, Disney was awarded in 1993 the franchise for a National Hockey League team, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (named of course after the Disney movie). Disney also broadened its adult offerings in film when then Disney Studio Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg acquired Miramax Films tha same year.

The Disney success with animated films continued in 1994 with The Lion King, which soon became one of the highest-grossing films of all-time. It was followed by Pocahontas in 1995 and The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1996. Disney also continued its strong presence in children's animated programs for television, with Aladdin and Gargoyles receiving high ratings.

Disney President Frank Wells was killed in a helicopter crash in 1994. Shortly thereafter, Katzenberg resigned and formed DreamWorks SKG because Eisner would not appoint Katzenberg to Wells' now-available post (Katzenberg had also sued over the terms of his contract). Instead, Eisner recruited his friend Michael Ovitz, one of the founders of the Creative Artists Agency, to be President, with minimal involvement from Disney's board of directors (which at the time included Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier, the CEO of Hilton Hotels Corporation Stephen Bollenbach, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, Yale dean Robert A. M. Stern, and Eisner's predecessors Raymond Watson and Card Walker). Ovitz lasted only 14 months and left Disney in December 1996 via a "no fault termination" with a severance package of $38 million in cash and 3 million stock options worth roughly $100 million at the time of Ovitz's departure.

The Ovitz episode engendered a long running derivative suit, which finally concluded in June 2006, almost 10 years later. Chancellor William B. Chandler, III of the Delaware Court of Chancery, despite describing Eisner's behavior as falling "far short of what shareholders expect and demand from those entrusted with a fiduciary position..." found in favor of Eisner and the rest of the Disney board because they had not violated the letter of the law (namely, the duty of care owed by a corporation's officers and board to its shareholders). Eisner later revealed in 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he regretted letting Ovitz go.

Eisner attempted in 1994 to purchase NBC from General Electric (GE), but the deal failed due to GE wanting to keep 51 percent ownership of the network. Disney acquired many other media sources during the decade, including a merger with Capital Cities/ABC in 1995 which brought broadcast network ABC and its assets, including the A&E Television Networks and ESPN networks, 10 TV stations, 21 radio stations and seven daily newspapers into the Disney fold. The $19 billion transaction, second-largest in U.S. history and included television programs produced by Disney's Buena Vista Television such as ABC-TV's Home Improvement with Tim Allen whose relationship with Disney includes Toy Story (made with Pixar) and the Santa Clause franchise.

Disney, which had taken control of the Anaheim Angels in 1996, purchased a majority stake in the team in 1998. That same year, Disney began a move into the internet field with the purchase of software company Starwave and 43 percent of Infoseek internet search engine. In 1999, Disney purchased the remaining shares of Infoseek and launch the Go Network portal in January. Disney also launched its cruise line with the christening of Disney Magic and a sister ship, Disney Wonder.

Eisner's controlling style inhibited efficiency and progress according to some critics but 2000 brought an increase in revenue of 9 percent and net income of 39 percent with ABC and ESPN leading the way and Parks and Resorts marking its sixth consecutive year of growth. However, the September 11th attacks led to a decline in vacation travel and the early 2000s recession led to a decrease in ABC revenue. Plus, Eisner had the company make an expensive purchase of Fox Family Worldwide. 2001 was a year of cost cutting laying off 4,000 employees, Disney parks operations decreased, slashing annual live-action film investment, and minimizing Internet operations. While 2002 revenue had a small decrease from 2001 with the cost cutting, net income rose to $1.2 billion with two creative film releases. In 2003, Disney became the first studio to record over $3 billion in worldwide box office receipts.

When production for the film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was first announced in early 2002, movie fans and critics were skeptical of its chances of being a success; the concept of Disney basing a movie upon one of its own theme-park rides seemed to many a crass marketing ploy. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Pirates became the first Walt Disney Pictures release to earn a PG-13 rating by the MPAA (all previous WDP releases were rated G or PG). The action-adventure/comedy set in the Caribbean during the early 1700s stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley and grossed more than $653 million worldwide. The original film and it's sequels have proven to be to a successful franchise for Walt Disney Pictures.

Eisner did not want the board to renominate Roy E. Disney (right), the son of Disney co-founder Roy O. Disney, as a board director citing his age of 72 as a required retirement age. Stanley Gold responded by resigning from the board and requesting the other board members oust Eisner. In 2003, Disney resigned from his positions as the company's vice chairman and chairman of Walt Disney Feature Animation, accusing Eisner of micromanagement, failures with the ABC television network, timidity in the theme park business, turning The Walt Disney Company into a "rapacious, soul-less" company, and refusing to establish a clear succession plan, as well as a string of box-office film flops starting in the year 2000.

On May 15th, 2003, Disney sold their stake in the Anaheim Angels baseball team to Arte Moreno. Disney purchased the rights to The Muppets and the Bear in the Big Blue House franchises from The Jim Henson Company on February 17th, 2004. The two brands were placed under control of the Muppets Holding Company, LLC, a unit of Disney Consumer Products.

In 2004, Pixar Animation Studios began looking for another distributor after its 12-year contract with Disney ended, due to its strained relationship over issues of control and money with Eisner. Also that year, Comcast Corporation made an unsolicited $54 billion bid to acquire Disney. A couple of high budget films flopped at the box office. With these difficulties and with some board directors dissatisfied, Eisner ceded the board chairmanship.

On March 3rd, 2004, at Disney's annual shareholders' meeting, a surprising 45% of Disney's shareholders, predominantly rallied by former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, withheld their proxies to re-elect Eisner to the board. Disney's board then gave the chairmanship position to Mitchell. However, the board did not immediately remove Eisner as chief executive.

In 2005, Disney sold the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim hockey team to Henry and Susan Samueli and on March 13th, 2005, Robert A. Iger was announced as Eisner successor as CEO. On September 30th, Eisner resigned both as an executive and as a member of the Board of Directors.

On July 8th, 2005, Walt Disney's nephew, Roy E. Disney, returned to the company as a consultant and as non-voting director emeritus. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts celebrated the 50th anniversary of Disneyland Park on July 17th and opened Hong Kong Disneyland on September 12th. Walt Disney Feature Animation released Chicken Little, the company's first film using 3D animation. On October 1st, Iger replaced Eisner as CEO. Miramax co-founders Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein also departed the company to form their own studio. On July 25th, 2005, Disney announced that it was closing DisneyToon Studios Australia in October 2006 after 17 years of existence.

DISNEY AND PIXAR

Pixar began in 1979 as the Graphics Group, part of the Lucasfilm computer division, before its spin-out as a corporation in 1986, with funding by Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, who became the majority shareholder. Pixar was a high-end computer hardware company whose core product was the Pixar Image Computer, a system primarily sold to government agencies and the medical community. One of the buyers of Pixar Image Computers was Walt Disney Studios, which was using the device as part of their secretive CAPS project, using the machine and custom software (written by Pixar) to migrate the laborious ink and paint part of the 2-D animation process to a more automated and thus efficient method. The Image Computer never sold well. In a bid to drive sales of the system, Pixar employee John Lasseter, who had long been creating short demonstration animations, such as Luxo Jr., to show off the device's capabilities, premiered his creations at SIGGRAPH, the computer graphics industry's largest convention, to great fanfare.

As poor sales of Pixar's computers threatened to put the company out of business, Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, invested more and more money and took more and more ownership away from the management and employees until after several years he owned essentially all the company for a total investment of $50 million. Lasseter's animation department began producing computer-animated commercials for outside companies. In April 1990 Pixar sold its hardware division, including all proprietary hardware technology and imaging software, to Vicom Systems and continued its successful relationship with Walt Disney Feature Animation, a studio whose corporate parent would ultimately become its most important partner. In 1991, after a tough start of the year when about 30 employees in the company's computer department had to go Pixar made a $26 million deal with Disney to produce three computer-animated feature films, the first of which was Toy Story.

Even as late as 1994, Jobs contemplated selling Pixar to other companies, among them Microsoft. Only after learning from New York critics that Toy Story was probably going to be a success and confirming that Disney would distribute it for the 1995 Christmas season did he decide to give Pixar another chance. Toy Story went on to gross more than $361 million worldwide.

Pixar and Disney had disagreements after the production of Toy Story 2. Originally intended as a straight-to-video release (and thus not part of Pixar's three-picture deal), the film was eventually upgraded to a theatrical release during production. Pixar demanded that the film then be counted toward the three-picture agreement, but Disney refused. Though profitable for both, Pixar later complained that the arrangement was not equitable. Pixar was responsible for creation and production, while Disney handled marketing and distribution. Profits and production costs were split 50-50, but Disney exclusively owned all story and sequel rights and also collected a distribution fee. The lack of story and sequel rights was perhaps the most onerous aspect to Pixar and set the stage for a contentious relationship.

Traditional hand-drawn animation, with which Walt Disney started his company, was, for a time, no longer produced at the Walt Disney Animation Studios. After a stream of financially unsuccessful traditionally-animated features in the early 2000s, the two satellite studios in Paris and Orlando were closed, and the main studio in Burbank was converted to a computer animation production facility. In 2004 Disney announced their final "traditionally animated" feature film, would be Home on the Range. But with the acquisition of Pixar, and the resulting rise of John Lasseter to Chief Creative Officer, that position has changed, and the 2009 film The Princess and the Frog marked Disney's return to traditional hand-drawn animation.

Meanwhile Disney and Pixar attempted to reach a new agreement in early 2004. Pixar demanded control over films already in production under their old agreement, including The Incredibles and Cars. Disney considered these conditions unacceptable, but Pixar would not concede. Disagreements between Steve Jobs and then Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner made the negotiations more difficult than they otherwise might have been. They broke down completely in mid-2004, with Jobs declaring that Pixar was actively seeking partners other than Disney. Pixar did not enter negotiations with other distributors. After a lengthy hiatus, negotiations between the two companies resumed following the departure of Eisner from Disney in September 2005.

Aware that Disney's relationship with Pixar was wearing thin, Iger began negotiations with leadership of Pixar Animation Studios, Steve Jobs and Ed Catmull, regarding possible merger. On January 23rd, 2006, it was announced that Disney would purchase Pixar in an all-stock transaction worth $7.4 billion. The deal was finalized on May 5th; and among noteworthy results was the transition of Pixar's CEO and 50.1% shareholder, Steve Jobs, becoming Disney's largest individual shareholder at 7% and a member of Disney's Board of Directors. Ed Catmull took over as President of Pixar Animation Studios. Former Executive Vice-President of Pixar, John Lasseter, became Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, its division DisneyToon Studios, and Pixar Animation Studios, as well assuming the role of Principal Creative Advisor at Walt Disney Imagineering.

In 2006, Disney acquired Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Disney’s pre-Mickey silent animation star.

In April 2007, the Muppets Holding Company, LLC was renamed the Muppets Studio and placed under new leadership in an effort by Iger to re-brand the division. The rebranding was completed in September 2008, when control of the Muppets Studio was transferred from Disney Consumer Products to the Walt Disney Studios.

Roy E. Disney died of stomach cancer on December 16th, 2009. At the time of his death, he owned roughly 1 percent of all of Disney which amounted to 16 million shares. He was the last member of the Disney family to be actively involved in the company.

On August 31st, 2009, Disney announced a deal to acquire Marvel Entertainment, Inc. for $4.24 billion. The deal was finalized on December 31st, 2009 in which Disney acquired full ownership on the company. Disney has stated that their acquisition of Marvel Entertainment will not affect Marvel's products, neither will the nature of any Marvel characters be transformed. So I guess we won't be seeing a Spider-Man - Snow White cross over story but Marvel characters were incorporated into Disney Infinity video games and Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers and other Marvel heros began showing up in Disney theme parks in 2017.

In October 2009, Disney Channel president Rich Ross, hired by Iger, replaced Dick Cook as chairman of the company and, in November, began restructuring the company to focus more on family friendly products. Later in January 2010, Disney decided to shut down Miramax after downsizing Touchstone, but one month later, they instead began selling the Miramax brand and its 700-title film library to Filmyard Holdings. In March, ImageMovers Digital, which Disney had established as a joint venture studio with Robert Zemeckis in 2007, was shut down. In April 2010, Lyric Street, Disney's country music label in Nashville, was shut down. The following month, the company sold the Power Rangers brand, as well as its 700-episode library, back to Haim Saban. In January 2011, Disney Interactive Studios was downsized. In November, two ABC stations were sold.

With the release of Tangled in 2010, Ed Catmull said that the "princess" genre of films was taking a hiatus until "someone has a fresh take on it ... but we don't have any other musicals or fairytales lined up." He explained that they were looking to get away from the princess era due to the changes in audience composition and preference. However, in the Facebook page, Ed Catmull stated that this was just a rumor. Of course it was, Disney was going to layoff it's princesses, yea right? Below are the official Disney Princesses plus a few more we think have been overlooked and should be given official status.

In April 2011, Disney broke ground on Shanghai Disney Resort. Costing $4.4 billion, the resort opened on June 16th, 2016. Later, in August 2011, Bob Iger stated on a conference call that after the success of the Pixar and Marvel purchases, he and the Walt Disney Company are looking to "buy either new characters or businesses that are capable of creating great characters and great stories."

On October 30th, 2012, Disney announced plans to acquire Lucasfilm, along with plans to produce a seventh installment in its Star Wars franchise. On December 4th, 2012, the Disney-Lucasfilm merger was approved by the Federal Trade Commission, allowing the acquisition to be finalized without dealing with antitrust problems. On December 21st, 2012, the deal was completed with the acquisition value amounting to approximately $4.06 billion, and thus Lucasfilm became a wholly owned subsidiary of Disney, which coincidentally reunited Lucasfilm under the same corporate umbrella with its former spin-off and new sibling, Pixar. Does the acquisition of Lucasfilm offically makes Leia a Disney Princess? We like to think so.

On March 24th, 2014, Disney bought Maker Studios, a YouTube company generating billions of views each year, for over $500 million in order to advertise to viewers in the crucial teenage/young adult demographics.

On March 23rd, 2017, Disney announced that Iger's original contract set to end June 30th, 2018 would be extended another term until July 2nd, 2019. For the following three years, Iger will move into a consultant role.

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