As we begin celebrating 100 years of the birth of Walt Disney Studio, we reflect on the Walt Disney Company, which has become something of an entertainment empire.
We’ve all heard the famous Walt Disney quote, “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing – that it all started with a mouse.” But, truthfully, the Disney entertainment empire we know today has much humbler beginnings.
How Walt Disney Went From Failure to the Leader of an Empire
Walt Disney originally began in Kansas City, Missouri, where he formed Laugh-O-Gram Films. If that doesn’t ring a bell, that’s normal; the risky undertaking ended in bankruptcy and objective failure. Nevertheless, Walt persisted and moved to Hollywood, joining Roy O. Disney, his older brother.
Together, the two formed the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in Los Angeles. On October 16, 2023, the Disney brothers signed a deal with a distributor based in New York, agreeing to manufacture short animated films. Just three years later, the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio was renamed to ‘Walt Disney Studio’ at Roy Disney’s insistence.
Thus, Walt’s original failure was on its way into becoming one of the biggest entertainment empires in history.
What Do You Think of When You Hear the Word ‘Disney?’
When you hear the name ‘Disney,’ you may think of a beloved canon of animated films, which is entirely appropriate. In the case of the animation genre, Walt may have been correct when he said “it all started with a mouse.”
Okay, we’re being a little generous there, but the truth is that Mickey Mouse’s first appearance in Steamboat Willie (1928) was groundbreaking. Not just for the Walt Disney Company, but for the animation industry as a whole.
At less then ten minutes long, Steamboat Willie captivated audiences and introduced synchronized sound to what had previously been an entirely silent artform, making the Walt Disney Studio a pioneer in the animation genre at an incredibly young age.
But the pioneering didn’t end there.
Walt Disney Studio Has Only Continued Its Groundbreaking Habits Ever Since
Walt Disney Studio would continue to revolutionize the industry, not only by adding synchronized sound to animated shorts, but also adding full color. The studio’s 1932 animated short Flowers and Trees was drawn and shown in full color, which would win that year’s Academy Award for animated short subject.
From there, Walt Disney’s ventures continued to produce Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), the studio’s first animated feature film and the first full-length traditionally animated feature film ever. Surprising no one, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would not only win an Academy Award in 1939 but a specially made Academy Award consisting of a regular-sized Oscar accompanied by seven miniature Oscars. Not only that, but the original film also became one of the highest-grossing animated movies of all time.
Even after Walt Disney Studio wasn’t helmed by Walt Disney himself, the company continued to push boundaries. In 1995, Disney Pixar released Toy Story, the first full-length feature film from Pixar Animation Studios and the first full-length entirely computer-animated feature film, making animation history again.
When You Hear the Word ‘Disney,’ You Don’t Just Think of Movies, You Probably Think of Disneyland, and You’d Be Right!
The second biggest Disney venture is none other than Disneyland Resort.
Nowadays, Disneyland Resort consists of two different theme parks (Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure), a vast shopping district (Downtown Disney District), and different resort hotel options. But when it first opened in 1955, there was nothing but just one theme park (Disneyland Park) and one resort hotel, and it would remain that way for nearly 45 years.
Walt Disney’s original goal was to create a permanent theme park, built to give the entire family a day of fun. At the time, traveling amusement parks and carnivals were the more common theme park experience, meaning that there wasn’t usually a permanent fixture nearby to visit. Not only that, but most amusement park attractions geared toward little ones weren’t big enough for parents to enjoy at the same time.
Disney saw that gap and filled it with Disneyland Resort. But in true Disney fashion, Disneyland Park was the start of something new.
Disneyland Park Was the Start of Something New!
At the time of Disneyland Park’s grand opening, the concept of a ‘theme park’ was incredibly uncommon. In fact, theme parks became substantially more popular after the first ever Disney Park opened. Its influence can be seen all throughout the country, as amusement parks containing themed architecture, environments, entertainment, food, and music began springing up after the birth of Disneyland Park.
Not only that, but the debut of Disneyland Park would result in a trend of Disney theme parks in other countries.
Disneyland Resort is the original, but its influence has led to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disney Resort. Each of these Disney Resorts is home to different theme parks:
- Disneyland Resort: Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure
- Walt Disney World Resort: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom
- Tokyo Disney Resort: Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea
- Disneyland Paris: Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney Studios Park
- Hong Kong Disneyland Resort is home to Hong Kong Disneyland
- Shanghai Disney Resort is home to Shanghai Disneyland.
But the impact has spread, overlapping with amusement parks and creating an entirely new mode of entertainment. All over the country, themed restaurants (such as the Rainforest Cafe or the T. Rex Cafe), hotels, shops, museums, and historic sights have become more prevalent, all due to Disneyland’s influence.
According to one source, “Disneyland ushered in a unique and quintessentially American form of family entertainment.”
In short, theme parks are just another branch of entertainment that Walt Disney changed forever…but the changes don’t end there!
The Walt Disney Company Continues to Revolutionize the Entertainment Industry
It’s appropriate that Disneyland was built on the idea of creating something that children and parents could enjoy simultaneously because family entertainment is another niche the Walt Disney Company has influenced and revolutionized.
Family entertainment is one of the backbones of the movie industry. After all, if you can gain children’s interest in a film, incentivizing them to convince their parents to take them to the movies, you’ve gained double the revenue.
Also, once children become interested in the film’s settings and characters, it opens up an entire world of merchandising. And once those children grow up, Disney is aware that it can use nostalgia to its advantage, keeping many fans interested even into adulthood.
There are a few reasons why Disney has remained relevant, and it all has to do with other aspects of entertainment that the company has capitalized on and perfected.
How Has Disney Maintained Cultural Relevancy, Even After All This Time?
What makes the Walt Disney Company so successful? The answer isn’t as simple as the question, and the empire’s success can be traced back to several business moves and decisions. But one of Disney’s most significant advantages is just how recognizable it’s become, which can be traced back to its marketing and merchandising habits.
To be fair, Walt Disney Studio had a bit of a head start as it began its merchandising ventures way back in the company’s earliest days.
As it turns out, making movies, even animated movies, is an expensive and arduous process. However, Walt Disney Studio realized early on that making merchandise of beloved and iconic characters was a great way to keep them culturally relevant while also earning supplementary income, which could then be used to keep Walt Disney Studio alive while working on the next big hit.
Even from the beginning, Mickey Mouse was a fantastic source of merchandising, marketing, and revenue. Disney had found a goldmine, and to this day, lovable characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy continue to make the Walt Disney Company a steady amount of earnings.
In its 100 years, the Walt Disney Company has also found ways to retain and renew interest in even the oldest of its films. Disney knows how to play onto fans’ senses of nostalgia, and even when the company makes some misses, its hits are always enough to keep the momentum of relevance and interest afloat.
The Walt Disney Company has been around for 100 years now, and that’s no small feat. After an entire century of trial and error, Disney has learned what works for its audience and what doesn’t, for the most part, anyway.
What we’re trying to say is that Disney isn’t going anywhere. If anything, we’re sure we’ll only see more revolutionary moves from this entertainment empire as time goes on.
We want to hear from our readers! What entertainment revolution do you think is next for the Walt Disney Company? Let Disney Dining know in the comments!