Disney History

Steamboat Willy

Walt Disney arrived in California in the summer of 1923 with a lot of hopes but little else. He had made a cartoon in Kansas City about a little girl in a cartoon world, called Alice’s Wonderland, and he decided that he could use it as his “pilot” film to sell a series of these “Alice Comedies” to a distributor. Soon after arriving in California, he was successful. A distributor in New York, M. J. Winkler, contracted to distribute the Alice Comedies on October 16, 1923, and this date became the start of the Disney company. 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.

Walt Disney made his Alice Comedies for four years, but in 1927, he decided to move instead to an all-cartoon series. To star in this new series, he created a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Within a year, Walt 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.

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, that Walt had to come up with a new character, and that character was Mickey Mouse. With his chief animator, Ub Iwerks, Walt designed the famous mouse and gave him a personality that endeared him to all. Ub animated two Mickey Mouse cartoons, but Walt was unable to sell them because they were silent films, and sound was revolutionizing the movie industry. So, they made a third Mickey Mouse cartoon, this time with fully synchronized sound, and Steamboat Willie opened to rave reviews at the Colony Theater in New York November 18, 1928. A cartoon star, Mickey Mouse, was born. The new character was immediately popular, and, a lengthy series of Mickey Mouse cartoons followed.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Walt Disney soon produced another series—the Silly Symphonies—to go with the Mickey series. It featured different casts of characters in each film and enabled animators to experiment with stories that relied less on the gags and quick humor of the Mickey cartoons and more on mood, emotion, and musical themes. Eventually the Silly Symphonies turned into the training ground for all Disney artists as they prepared for the advent of animated feature films. Flowers and Trees, a Silly Symphony and the first full-color cartoon, won the Academy Award® for Best Cartoon for 1932, the first year that the Academy offered such a category. For the rest of that decade, a Disney cartoon won the Oscar® every year.

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 year 1930 was a big one for the mouse that started it all, as it saw the first Mickey Mouse book and newspaper comic strip published.

One night in 1934, Walt informed his animators that they were going to make an animated feature film, and then he told them the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. There were some skeptics in the group, but before long everyone had caught Walt’s enthusiasm, and work began in earnest. It took three years, but the landmark film debuted on December 21, 1937 and became a spectacular hit. Snow White soon became the highest-grossing film of all time, a record it held until it was surpassed by Gone with the Wind. Now Walt Disney’s studio had firmer footing. The short cartoons paid the bills, but Walt knew that future profits would come from feature films.

Work immediately began on other feature projects, but just as things were looking rosy, along came World War II. The next two features, Pinocchio and Fantasia, were released in 1940. They were technical masterpieces, but their costs were too high for a company losing most of its foreign markets because of the war. Dumbo was made in 1941 on a very limited budget, but Bambi, in 1942, was another expensive film, and caused the studio to retrench. It would be many years before animated features of the highest caliber could be put into production.

During the war, Walt made two films in South America, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, at the request of the State Department. His studio concentrated on making propaganda and training films for the military. When the war ended, it was difficult for the Disney Studio to regain its pre-war footing. Several years went by with the release of “package” features—films such as Make Mine Music and Melody Time, containing groups of short cartoons packaged together. Walt also moved into live-action production with films such as So Dear to My Heart, but because audiences expected animation from Walt Disney, these films included animated segments. Walt opened some new doors by beginning the award-winning True-Life Adventure series featuring nature photography of a style never seen before.

From the old fairy tale, a jealous queen attempts to get rid of her beautiful step-daughter, Snow White, who takes refuge with seven dwarfs in their forest home. The queen changes into a witch and tempts Snow White with a poisoned apple which puts her into an everlasting sleep, until a prince finds her in a glass coffin and awakens her with Love’s First Kiss. (Special Academy Award)

The year 1950 saw big successes at Disney—the first completely live-action film, Treasure Island, the return to classic animated features with Cinderella, and the first Disney television show at Christmas time. The Company was moving forward again. After two Christmas specials, Walt 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 primetime television series ever. The Mickey Mouse Club, one of television’s most popular children’s series, debuted in 1955 and made stars of a group of talented Mouseketeers.

Walt was never satisfied with what he had already accomplished. As his motion pictures and television programs became successful, he felt a desire to branch out. One area that intrigued him was amusement parks. As a father, he had taken his two young daughters to zoos, carnivals, and other entertainment enterprises, but he always ended up sitting on the bench as they rode the merry-go-round and had all the fun. He felt that there should be a park where parents and children could go and have a good time together. This was the genesis of Disneyland. After several years of planning and construction, the new park opened on July 17, 1955.

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 is even more popular now than it was in 1955.

The 1950s saw the release of the classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Shaggy Dog—first in a series of wacky comedies—and a popular TV series about the legendary hero Zorro. In the 1960s came Audio-Animatronics® technology, pioneered with Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland and then four shows at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and Mary Poppins—perhaps the culmination of all Walt Disney had learned during his long movie-making career. But the ’60s also brought the end of an era: Walt Disney died December 15, 1966.

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 began work on educational films and materials in a big way with the start of an educational subsidiary in 1969.

After the success of Disneyland, it was only natural for Walt to consider another park on the East Coast. Prior to his 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 1, 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.

Roy O. Disney, who after Walt’s death oversaw the building and financing of Walt Disney World, died in late 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. One of Walt’s last plans had been for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT, as he called it. While he died before the plans could be refined, they were brought out again in a few years, and in 1979 ground was broken for the new park in Florida. EPCOT Center, a combination of Future World and World Showcase representing an investment of more than a billion dollars, opened to great acclaim October 1, 1982.

WED Enterprises (later renamed Walt Disney Imagineering), the design and development division for the parks, had several projects in the works during the early 1980s. In addition to designing Epcot, it was hard at work on plans for Tokyo Disneyland, the first foreign Disney park. Tokyo Disneyland opened April 15, 1983, and was an immediate success in a country that had always loved anything Disney. Now that the Japanese had their own Disneyland, they flocked to it in increasing numbers.

Moviemaking also was changing in America in the early 1980s. Audiences were diminishing for the family films that had been the mainstay of the Company for many years, and Disney was not meeting the competition for films that attracted the huge teenage and adult market. To reverse that trend, Disney established a new label, Touchstone Pictures, with the release of Splash in 1984. At the same time, because of the widespread perception that Disney stock was undervalued relative to the company’s assets, two “corporate raiders” attempted to take over Disney. The efforts to keep the company from being broken up ended when Michael Eisner and Frank Wells became chairman and president, respectively.

The new management team immediately saw ways for Disney to maximize its assets. The Company had left network television in 1983 to prepare for the launch of a cable network, The Disney Channel. While the pay-TV service was successful, Eisner and Wells felt Disney should have a strong network presence as well, so in 1985 Disney’s Touchstone division began the immensely successful Golden Girls, followed in 1986 by a return to Sunday night television with the Disney Sunday Movie (later The Magical World of Disney and The Wonderful World of Disney). Films from the Disney library were selected for the syndication market, and some of the classic animated films were released on video cassette. Using the sell-through technique, Disney classics soon reached the top of the all-time best-seller lists.

The late 1980s brought new innovations to the Parks. At Disneyland, new collaborations with filmmakers George Lucas and Francis Coppola brought Captain EO and Star Tours to the park, and Splash Mountain opened in 1989. Over at Walt Disney World in Florida, Disney’s Grand Floridian Beach and Caribbean Beach Resorts opened in 1988, and three new gated attractions opened in 1989: the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, Pleasure Island, and Typhoon Lagoon. More resort hotels opened in 1990 and 1991.

Filmmaking hit new heights in 1988 as Disney, for the first time, led Hollywood studios in box-office gross. Who Framed Roger RabbitGood Morning, VietnamThree Men and a Baby, and later, Honey, I Shrunk the KidsDick TracyPretty Woman, and Sister Act each 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. In merchandising, Disney purchased Childcraft and opened numerous highly successful and profitable Disney Stores.

Disney animation began reaching even greater audiences, with The Little Mermaid being topped by Beauty and the Beast in 1991 which was in turn topped by Aladdin in 1992. 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 LeeEmpty NestDinosaurs, and Home Improvement, expanded Disney’s television base. For the first time in 1991, Disney moved into publishing, forming Hyperion Books, Hyperion Books for Children, and Disney Press, which released books on Disney and non-Disney subjects. Disney purchased Discover magazine, the leading consumer science monthly. As a totally new venture, Disney was awarded in 1993 the franchise for a National Hockey League team, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Over in France, the park now known as Disneyland Paris opened on April 12, 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, while Mickey’s Toontown and Indiana Jones Adventure helped increase attendance at Disneyland. Walt Disney World opened the All-Star Resorts, Wilderness Lodge, The Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorBlizzard Beach, the BoardWalk Resort, Coronado Springs Resort, The Disney Institute, Downtown Disney West Side, and redesigned Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom Park.

A young lion cub, Simba, struggles to find his place in nature's "circle of life" and follow in the regal paw prints of his father, the great King Mufasa, after his father is treacherously killed by Scar.

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, The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1996, Hercules in 1997, Mulan in 1998, Tarzan in 1999, and then Fantasia/2000 at the turn of the century. Toy Story pioneered computer-animation techniques, and was followed by successful sequels. Disney also continued its strong presence in children’s animated programs for television and found success with sequels to animated features released directly to the video market.

In 1994, Disney ventured onto Broadway with a very successful stage production of Beauty and the Beast, followed in 1997 by a unique staging of a show based on The Lion King and in 2000 by Aida. By restoring the historic New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street, Disney became the catalyst for a successful makeover of the famous Times Square area. A musical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame opened in Berlin, Germany in 1999.

By 1996, there were more than 450 Disney Stores worldwide, and by 1999 that number was up to 725. In Florida, the first home sites were sold in the new city of Celebration, located next to Walt Disney World. Eventually, 20,000 people would call Celebration their home. After the death of the owner Gene Autry, Disney acquired the California Angels baseball team to add to its hockey team, and in 1997 opened Disney’s Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World.

Early in 1996, Disney completed its acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC. The $19 billion transaction, second-largest in U.S. history, brought the country’s top television network to Disney, in addition to 10 TV stations, 21 radio stations, seven daily newspapers, and ownership positions in four cable networks.

The years that followed saw the release of a group of very popular live-action films, such as Mr. Holland’s OpusThe RockRansomFlubberCon AirArmageddon, and culminating in the hugely successful The Sixth Sense, which soon reached the 10th spot among the all-time highest grossing releases. Computer animation was showcased in a bug’s life and Dinosaur.

A whole new park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, opened at Walt Disney World in 1998. With a gigantic Tree of Life as its centerpiece, the park was Disney’s largest, spanning 500 acres. A major attraction was the Kilimanjaro Safaris, where Guests could experience live African animals in an amazingly accurate reproduction of the African savannah. An Asian area opened at Animal Kingdom in 1999. Back in California, Tomorrowland at Disneyland was redesigned in 1998.

As the world moved toward a new century, Epcot became the host of Millennium Celebration, Test Track (the longest and fastest Disney park attraction) opened, and other attractions were revised and updated. The Walt Disney Company welcomed a new president—Robert A. Iger—and the Company reached the $25 billion revenue threshold for the first time.

Disney regional entertainment expanded with DisneyQuest and the ESPN Zone in 1998, and that same year, the Disney Magic, the first of two luxury cruise ships, made its maiden voyage to the Caribbean, stopping at Disney’s own island paradise, Castaway Cay.

The year 2000 opened with the release in IMAX theaters of an almost totally new version of Fantasia entitled Fantasia/2000. Other classically animated features were The Emperor’s New GrooveAtlantis: The Lost EmpireLilo & StitchTreasure Planet, and Brother Bear. Continuing collaborations with Pixar brought the computer-animated blockbuster Monsters, Inc. Popular live-action productions continued with Remember the TitansMission to MarsPearl HarborThe Princess Diaries, and The Rookie. The new cable network, SoapNet, was launched, and award-winning productions on ABC included The Miracle WorkerAnne Frank, and Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story.

DVD releases became increasingly popular, especially when the company began adding generous amounts of bonus material for viewers. The Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs DVD in 2001 sold more than one million units on the first day of release.

For the first time, in 2001, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts opened two new theme parks in the same year. In February, Disney’s California Adventure opened after several years of major construction, which transformed the entire Anaheim area. The new park celebrated the history, culture, and spirit of California, with areas ranging from a Hollywood Pictures Backlot to the amusements of Paradise Pier. Joining it was an upscale shopping area, Downtown Disney and the Grand Californian Hotel, celebrating the Craftsman style of architecture. Across the Pacific in Japan, Tokyo DisneySea opened in September, looking to the myths, legends, and lore of the ocean as the inspiration for its attractions and shows. March 2002 saw the opening of another foreign park, Walt Disney Studios, featuring the history and lore and excitement of the movies, adjacent to Disneyland Paris. Ground was broken in January 2003 for Hong Kong Disneyland.

In 2001, The Walt Disney Company honored the 100th Anniversary of the birth of its founder, Walt Disney. The celebration, called “100 Years of Magic,” was centered at the Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Florida, and included several parades, an exhibit of archival memorabilia, and the installation of a gigantic Mickey’s sorcerer cap in the Chinese Theater plaza.

The year 2003 saw two Disney films grossing more than $300 million at the box office—Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Disney•Pixar’s Finding Nemo. In fact, Disney became the first studio in history to surpass $3 billion in global box office. In October, Mission: Space opened at Epcot to great acclaim, and the following month the Company celebrated the 75th anniversary of Mickey Mouse. As the year drew to a close the Pop Century Resort opened at Walt Disney World.

After years of partnering, Disney acquired The Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House in April 2004. Senator George Mitchell became chairman of the board, and movie theaters welcomed The Incredibles. ABC had a rebirth with such popular series as Desperate HousewivesLost, and Grey’s Anatomy.

A major anniversary came in 2005 as Disneyland celebrated its 50th, and all of the Disney theme parks joined in a Happiest Celebration on Earth. A brand-new theme park, Hong Kong Disneyland, opened in September, and fall saw the successful releases of Chicken Little and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Robert A. Iger took over as CEO of The Walt Disney Company on October 1 with the retirement of Michael Eisner.

In 2006 High School Musical aired on Disney Channel and become an overnight sensation. In May, Disney made a major purchase of Pixar Animation Studios. Disney•Pixar’s Cars was released in June. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest beat Company records to become the company’s highest grossing feature after its July release. Disney parks celebrated the Year of a Million Dreams with special promotions.

With 2007 came another popular release from Pixar, Ratatouille, and Disney had its first co-production in China—The Secret of the Magic Gourd. The year ended with the hits Enchanted and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The third Pirates of the Caribbean feature, subtitled At World’s End, became the top-grossing film of the year internationally. Disney Channel reached new heights with High School Musical 2, and Hannah Montana shot Miley Cyrus to stardom. In the summer, Disney acquired Club Penguin. At the parks, Disney built on the Pixar brand with the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland, The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot, and Finding Nemo—The Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Bob Iger

At Disney parks in 2008, Disney-MGM Studios was renamed Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Midway Mania! opened there and at Disney’s California Adventure, and it’s a small world opened at Hong Kong Disneyland. The Company reacquired ownership of the Disney Stores’ retail locations from The Children’s Place, and the first Disney-operated language training center, Disney English, opened in China. In theaters, audiences flocked to WALL•E and BoltTinker Bell, the first of a series of Disney Fairies films, was released, and Camp Rock and Phineas and Ferb debuted on Disney Channel. Then, all the way on a stage under the sea, The Little Mermaid opened on Broadway.

The big news in 2009 was the acquisition of Marvel Entertainment. The films Up (which would win two Oscars), the first Disneynature film, Earth, and with a return to hand-drawn animation, The Princess and the Frog, were in theaters that year. The first Disney film locally produced in Russia, The Book of Masters, was released. D23: The Official Disney Fan Club launched, Disney twenty-three magazine began publication, and the first biennial D23 Expo was held in Anaheim. Bay Lake Tower opened at Walt Disney World, and a Disney Vacation Club section was added to the Grand Californian Hotel. Disney XD replaced Toon Disney, and at the end of the year the Company mourned the passing of Roy E. Disney.

In business news in 2010, the Company sold Miramax. Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3 were released, and they would go on to win two Oscars each. Also on movie screens were Tangled and Tron: Legacy. Video gamers entered the world of Epic Mickey, and World of Color debuted at the renamed Disney California Adventure.

The year 2011 saw the launch of the Disney Dream and the repositioning of the Disney Wonder to the West Coast. The Company purchased the rights to the Avatar franchise for theme parks, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa opened in Hawai‘i, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure debuted at Disney California Adventure, and groundbreaking ceremonies were held for Shanghai Disneyland. In theaters, Disney began distributing DreamWorks films, with The Help winning wide acclaim and a Supporting Actress Oscar for Octavia Spencer. Disney films included Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Winnie the Pooh, The Muppets (Oscar for Best Song), and Cars 2. In New York, Sister Act opened on Broadway and Peter and the Starcatcher off-Broadway.

In theaters in 2012 were John Carter, Brave, Wreck-It RalphFrankenweenie, Lincoln (DreamWorks), and Marvel Studios’ The Avengers. Bob Iger took on the additional title of chairman of the board, and Alan Horn became chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. The Disney Junior cable channel replaced SOAPnet. On Broadway, Newsies opened and won two Tony Awardsâ. Cars Land opened at Disney California Adventure, and the Disney Fantasy set sail. At the Walt Disney World, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, an enlarged and enhanced Fantasyland, and a new Test Track opened. D23 sponsored a Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The big corporate news was the acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd.

The beginning of 2013 saw a big achievement for Tokyo Disneyland. On April 15, it celebrated its 30th anniversary, naming it “The Happiness Year.” New additions came to the theme parks, with Fantasy Faire opening in Disneyland and Mystic Point at Hong Kong Disneyland. Box office smashes, including Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World arrived in theaters. After 12 years, fans were able to travel back in time to see Mike and Sully go to school in Monsters University, and hearts melted in November when audiences adventured into the world of Arendelle for the first time with the Academy Award-winning film Frozen.The year 2014 got off to a great start with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opening in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. And, over at Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris, Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy made its debut. It was also a good year for films when the Company introduced audiences to a new, yet familiar set of horns when Maleficent premiered. Guardians of the Galaxy and Big Hero 6 flew into theaters and were critical and box-office smashes.

In 2015, the live-action film Cinderella reminded us to have courage and be kind. While the film provided many emotional moments, it wasn’t long after that we came face-to-face with all of them—literally—with Disney•Pixar’s Inside Out. Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man debuted in July, and the fourth D23 Expo took place in August at Anaheim. Then, that galaxy far, far away moved a closer when Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted in December.

In 2016 Zootopia premiered in March. Then, it animals of a very different kind pounced onto the screen in the live-action The Jungle Book. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge had its official groundbreaking, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrived in theaters on December 16. Moana and Doctor Strange were two other box-office smashes in 2016.

Hong Kong became home to the first Marvel-themed ride at any Disney park in 2017 when Iron Man Experience opened. While guests were joining Iron Man in an epic adventure of a lifetime (as well as a fight against evil), guests at Walt Disney World traveled to a new world when Pandora—The World of Avatar opened in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. May also saw the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and the opening of a new attraction, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! at Disney California Adventure.

Later in the year, Miguel and Dante introduced us to the power of family in the Academy Award winner Coco. Then, Star Wars: The Last Jedi premiered in December and continued the saga of Rey, Poe, Finn, and Kylo Ren.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 22:  (L-R) Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Robert A. Iger, Katy Perry, Leron Gubler, Jeff Zarrinnam, and Vin Di Bona attend ceremony for Minnie Mouse as she receives Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in Celebration of her 90th Anniversary at El Capitan Theatre on January 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Disney )

2018 began, not with a bang, but with… a star! Minnie Mouse was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, joining her pals Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, on January 22. In February, Marvel Studios introduced us to one of the newest Super Heroes to join the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Black Panther, which would go on to break several box office records and win multiple Academy Awards, including earning a coveted nod for Best Picture. We saw a childhood literary favorite unfold before us on the big screen in A Wrinkle in Time, while also greeting some beloved silver-screen characters from the Hundred Acre Wood once more in Christopher Robin. Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios also brought back some favorites with Solo: A Star Wars Story and Ant-Man and The Wasp, and Marvel also delivered the biggest movie of the year globally with Avengers: Infinity War. November and December saw the releases of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Mary Poppins Returns, respectively.

On Broadway, the stage got a bit chillier when Frozen The Broadway Musical premiered. Pixar Pier also debuted at Disney California Adventure, and across the way at Disneyland, the Tropical Hideaway opened in Adventureland. As if that wasn’t enough, a brand-new way to explore, play, and listen in the parks arrived with the launch of the Play Disney app.

The Walt Disney Company bookended 2019 with several major additions, starting with the acquisition of 20th Century Fox in March, and then the remarkable launch of Disney+ in November. Disney+, which, together with ESPN+, Hulu, and Disney+ Hotstar, delivers the Company’s iconic brands and incredible stories directly to consumers, gave us new movies and streaming series such as High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, a new retelling of Lady and the Tramp, The Simpsons, The Imagineering Story, and, of course, The Mandalorian.

The Walt Disney Studios had a hugely successful year, releasing notable titles including Aladdin, The Lion King, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Toy Story 4, and Frozen 2. Marvel Studios released Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, which was the climactic finale to the Studios’ remarkable first 10 years of cinematic adventure. And Lucasfilm concluded the Skywalker saga with the epic Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, with a lavish Hollywood premiere and rollout in December.

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Nano Battle! opened at Hong Kong Disneyland in March, followed by Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening at Disneyland Park in May and then at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in August. Walt Disney World Resort also saw a number of impressive additional developments in 2019, including: Gran Destino Tower opening as part of Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in July, the NBA Experience opening in August at Disney Springs West Side, the launch of the Disney Skyliner in September, the debut of the incredible new attraction Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in November, and the grand opening of Disney’s Riviera Resort in December.

While 2020 saw Company theme parks pause because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Disney still delivered some incredible experiences, including the opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland park in January, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in March, a major Fantasyland expansion at Tokyo Disneyland in September, and the debut of the Castle of Magical Dreams at Hong Kong Disneyland in November.

And, in addition to delivering more beloved films and TV series from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, 20th Century Studios, and National Geographic, Disney+ delivered scores of new entertainment to viewers around the globe, including Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (February), Stargirl (March), Prop Culture (May), Artemis Fowl (June), Broadway’s Hamilton (July), the live-action Mulan (September), and Pixar’s wondrous Soul (December).

Bob Chapek

Bob Chapek was named Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company in February, with former CEO and Chairman Bob Iger assuming the role of Executive Chairman. And of course, we couldn’t round out 2020 without mentioning the 50th anniversary of the Walt Disney Archives in June—which was commemorated with an exhibit at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, and numerous special presentation programs and virtual events throughout the year, including the debut of the all-new documentary film, Adventure Thru the Walt Disney Archives.

Early in 2021, two Disney+ series from Marvel Studios became instant hits—WandaVision, which debuted in January, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, in March. Also in March, the animated Raya and the Last Dragon premiered to rave reviews on both Disney+ (with Premiere Access) and in theaters, and the new series The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers arrived on the streaming service, returning Coach Bombay (Emilio Estevez) to the ice. And, after more than a year of closure due to the pandemic, Disneyland Park welcomed guests back to Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom on April 30, before Avengers Campus officially opened its gates at Disney California Adventure on June 4. The Walt Disney World Resort also prepared in earnest for its 50th anniversary festivities, kicking off The World’s Most Magical Celebration on October 1, 2021. Featuring the opening of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at EPCOT, and the debut of several new entertainment offerings, including Harmonious, also at EPCOT, and Disney Enchantment at Magic Kingdom Park, the 18th month celebration will welcome Guests from across the globe to help celebrate this momentous milestone.

For nearly a century, The Walt Disney Company has created entertainment of the very highest quality. From humble beginnings as a cartoon studio in the early 1920s to the Company of today—which includes Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Searchlight Pictures, and 20th Century Studios, along with Disney Parks and Resorts around the globe—Disney continues to provide timeless entertainment for the entire family.

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Important Dates in the History of The Walt Disney Company

  • June 24, 1893

    Roy O. Disney is born in Chicago, IL

  • December 05, 1901

    Walt Disney is born in Chicago, IL

  • October 16, 1923

    Walt signed a contract with M. J. Winkler to produce a series of Alice Comedies — the date is used as the start of the Disney company, first known as “The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio.”

  • March 01, 1924

    Release of first Alice Comedies short film — “Alice’s Day at Sea.”

  • January, 1926

    The Disneys move to their new studio at 2719 Hyperion. 

    The name of the company is changed from “The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio” to the “Walt Disney Studio.”

  • September 05, 1927

    Release of first “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” cartoon.

  • November 18, 1928

    “Steamboat Willie” is released at the Colony Theatre in New York—the first Mickey Mouse cartoon released, also the first appearance of Minnie Mouse.

  • August 22, 1929

    “The Skeleton Dance,” first Silly Symphony is released.

  • December 16, 1929

    The Disney brothers’ partnership is replaced by four companies: Walt Disney Productions, Ltd.; Walt Disney Enterprises; Liled Realty and Investment Company; and the Disney Film Recording Company.

  • January 13, 1930

    Mickey Mouse comic strip begins.

  • September 05, 1930

    “The Chain Gang,” first appearance of Pluto, is released.  He did not receive the name Pluto until “The Moose Hunt” (1931).

  • November, 1930

    First Disney book (Mickey Mouse Book).

  • July 30, 1932

    “Flowers and Trees,” first full-color cartoon and first Academy Award winner, is released.

  • November 15, 1932

    Art school formed at the Disney studio to train animators.

  • May 27, 1933

    “Three Little Pigs,” Academy Award winner, is released.

  • June, 1933

    First Mickey Mouse watch is sold by Ingersoll.

  • June 09, 1934

    “The Wise Little Hen,” first appearance of Donald Duck, is released.

  • February 23, 1935

    “The Band Concert,” first Mickey Mouse cartoon in color, is released.

  • February 07, 1940

    Release of “Pinocchio.”

  • April 02, 1940

    Walt Disney Productions issues its first stock.

  • May 06, 1940

    Move of the Disney studio to Burbank completed.

  • November 13, 1940

    Release of “Fantasia.”

  • August 17, 1941

    Walt and artists leave on a goodwill trip to South America.

  • December 08, 1941

    The U.S. Army moves onto the Disney studio lot.

  • December 21, 1937

    Release of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” first feature-length animated film, at the Carthay Circle Theater.

  • January 01, 1943

    “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” Academy Award winner, is released.

  • November 12, 1946

    “Song of the South” released.

  • December 21, 1948

    Release of “Seal Island,” first True-Life Adventure.

  • October, 1949

    Walt Disney Music Company formed.

  • December 16, 1952

    WED Enterprises founded by Walt.

  • February 05, 1953

    “Peter Pan” is released.

  • February 18, 1953

    Release of first People and Places film — “The Alaskan Eskimo.”

  • November 10, 1953

    Release of “The Living Desert,” first film distributed by the new Buena Vista Distribution Company.

  • July 19, 1950

    Release of “Treasure Island,” first completely live-action feature.

  • December 25, 1950

    “One Hour in Wonderland,” first television show.

  • October 27, 1954

    First airing of “Disneyland” television show.

  • December 15, 1954

    Davy Crockett story is told on the “Disneyland” show.

  • December 23, 1954

    Release of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”

  • July 17, 1955

    Opening of Disneyland.

  • October 03, 1955

    First program of the “Mickey Mouse Club” television series.

  • October 10, 1957

    First program of the “Zorro” television series.

  • March 19, 1959

    Release of “The Shaggy Dog,” first of a series of wacky comedies.

  • June 14, 1959

    Vice-President Nixon dedicates Monorail, Matterhorn, and Submarine Voyage open also at Disneyland.

  • June 23, 1963

    Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room opens at Disneyland, first use of all-new “Audio-Animatronics” technology.

  • April 22, 1964

    Four Disney exhibits open at the New York World’s Fair.

  • August 29, 1964

    Release of “Mary Poppins.”

  • February 03, 1965

    WED Enterprises incorporated as a subsidiary of Walt Disney Productions (WED was personally owned by Walt from 1952 to 1965.)

  • July 23, 1965

    MAPO incorporated.

  • December 15, 1966

    Walt Disney dies.

  • March 13, 1969

    Release of “The Love Bug.”

  • June 25, 1969

    Walt Disney Educational Materials Co. incorporated.

  • December 25, 1969

    “Disney on Parade” debuts in Chicago.

  • June 22, 1970

    Establishment of the Walt Disney Archives.

  • June 17, 1971

    100,000,000th guest welcomed at Disneyland.

  • October 01, 1971

    Opening of Walt Disney World.

  • December 20, 1971

    Roy O. Disney dies.

  • January 26, 1972

    The “Mouse Factory” debuts on television.

  • October 16, 1973

    50th Anniversary of Walt Disney Productions.

  • March 22, 1975

    Walt Disney World Village opens.

  • June, 1975

    “America on Parade” debuts for the Bicentennial at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

  • January 17, 1977

    The new “Mickey Mouse Club” airs.

  • November 18, 1978

    Mickey Mouse celebrates 50th birthday.

  • July 17, 1980

    Disneyland celebrates 25th anniversary.

  • October, 1980

    First Home Video titles released

  • December 03, 1980

    Tokyo Disneyland groundbreaking and site dedication.

  • October 01, 1982

    EPCOT Center opens.

  • April 15, 1983

    Tokyo Disneyland opens.

  • April 18, 1983

    The Disney Channel begins broadcasting.

  • May 25, 1983

    New Fantasyland opens at Disneyland.

  • March 09, 1984

    Release of first Touchstone film, “Splash.”

  • June 09, 1984

    Donald Duck celebrates 50th birthday.

  • September 23, 1984

    Michael Eisner and Frank Wells become Chairman and President of Walt Disney Productions.

  • September 14, 1985

    First Saturday morning animated TV shows air; “Golden Girls” debuts.

  • February 02, 1986

    “The Disney Sunday Movie” debuts on television.

  • February 06, 1986

    Walt Disney Productions name changed to The Walt Disney Company.

  • March 25, 1986

    500,000,000th guest to a Disney park welcomed.

  • September 04, 1986

    Airing of syndicated Disney features and TV shows begins.

  • January 09, 1987

    Star Tours, built in collaboration with George Lucas, opens at Disneyland.

  • February 11, 1987

    The Walt Disney Company re-incorporated in Delaware.

  • March 24, 1987

    Euro Disneyland agreement signed in France.

  • March 28, 1987

    First Disney Store opens, in Glendale Galleria.

  • May 05, 1987

    First Disney Dollars sold at Disneyland.

  • September 21, 1987

    “DuckTales” released in syndication.

  • January 21, 1988

    The Wrather Corp. (including the Disneyland Hotel) is acquired.

  • February 02, 1988

    First filming done at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park.

  • May 26, 1988

    Childcraft is acquired.

  • June 21, 1988

    “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” released.

  • June 24, 1988

    Grand Floridian Beach Resort dedicated at Walt Disney World.

  • October 01, 1988

    Caribbean Beach Resort opens at Walt Disney World.

  • October 16, 1988

    First Disney/Soviet Film Festival opens.

  • December 02, 1988

    TV station KHJ acquired.

  • February 01, 1989

    Hollywood Pictures begins operations.

  • May 01, 1989

    Opening of Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park and Pleasure Island.

  • June 01, 1989

    Opening of Typhoon Lagoon.

  • July 17, 1989

    Splash Mountain opens at Disneyland.

  • September 01, 1989

    Disneyland welcomes 300,000,000th guest.

  • December 01, 1989

    KHJ-TV changes its call letters to KCAL-TV.

  • January 01, 1990

    Hollywood Records begins operation

  • July 18, 1990

    Release of Hollywood Pictures’ first film, “Arachnophobia.”

  • August 26, 1990

    Disneyland begins a 5-year sponsorship of the Pigskin Classic football game at Anaheim Stadium.

  • September 10, 1990

    Premiere of “The Disney Afternoon” syndicated TV programming.

  • November, 1990

    Yacht and Beach Club Resorts open at Walt Disney World.

  • May 06, 1991

    The Walt Disney Company joins the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

  • May 29, 1991

    100,000,000th guest welcomed at Tokyo Disneyland.

  • September 26, 1991

    Hyperion Books publishes its first book.

  • April 12, 1992

    Euro Disney opens.

  • October 10, 1992

    Approval of The Mighty Ducks hockey franchise by the NHL Board of Governors.

  • December 31, 1992

    Stopped operating the “Queen Mary” in Long Beach

  • June 30, 1993

    The Walt Disney Company acquires Miramax Film Corp.

  • October 08, 1993

    Inaugural Game of The Mighty Ducks vs. The Detroit Red Wings at The Anaheim Pond.

  • October 29, 1993

    “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” is released.

  • April 18, 1994

    "Beauty and the Beast" stage show opens on Broadway.

  • June 15, 1994

    Release of "The Lion King."

  • November 04, 1994

    The first Walt Disney Gallery opens at the MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana, California.

  • December 05, 1994

    Disney Interactive formed.

  • April 01, 1995

    Blizzard Beach opens at Walt Disney World

  • May 18, 1995

    Agreement to purchase 25% of the California Angels baseball team from Gene Autry.

  • July 31, 1995

    Agreement to purchase Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion

  • September, 1995

    Disney Online, a business unit of Disney Interactive, is founded.

  • October 01, 1995

    The Disney Channel begins operation in the UK.

  • October 02, 1995

    Michael Ovitz becomes President of The Walt Disney Company.

  • November 22, 1995

    Toy Story, the first animated feature film generated completed on computers, is released. Produced via partnership between Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.
  • January 04, 1996

    Stockholders approve Disney merger with Capital Cities/ABC.

  • January 27, 1996

    Inaugural race of the Indy Racing League Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway.

  • February 09, 1996

    Final FCC approval of and filing of merger documents for completion of the acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC.

  • February 09, 1996

    The Disney Institute opens at Walt Disney World.

  • February 22, 1996

    Disney Online launches Disney.com on the World Wide Web.

  • April 18, 1996

    Disney announced the purchase of Dream Quest Images, a visual-effects studio in Simi Valley, California.

  • June 18, 1996

    The Haber family is the first to move into their new home in Celebration, Florida.

  • July 17, 1996

    Disney announced plans for Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim, California.

  • November 18, 1996

    Debut of Radio Disney on the ABC Radio Networks.

  • November 25, 1996

    The Main Street Electrical Parade makes its final appearance at Disneyland.

  • March 28, 1997

    Disney’s Wide World of Sports baseball stadium at Walt Disney World opened to the public for the first time (Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds exhibition game).

  • March 31, 1997

    Disney Online introduces “Disney’s Daily Blast” website.

  • April 02, 1997

    Inauguration ceremony officially opened the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City.

  • June 01, 1997

    Lyric Street Records founded as a country music label.

  • September 15, 1997

    Downtown Disney West Side opens at Walt Disney World.

  • November 13, 1997

    “The Lion King” stage production opens on Broadway.

  • March 23, 1998

    “ESPN Magazine” debuts.

  • April 22, 1998

    Opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World.

  • June 19, 1998

    Release of “Mulan.”

  • June 19, 1998

    First Disney Quest opens at Downtown Disney West Side at Walt Disney World.

  • June 24, 1998

    600,000,000th guest welcomed at Walt Disney World.

  • July 12, 1998

    First ESPN Zone opens in Baltimore, MD.

  • July 30, 1998

    “Disney Magic” cruise ship departs on its inaugural cruise.

  • January 12, 1999

    Launch of “GO” Network.

  • January 15, 1999

    All-Star Movies Resort opens at Walt Disney World.

  • March 01, 1999

    Asia area opens at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

  • March 31, 1999

    Disney completes the purchase of the Anaheim Angels.

  • May 01, 1999

    “Mickey MouseWorks” debuts on television.

  • June 18, 1999

    “Tarzan” released.

  • August 06, 1999

    “The Sixth Sense” released, and becomes the company's highest-grossing live-action film.

  • August 15, 1999

    Maiden voyage of the “Disney Wonder.”

  • September 29, 1999

    Euro Disney announces plans for its second gate, The Disney Studios, to open in the Spring of 2002.

  • October 01, 1999

    Millennium Celebration begins at Epcot

  • November 18, 1999

    GO.com stock begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

  • November 24, 1999

    “Toy Story 2” opens with Disney’s highest weekend gross to date.

  • January 01, 2000

    “Fantasia/2000” is released in IMAX theaters.

  • March 23, 2000

    “Aida” opens on Broadway.

  • February 08, 2001

    Disney’s California Adventure opens.

  • April 16, 2001

    Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge opens.

  • May 25, 2001

    “Pearl Harbor” is released.

  • June 15, 2001

    “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” is released.

  • September 04, 2001

    Tokyo DisneySea opens.

  • October 24, 2001

    Fox Family Channel acquired and renamed ABC Family Channel.

  • November 02, 2001

    “Monsters, Inc.” released.

  • November, 2001

    The Baby Einstein Company acquired

  • December 05, 2001

    100th anniversary of Walt Disney’s birth

  • March 16, 2002

    Walt Disney Studios Park opens at Disneyland Paris.

  • June 21, 2002

    “Lilo & Stitch” is released.

  • August 2, 2002

    “Signs” is released.

  • November 27, 2002

    “Treasure Planet” is released.

  • May 22, 2003

    Disney sells the Anaheim Angels.

  • May 30, 2003

    “Finding Nemo” is released, becoming Disney’s highest grossing animated film to date.

  • July 09, 2003

    “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” is released, and became Disney’s highest-grossing live action film to date.

  • November 18, 2003

    Mickey Mouse celebrates his 75th anniversary with the unveiling of 75 Mickey statues at Walt Disney World.

  • December 14, 2003

    Pop Century Resort opens at Walt Disney World.

  • March 03, 2004

    Senator George J. Mitchell becomes Chairman of the Board of The Walt Disney Company.

  • April, 2004

    Disney acquires the Muppet properties and Bear in the Big Blue House.

  • September 22, 2004

    “Lost” debuts on ABC.

  • October 03, 2004

    “Desperate Housewives” debuts on ABC.

  • November 05, 2004

    “The Incredibles” is released.

  • November 21, 2004

    The Disney Stores North America acquired by The Children’s Place

  • February 25, 2005

    Disney sells The Mighty Ducks hockey team.

  • March 27, 2005

    “Grey’s Anatomy” debuts on ABC.

  • May 05, 2005

    “Happiest Celebration on Earth” begins at all Disney theme parks to honor 50 years of Disneyland.

  • June 15, 2005

    Adventures by Disney runs their first trip with paying guests.

  • September 12, 2005

    Hong Kong Disneyland opens.

  • October 01, 2005

    Robert A. Iger becomes Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company.

  • October 12, 2005

    Disney is first to license TV episodes, from ABC and Disney Channel series, for download on Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

  • November 04, 2005

    “Chicken Little” is released.

  • December 09, 2005

    “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is released.

  • January 20, 2006

    “High School Musical” airs and breaks all Disney Channel records, with its soundtrack going platinum.

  • February 09, 2006

    Oswald the Lucky Rabbit re-acquired from Universal.

  • March 14, 2006

    “High School Musical” is the first full-length movie to be sold via digital download, on Apple’s iTunes Music Store, followed by theatrical features in September.

  • March 24, 2006

    “Hannah Montana” debuts on Disney Channel.

  • May 05, 2006

    Disney purchases Pixar Animation Studios.

  • July 07, 2006

    “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is released.

  • September 12, 2006

    Disney feature films are made available on iTunes.

  • September 28, 2006

    “Ugly Betty” debuts on ABC.

  • October 01, 2006

    “The Year of a Million Dreams” begins at the Disney parks with special prizes for guests.

  • January 01, 2007

    John E. Pepper, Jr., becomes Chairman of the Board of The Walt Disney Company.

  • June 29, 2007

    “The Secret of the Magic Gourd,” the first Disney co-production in China, is released.

  • June 29, 2007

    “Ratatouille,” from Disney and Pixar, is released.

  • August 01, 2007

    Club Penguin is acquired.

  • August 17, 2007

    “High School Musical 2” set cable records on its premiere on Disney Channel.

  • October 16, 2007

    “Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert” begins sold-out tour to 69 cities.

  • November 03, 2007

    “The Little Mermaid” begins previews as a stage show on Broadway.

  • November 21, 2007

    “Enchanted” is released.

  • January 07, 2008

    Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park is renamed Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

  • February 01, 2008

    “Phineas and Ferb” debuts on Disney Channel after an August 2007 preview.

  • April 03, 2008

    The Disney Stores North America are re-acquired.

  • April 28, 2008

    “it’s a small world” opens at Hong Kong Disneyland.

  • May 31, 2008

    Toy Story Midway Mania! opens at Walt Disney World, before the June 17 opening at Disney California Adventure.

  • June 27, 2008

    “WALL•E,” from Disney and Pixar, is released.

  • July 03, 2008

    The first Mark VII Monorail (red) debuts at Disneyland.

  • October 2008

    First Disney-operated language training center, Disney English, opens in China.

  • October 28, 2008

    “Tinker Bell,” the first in a series of Disney Fairies films, is released.

  • January 01, 2009

    “What Will You Celebrate?” campaign begins at Disney parks

  • February 09, 2009

    Disney agrees to distribute live-action films produced by DreamWorks.

  • February 13, 2009

    Disney XD launches.

  • March 10, 2009

    D23: The Official Disney Fan Club launches.

  • April 22, 2009

    Disneynature label launched with release of “Earth.”

  • April 30, 2009

    Disney becomes an equity owner of Hulu.

  • May 29, 2009

    “Up,” from Disney and Pixar, is released, and would win two Oscars.

  • August 04, 2009

    Bay Lake Tower opens as part of Disney’s Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World.

  • September 10-13, 2009

    The first D23 Expo is held in Anaheim, California.

  • September 23, 2009

    A Disney Vacation Club addition opens at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland Resort.

  • October 01, 2009

    The Walt Disney Family Museum, operated by the Walt Disney Family Foundation, opens in San Francisco after a preview day on September 19.

  • October 29, 2009

    First Disney film locally produced in Russia – “Kniga Masterov” (The Book of Masters) – is released.

  • December 11, 2009

    “The Princess and the Frog” is released.

  • December 16, 2009

    Roy E. Disney dies.

  • December 31, 2009

    Disney’s acquisition of Marvel Entertainment is completed.

  • January 2010

    “Let the Memories Begin” campaign begins at Disney parks.

  • March 05, 2010

    “Alice in Wonderland “is released, it would go on to win two Oscars.

  • June 11, 2010

    “World of Color” premieres at Disney California Adventure Park.

  • June 18, 2010

    “Toy Story 3,” from Disney and Pixar, is released; it would win 2 Oscars and become the highest-grossing animated film of all time.

  • October 8, 2010

    The first live-action Hindi film released by Disney in India, “Do Dooni Chaar” (Two Times Two Equals Four), is released.

  • November 24, 2010

    “Tangled” is released.

  • December 2010

    Disney sells Miramax to an investor group.

  • January 26, 2011

    Maiden voyage of the “Disney Dream.”

  • February 18, 2011

    The first DreamWorks motion picture is released under the Touchstone banner (I Am Number Four).

  • April 07, 2011

    Official groundbreaking, Shanghai Disney Resort.

  • May 20, 2011

    “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is released.

  • June 24, 2011

    “Cars 2,” from Disney and Pixar, is released.

  • August 29, 2011

    Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa opens in west Oahu’s Ko Olina Resort & Marina.

  • October 23, 2011

    “Once Upon a Time” debuts on ABC.

  • March 01, 2012

    Maiden voyage of the “Disney Fantasy.”

  • March 13, 2012

    Bob Iger named Chairman of the Board of The Walt Disney Company, in addition to serving as corporate CEO.

  • March 23, 2012

    Disney Junior replaces SOAPnet on cable television.

  • March 29, 2012

    Opening night of “Newsies” on Broadway.

  • May 04, 2012

    “Marvel’s The Avengers” is released.

  • June 15, 2012

    Cars Land and Buena Vista Street debut at Disney California Adventure Park.

  • June 22, 2012

    “Brave,” from Disney and Pixar, is released.

  • September 08, 2012

    Grand opening of the first Disney Baby Store in Glendale, California.

  • October 30, 2012

    The Walt Disney Company announces its agreement to purchase Lucasfilm, Ltd.

  • November 02, 2012

    “Wreck-It Ralph” is released.

  • December 06, 2012

    New Fantasyland premieres in Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World.

  • December 21, 2012

    Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm is completed after the purchase agreement was announced October 30, 2012.

  • March 12, 2013

    Fantasy Faire opens at Disneyland Park with shows featuring “Beauty and the Beast” and “Tangled.”

  • April 05, 2013

    Disneynature “Wings of Life” premieres.

  • April 15, 2013

    Tokyo Disneyland’s 30th anniversary.

  • May 03, 2013

    “Iron Man 3,” from Marvel Studios, is released.

  • May 17, 2013

    Mystic Manor attraction opens in the new Mystic Point area at Hong Kong Disneyland.

  • June 21, 2013

    “Monsters University,” the prequel to “Monsters, Inc.”, premieres.

  • June 21, 2013

    “The Jungle Book” stage production opens at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

  • June 28, 2013

    Disney announces sale of Hyperion Books Adult Imprint to Hachette Book Group. Disney-Hyperion children’s imprint not affected by the sale.

  • June 28, 2013

    “Mickey Mouse,” cartoon series of 19 new 2D shorts rolls out on Disney Channel, Disney.com, and WATCH Disney Channel app.

  • July 03, 2013

    “The Lone Ranger” is released.

  • August 09, 2013

    “Planes,” from Disneytoon Studios, is released in 3D.

  • September 24, 2013

    “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” debuts on ABC.

  • October 12-14, 2013

    First international D23 Expo takes place in Japan.

  • October 23, 2013

    Fusion, the ABC-Univision cable network, launches.

  • November 08, 2013

    “Thor: The Dark World,” from Marvel Studios, is released.

  • November 19, 2013

    Diane Disney Miller dies.

  • November 27, 2013

    “Frozen” is released

  • December 12, 2013

    “Descendants” is released on Disney Channel

  • December 20, 2013

    “Saving Mr. Banks” is released

  • February 25, 2014

    Disney Movies Anywhere launches with iTunes

  • March 20, 2014

    “Aladdin” debuts on Broadway

  • March 31, 2014

    MyMagic+ is made available to all guests at the Walt Disney World Resort as part of the test and adjust process.

  • April 04, 2014

    “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” from Marvel Studios, is released

  • April 18, 2014

    The Disneynature film, “Bears,” narrated by John C. Reilly, premieres.

  • April 22, 2014

    50th anniversary of New York World’s Fair attractions.

  • May 28, 2014

    Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens in Magic Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World Resort.

  • May 30, 2014

    Premiere of “Maleficent.”

  • July 10, 2014

    “Ratatouille” attraction opens in Walt Disney Studios Park at the Disneyland Paris Resort

  • August 01, 2014

    “Guardians of the Galaxy,” from Marvel Studios, is released

  • November 07, 2014

    “Big Hero 6” is released

  • December 25, 2014

    “Into the Woods” is released

  • March 13, 2015

    “Cinderella” (live-action feature) is released

  • April 17, 2015

    The Disneynature film “Monkey Kingdom” premieres.

  • May 01, 2015

    “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” from Marvel Studios, is released

  • June 19, 2015

    “Inside Out,” from Disney and Pixar, is released.

  • July 17, 2015

    “Ant-Man” premieres.

  • July 17, 2015

    Disneyland celebrates its 60th anniversary.

  • August 14-16, 2015

    The fourth D23 Expo is held in Anaheim, CA.

  • August 15, 2015

    Star Wars” expansion announced for Disneyland Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

  • September 29, 2015

    Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World officially becomes Disney Springs

  • November 16, 2015

    Star Wars Launch Bay opens at Disneyland Park.
  • November 16, 2015

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens”-inspired scene added to Star Tours at Disneyland Park.

  • December 01, 2015

    Star Wars Launch Bay opens Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

  • December 18, 2015

    “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is released. It is the First Lucasfilm title released from The Walt Disney Company.

  • January 12, 2016

    ABC Family becomes Freeform

  • March 04, 2016

    “Zootopia” is released

  • April 14, 2016

    Official groundbreaking of the new “Star Wars”-themed lands is held at Disneyland Park.

  • April 15, 2016

    “The Jungle Book” (live-action feature) is released

  • April 28, 2016

    Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea development plans are announced with a target completion of 2020

  • May 06, 2016

    “Captain America: Civil War,” from Marvel Studios, is released

  • May 08 - 12, 2016

    2016 Invictus Games are held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World.

  • May 27, 2016

    Frozen—Live at the Hyperion” opens at Disney California Adventure Park.

  • May 27, 2016

    “Alice Through the Looking Glass” premieres.

  • June 16, 2016

    Grand Opening of Shanghai Disney Resort, in Shanghai, China.

  • June 17, 2016

    “Piper” premieres in front of “Finding Dory.”

  • June 17, 2016

    “Finding Dory” premieres.

  • June 17, 2016

    Soarin’ Around the World opens at Epcot and Disney California Adventure Park.

  • June 21, 2016

    Frozen Ever After opens at Epcot.

  • July 01, 2016

    “The BFG” premieres.

  • July 21, 2016

    “Elena of Avalor” television series debuts on Disney Channel and Disney Junior.

  • August 09, 2016

    Disney acquires stock in BAMTech.

  • August 12, 2016

    “Pete’s Dragon” (live-action) premieres.

  • September 04, 2016

    Tokyo DisneySea celebrates its 15th anniversary.

  • November 04, 2016

    “Doctor Strange,” from Marvel Studios, is released.

  • November 22, 2016

    Camp Woodchuck opens at Tokyo Disneyland.

  • November 22, 2016

    Hong Kong Disneyland announces plan for multi-year expansion with new attractions including two new areas based on Frozen and Marvel, debuting 2018-2023.

  • November 23, 2016

    “Moana” is released

  • December 16, 2016

    “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” from Lucasfilm, is released

  • January 11, 2017

    Iron Man Experience opens at Hong Kong Disneyland.

  • March 17, 2017

    “Beauty and the Beast” (live-action feature) is released.

  • April 12, 2017

    Disneyland Paris celebrates its 25th anniversary.

  • April 21, 2017

    The Disneynature film, “Born in China,” premieres.

  • May 05, 2017

    “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” from Marvel Studios is released

  • May 12, 2017

    Nemo & Friends SeaRider opens at Tokyo DisneySea.

  • May 26, 2017

    “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is released

  • May 27, 2017

    Grand Opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World

  • May 27, 2017

    Guardians of the Galaxy–Mission BREAKOUT! opens at Disney California Adventure Park.

  • July 14-16, 2017

    The fifth D23 Expo is held in Anaheim, California.

  • June 16, 2017

    “Cars 3,” from Disney and Pixar, is released

  • October 01, 2017

    Epcot celebrates its 35th anniversary.

  • November 03, 2017

    “Thor: Ragnarok” premieres.

  • November 17, 2017

    Star Tours show scenes added at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disneyland.

  • November 22, 2017

    The Academy Award winning film “Coco” premieres.

  • December 14, 2017

    The Walt Disney Company announces plans to purchase 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion.  Under the terms of the deal, this will include the key entertainment assets of the Twentieth Century Fox film studio and its subsidiaries, a stake in Hulu, FX Networks, Fox Sports (regional networks only), National Geographic Partners, and international operations Star TV and Sky pic.   

  • December 15, 2017

    “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is released.

  • January 22, 2018

    Minnie Mouse receives her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

  • February 16, 2018

    “Black Panther” premieres.

  • February 27, 2018

    Disneyland Paris expansion, with the addition of Marvel, Frozen, and Star Wars areas, announced.

  • March 09, 2018

    “A Wrinkle in Time” premieres.

  • March 11, 2018

    “American Idol” premieres on ABC.

  • March 22, 2018

    “Frozen” debuts on Broadway.

  • April 12, 2018

    ESPN+ launches.

  • April 15, 2018

    Tokyo Disney Resort celebrates its 35th anniversary, and it’s a small world gets an update.

  • April 26, 2018

    Toy Story Land opens at Shanghai Disney.

  • April 27, 2018

    The record-breaking “Avengers: Infinity War” premieres.

  • May 25, 2018

    “Solo: A Star Wars Story” premieres.

  • June 14, 2018

    Tokyo DisneySea expansion announced.

  • June 15, 2018

    “Incredibles 2” premieres.

  • June 23, 2018

    Pixar Pier opens at Disney California Adventure Park.

  • June 30, 2018

    Play Disney Parks app launches.

  • June 30, 2018

    Toy Story Land opens in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, after a star-studded dedication on June 29.

  • July 06, 2018

    “Ant-Man and The Wasp” premieres.

  • July 27, 2018

    Shareholders of The Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox approve the proposed acquisition.

  • July 30, 2018

    Stage A at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, is dedicated to Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.

  • August 03, 2018

    “Christopher Robin” premieres.

  • November 02, 2018

    “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” premieres.

  • November 08, 2018

    Disney’s new streaming service name, Disney+, is revealed.

  • November 16-18, 2018

    D23 hosts Destination D at the Walt Disney World Resort.

  • November 18, 2018

    Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse celebrate their 90th anniversary.

  • November 21, 2018

    “Ralph Breaks the Internet” premieres.

  • December 19, 2018

    “Mary Poppins Returns” premieres.

  • December 21, 2018

    The Tropical Hideaway opens at Disneyland Park.

  • January 29, 2019

    Kingdom Hearts III is released, worldwide.

  • February 15, 2019

    Disney Channel Original Movie “Kim Possible” debuts.

  • March 08, 2019

    “Captain Marvel” premieres.

  • March 10, 2019

    D23 celebrates its 10th anniversary.

  • March 20, 2019

    20th Century Fox acquisition is complete.

  • March 29, 2019

    The live-action “Dumbo” premieres.

  • March 31, 2019

    Ant-Man and The Wasp: Nano Battle! opens at Hong Kong Disneyland.

  • April 26, 2019

    “Avengers: Endgame” premieres.

  • May 24, 2019

    The live-action “Aladdin” (2019) premieres.

  • May 31, 2019

    Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland Park.

  • June 09, 2019

    Donald Duck celebrates 85th anniversary.

  • June 21, 2019

    “Toy Story 4” premieres.

  • July 09, 2019

    Gran Destino Tower opens as part of Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World.

  • July 19, 2019

    The live-action “The Lion King” (2019) premieres.

  • August 23-25, 2019

    D23 Expo is held in Anaheim, California.

  • August 29, 2019

    Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.

  • August 29, 2019

    Disney Skyliner opens at Walt Disney World.

  • October 18, 2019

    “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” premieres.

  • November 05, 2019

    “The Wonderful World of Disney presents The Little Mermaid Live!” airs on ABC.

  • November 12, 2019

    Disney+ streaming service debuts. Notable launch year titles include: “The Mandalorian,” “Lady and the Tramp” (live-action, 2019), “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” “The Imagineering Story,” and “Noelle.”

  • November 15, 2019

    “Ford v Ferrari” premieres.

  • November 22, 2019

    “Frozen 2” premieres.

  • December, 2019

    “Old Yeller” and “Sleeping Beauty” added to the National Film Registry.

  • December 05, 2019

    Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

  • December 16, 2019

    Disney’s Riviera Resort at Walt Disney World opens.

  • December 20, 2019

    “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” premieres.

  • January, 2020

    20th Century Fox film studio is renamed 20th Century Studios, and Fox Searchlight Pictures is renamed Searchlight Pictures.

  • January 17, 2020

    Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360, Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, and Awesome Planet films debut at EPCOT.

  • January 17, 2020

    Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park.

  • February 07, 2020

    “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” debuts on Disney+.

  • February 25, 2020

    Bob Chapek named Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, former CEO and Chairman Bob Iger becomes Executive Chairman.

  • March, 2020

    COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the U.S., leading to the temporary closure of Disney sites around the globe, including numerous Parks and Resorts locations for extended periods of time.

  • March 04, 2020

    Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.

  • March 06, 2020

    “Onward” premieres.

  • March 07, 2020

    “Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic “exhibit debuts at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California.

  • March 13, 2020

    “Stargirl” debuts on Disney+.

  • March 20, 2020

    “Mira, Royal Detective” debuts on Disney Junior.

  • April 03, 2020

    Star India’s Hotstar streaming service becomes Disney+ Hotstar.

  • April 03, 2020

    Disneynature’s “Elephant” and “Dolphin Reef” debut on Disney+.

  • April 16, 2020

    “The Disney Family Singalong” debuts on ABC. Volume II airs on 05/10/2020.

  • May 01, 2020

    “Prop Culture” debuts on Disney+.

  • June 12, 2020

    “Artemis Fowl” debuts on Disney+.

  • June 22, 2020

    Walt Disney Archives celebrates 50th anniversary.

  • June 27, 2020

    “Adventure Thru the Walt Disney Archives” documentary premieres online for D23 Gold Members.

  • July 03, 2020

    “Hamilton” debuts on Disney+

  • July 31, 2020

    “Black Is King”, a visual album written, directed, and executive produced by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, debuts on Disney+.

  • August 07, 2020

    “Howard” documentary debuts on Disney+.

  • August 14, 2020

    “Magic Camp” debuts on Disney+.

  • August 21, 2020

    “The One and Only Ivan” debuts on Disney+.

  • August 28, 2020

    “Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe” debuts on Disney+.

  • September 04, 2020

    “Mulan” (live-action) debuts on Disney+.

  • September 28, 2020

    A major expansion of Fantasyland opens at Tokyo Disneyland, including the Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast attraction and Minnie’s Style Studio, along with The Happy Ride with Baymax attraction in Tomorrowland.

  • October 23, 2020

    “Once Upon a Snowman” debuts on Disney+.

  • November 20, 2020

    Castle of Magical Dreams unveiled at Hong Kong Disneyland.

  • December 25, 2020

    “Soul” premieres on Disney+.

  • January 15, 2021

    “WandaVision” debuts on Disney+.

  • March 05, 2021

    “Raya and the Last Dragon” is released.

  • March 19, 2021

    Marvel Studios’ “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” premieres on Disney+.

  • April 30, 2021

    Snow White’s Enchanted Wish attraction debuts at Disneyland.

  • May 28, 2021

    “Cruella” premieres.

  • June 04, 2021

    Avengers Campus opens at Disney California Adventure Park.

  • June 09, 2021

    “Loki” series debuts on Disney+.

  • June 18, 2021

    “Luca” debuts on Disney+.

  • July 09, 2021

    “Black Widow” premieres.

  • July 30, 2021

    “Jungle Cruise” premieres.

  • August 11, 2021

    Marvel Studios’ “What If…?” debuts on Disney+.

  • September 03, 2021

    “Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres.

  • September 27, 2021

    Space 220 Restaurant opens at EPCOT.

  • September 29, 2021

    Harmonious nighttime spectacular previews before officially debuting on October 1st in EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort.

  • September 30, 2021

    Disney Enchantment nighttime spectacular previews before officially debuting on October 1st in Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort.

  • October 01, 2021

    Walt Disney World Resort celebrates 50th anniversary.

  • October 01, 2021

    Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens at EPCOT.

  • October 08, 2021

    “Muppets Haunted Mansion” debuts on Disney+.

  • November 05, 2021

    Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” premieres.

  • November 12, 2021

    “Home Sweet Home Alone” debuts on Disney+.

  • November 24, 2021

    “Encanto” premieres.

  • November 24, 2021

    Marvel Studios’ “Hawkeye” debuts on Disney+.

  • December 10, 2021

    “West Side Story” premieres.

  • December 11, 2021

    CookieAnn Bakery Café opens along Mickey Avenue at Shanghai Disneyland.

  • December 29, 2021

    “The Book of Boba Fett” series debuts on Disney+.

  • December 31, 2021

    Susan E. Arnold becomes Chairman of the Board of The Walt Disney Company.

  • February 16, 2022

    Storyliving by Disney neighborhood communities announced. The first location, Cotino, a Storyliving by Disney community, is planned for the heart of the Coachella Valley in Rancho Mirage, California.

  • February 23, 2022

    “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder” debuts on Disney+.

  • March 01, 2022

    Inaugural voyage of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser departs from Walt Disney World Resort.

  • March 11, 2022

    Disney and Pixar’s “Turning Red” debuts on Disney+.

  • March 18, 2022

    “Cheaper by the Dozen” (2022) debuts on Disney+.

  • March 30, 2022

    Marvel Studios’ “Moon Knight” debuts on Disney+.

  • April 05, 2022

    Toy Story Hotel opens at Tokyo Disney Resort.

  • April 12, 2022

    Disneyland Paris celebrates its 30th anniversary.

  • April 22, 2022

    Disneynature’s “Polar Bear” debuts on Disney+.

  • May 06, 2022

    “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres.

  • May 20, 2022

    “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” debuts on Disney+.

  • May 25, 2022

    “Obi-Wan Kenobi” debuts on Disney+.

  • May 27, 2022

    “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” from 20th Century Studios premieres.

  • May 27, 2022

    Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction opens at EPCOT.

  • June 03, 2022

    “Hollywood Stargirl” debuts on Disney+.

  • June 08, 2022

    “Ms. Marvel” debuts on Disney+.

  • June 17, 2022

    Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear” premieres.

  • June 17, 2022

    Disneyland Resort celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Main Street Electrical Parade.

  • June 24, 2022

    “Rise” debuts on Disney+.

  • June 29, 2022

    “Disney Wish” cruise ship is christened in Port Canaveral, Florida.

  • July 08, 2022

    “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres.

  • July 14, 2022

    Maiden voyage of “Disney Wish” cruise ship.

  • July 20, 2022

    Marvel Avengers Campus opens at Disneyland Paris.