This week marks the 100th anniversary of Disney, the animation studio that began life entertaining the young (and young at heart), but is now an multinational entertainment empire.
Disney is a commercial juggernaut, expanding beyond kids films into TV, theme parks, cruise ships, and much more — there's hardly a section of the entertainment industry that doesn't have ties to the Walt Disney Company in one form or another.
But that wasn't always the case.
Disney Studios got its start with animators and producers Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, his brother Roy Disney in finance and his team of cartoonists/animators, Ham Hamilton, Hugh Harman and Rudi Ising. (Getty) (Photo12/Collection 7e Art, Photo 12)
The Walt Disney Company had humble beginnings, first starting as a business venture between Walt Disney and his financier brother Roy, which they named The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in 1923.
Disney had worked as a cartoonist for some time before, and he had his own company Laugh-O-Gram Studio but it went bankrupt in 1923 which led to him moving to Los Angeles where his brother was living — together with producer Ub Iwerks they began their company.
In LA, Disney was successful in selling his first short film, Alice's Wonderland, and he also managed to get a deal for six more films and in order to make the films, Disney needed a company to produce them: and so began the story of the The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio.
Mickey Mouse first appeared in the short film Steamboat Willie in 1928 (Everett Collection) (©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection, Everett Collection Inc)
The company first began working on the with Alice comedies and a series of cartoons centred on a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which he ended up losing the rights to in a surprising turn of events. But, after that came his most beloved and memorable creation — the one that would change everything: Mickey Mouse.
Mickey first appeared in the short film Steamboat Willie in 1928, and Disney even voiced him in the beginning. The character became the centre of a number of short films which began to gain popularity at a staggering rate and this convinced the cartoonist to make his first feature film.
The first Walt Disney feature length cartoon was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, which became a huge success and put the company on the map (Disney) (Pictorial Press, Pictorial Press Ltd)
The first feature-length Disney film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which went 400% over budget and required the work of 300 animators to complete. But it proved to be worth the effort as it became a huge success when it was released 1937.
Thus the company became a huge success, and from then on Disney began producing more and more films to wow audiences such as Fantasia, Bambi, and Cinderella, the latter of which was the most successful financially for the studio after Snow White and was widely considered a return to form for the studio in 1950.
Disney produced both animated and live action films, and the studio also veered towards opening theme parks like Disneyland in 1955(Alamy) (McClatchy-Tribune, Tribune Content Agency LLC)
Disney produced both animated and live action films, including the critically-acclaimed Mary Poppins in 1964, and the studio also veered towards opening theme parks like Disneyland.
The company was officially renamed The Walt Disney Company in 1986, twenty years after Disney's death at the age of 65 from lung cancer.
Statista marks 100 Years of Disney with a helpful chart of key events (Statista)
Although Disney died his legacy lived on through the studio, which has continued to grow and grow both in terms of movie releases and acquisitions of other companies. While the company also launched its own streaming platform, Disney+, in 2019.
With its touching stories, stunning animations, and the big blockbuster live-actions produced by its umbrella corporations, it is no wonder the studio has had such an enduring legacy, and it is likely to keep going — perhaps for another hundred years.