Walt Disney Essay

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The Walt Disney Company was founded in 1923 as an animation studio by two brothers—Walt Disney and Roy Oliver Disney. It was originally called Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. However, in 1926, the name was changed to the Walt Disney Studio, which was later changed to Walt Disney Productions in 1929. The company name was again changed in 1986 to Walt Disney Company. As of 2007 Walt Disney had a total workforce of 137,000 employees and total revenue of US$35.51 billion. It is one the three largest entertainment companies in the world, the two others being Time Warner and News Corporation.

Although it started as an animation studio, today the Walt Disney Company is a diversified global corporation operating in four business segments—Studio Entertainment, Parks and Resorts, Consumer Products, and Media Networks. Each of the segments has multiple divisions and subdivisions. The Studio Entertainment unit is called the Walt Disney Studios and comprises Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Disney Theatrical Productions, and Disney Music Group. The Studio Entertainment business is the foundation on which the Walt Disney empire has been created.

The Parks and Resorts business started in 1952, when work on Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, started. As of 2008, Walt Disney has 11 theme parks in five resort locations, two of which are in the United States (Anaheim, California, and Lake Buena Vista, Florida), and the other three in Japan, France, and Hong Kong. The Parks and Resorts segment also operates a cruise line, guided travel around the world, and eight Disney vacation clubs, which have more than 100,000 members.

Disney Consumer Products is the merchandising arm of Walt Disney and comprises Disney Consumer Products and Affiliates (DCP), Disney Publishing Worldwide (DPW), Disney Interactive Studios, and dineyshopping.com, the official online portal of Walt Disney. The DCP division itself comprises Disney Toys, Disney Apparel, Accessories & Footwear, Disney Food, Health & Beauty, Disney Home, and Disney Stationery. The DPW division is the world’s largest publisher of children’s books and magazines. The Media Networks segment comprises some of the newer segments in which Walt Disney has made an entry. Three main divisions in the fold of Media Networks are Disney-ABC Television Group, ESPN, and the Walt Disney Internet Group. In addition, this segment also performs the marketing, research, and communication-related functions for the company.

Since its inception in 1923, Walt Disney has had only seven chief executive officers (CEOs), resulting in stability and continuity in decision making. For the first 50 years, the company was run by Walt Disney and his elder brother Roy O. Disney. After both Disney brothers died, the company has been run by a team of highly professional managers, even though Roy O. Disney’s son Roy E. Disney has been a major shareholder and an important person for the company. He led two campaigns against the top management, first in 1984 and the second in 2004. Roy E. Disney was critical of the management style of the CEO, which led to the CEO resigning in both cases.

Walt Disney has several milestones to its credit including the only nomination that an animated movie—Beauty and the Beast—has received for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Part of the reason for the outstanding success of Walt Disney can be attributed to a very careful strategy of diversification into businesses that derive their competitive advantages from each other. Walt Disney started diversification as early as the 1930s, when it started the Mickey Mouse Club. Over the years, the Disney brand name has become synonymous with animation-related entertainment. Walt Disney not only uses its corporate image across all the affiliated businesses, but also makes sure that the success achieved in any segment is replicated across all other segments. It has also pursued a very careful acquisition strategy, focusing on firms that complement its existing line of businesses. Although there has been some criticism of Walt Disney’s acquisition of ABC Television Network, having a control over the distribution channel for its product was a very logical step for Walt Disney. The synergy that Walt Disney has achieved through such integrated diversification efforts has been difficult for competitors to imitate.


  1. Michael Barrier, The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney (University of California Press, 2007);
  2. Valerie Bodden, The Story of Disney (Creative Education, 2009);
  3. James B. Stewart, Disney War (Simon & Schuster, 2006);
  4. P. Telotte, The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology (University of Illinois Press, 2008);
  5. Walt Disney Company, corporate.disney.go.com (cited March 2009).

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