Walt disney

The History of the Walt Disney Company

  • Marriage of Elias and Flora Disney

    Elias Disney marries Flora Call, having five children including Walt and Roy Disney.
  • Birth of Roy O. Disney

    Roy O. Disney is born.
  • Birth of Walt Disney

    Walt Disney is born.
  • Beginnings of Walt's Dream

    The Disney family move to a farm in Marceline, Missouri. Walt finds a love for drawing.
  • Kansas City

    The family move to Kansas City, where Walt meets Walter Pfeiffer, who introduces him to the world of films.
  • The Red Cross

    After dropping out of school, Walt joined the Red Cross and became an ambulance driver to help clear up the aftermath of World War I
  • Walt and Ub

    Walt works at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio where he meets Ub Iwerks, a fellow cartoonist.
  • The Laugh-O-Grams

    Walt and Ub formed the Laugh-O-Gram Studio, creating several short cartoons called the "Laugh-O-Grams". The company went bankrupt in 1923.
  • Walt, Roy and Alice

    Deciding to go to Hollywood to open an animation studio, Walt recruits Roy to accompany him. They, along with Ub and other animators, form a small studio and make the Alice Comedies, combining live action with animation. They form a partnership with Margaret Winkler to make the comedies.
  • The Company is Founded

    The Disney Brothers' Studio is officially founded. Walt handles the imaginative side, whilst Roy deals with the business side.
  • Walt and Lillian

    Walt marries Lillian Bounds, a staff member of his company.
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

    Walt and Ub create their first major cartoon character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who stars in over twenty cartoons.
  • Charles Mintz

    Walt travelled to New York to renew his contract with Winkle's husband Charles Mintz, but learnt that Mintz had taken the copyrights to Oswald and secretly hired all of his animators save Ub to work for him. Disheartened, Walt had no choice but to let Oswald go - leading the character to spend many years in limbo.
  • Mickey Mouse

    Walt and Ub designed a new character to replace Oswald - Mickey Mouse. Mickey debuted originally in Plane Crazy, but Steamboat Willie was released beforehand, being one of the first cartoons to feature sound. Minnie Mouse and Pete all made their first debuts.
  • The Silly Symphonies

    Disney continued to release a number of musical cartoons called the Silly Symphonies, most notably, The Skeleton Dance.
  • Ub Leaves

    Ub leaves Disney to follow his own career, making several of the Looney Tunes cartoons.
  • Pluto

    Pluto debuts in The Chain Gang, a cartoon known for its uneven quality because of Ub's departure.
  • Walt and Mickey

    Walt wins his first Academy Award for the creation of Mickey.
  • Goofy

    Goofy debuts in Mickey's Revue.
  • Flowers and Trees

    Flowers and Trees is released and is praised for its unique use of colour and music.
  • Three Little Pigs

    The Three Little Pigs is released.
  • Diane Disney

    After several miscarriages, Walt and Lillian have their first child, Diane.
  • Donald Duck

    Donald Duck debuts in The Wise Little Hen.
  • Disney's Nine Old Men

    By this point in the company's history, the nine animating legends had joined Disney - later to be known as Disney's Nine Old Men. They include Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, John Lounsbery, Eric Larson and Wolfgang Reitherman.
  • Sharon Mae Disney

    Unable to have children, Walt and Lillian decide to adopt a child. Namely Sharon Mae Disney.
  • The Old Mill

    The Old Mill is released in cinemas.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

    Considered Walt's folly even by his own family, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs makes its premiere at the Carthay Circle Theatre in LA. Being the first feature-length animated feature in America, the film received a standing ovation, was the highest grossing film of 1937, and Walt received an Academy Award as well as seven miniature ones as a bonus.
  • Flora Passes Away

    Flora and Elias moved into a new home near the studio, but due to problems with the gas furnance, Flora succumbed to the fumes and died.
  • Burbank, California

    The studios move to Burbank, California.
  • Pinocchio

    Pinocchio is released in cinemas, introducing Jiminy Cricket to the world and the company's unofficial theme song "When You Wish Upon A Star". However, due to the ongoing recession in America and the loss of European revenues to World War II, the film suffered at the box office.
  • Fantasia

    Fantasia is released. An ambitious but popular film consisting of nothing but music and animation. However, like Pinocchio, it struggled at the box office.
  • Animators' Strike

    Due to the rise of labour unions in the 1930s, Walt had to start cutting back wages for his animators. Eventually, the leader the Screen Cartoonists' Guild, Herbert Sorrell, and disgruntled animator Art Babbitt started an animators strike which lasted five weeks. Walt's view of all of his employees being a big family was shattered and numerous animators were either fired or left.
  • Elias Passes Away

    Whilst Walt and his family tour Latin America, Walt learns from Roy that his father Elias has died.
  • Dumbo

    Dumbo is released in cinemas, surviving the animators strike.
  • Bambi

    Bambi is released. It suffered in the box office but is one of Disney's most popular films. Best known for the shooting of Bambi's mother.
  • Saludos Amigos

    Saludos Amigos is released.
  • The Three Caballeros

    The Three Caballeros, featuring Donald Duck, is released.
  • Song of the South

    Song of the South, one of Disney's first live-action/animated films is released. However, due to the controversy which has sparked up in recent years, the film has never had a re-release in America. This was also Bobby Driscoll's first involvement in a Disney movie.
  • True Life Adventures

    True Life Adventures, a series of live action documentaries, was first released starting with "Seal Island".
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

    The two-story film, focusing on the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Wind in the Willows, is released.
  • Cinderella

    Cinderella is released.
  • Treasure Island

    Treasure Island, Disney's first full live action film, is released.
  • Alice in Wonderland

    Alice in Wonderland is released, a truly wacky and psychadelic film which completed Walt's original idea to make the Alice Comedies into a movie.
  • WED Enterprises

    The WED Enterprises is formed for Walt's most ambitious project - Disneyland.
  • Peter Pan

    Peter Pan is released. Kathryn Beaumont, who voiced Alice, played Wendy, whilst Bobby Driscoll played Peter Pan. This was the last film that all of the Nine Old Men worked on together.
  • Diane and Ron

    Diane marries Ron Miller.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is released. Props in the film wound end up popping up in the Haunted Mansion rides and film.
  • Disney and ABC

    Walt makes a deal with ABC’s investors to give them 30% revenue from Disneyland in exchange for money to actually build it.
  • Lady and the Tramp

    The ever popular Lady and the Tramp was released.
  • Disneyland Opens

    Disneyland in Anaheim, California opens, with the opening ceremony covered by ABC. The day was a near disaster – the temperature was high, too many guests were in the park due to phony ticket sales, rides broke down and a gas leak caused half the park to close. It has since become the most popular amusement park in the world.
  • The Mickey Mouse Club

    The Mickey Mouse Club begins.
  • Sleeping Beauty

    Sleeping Beauty is released. Marc Davis and the great Chuck Jones helped animate the film.
  • CAL Arts

    California Institute of Arts, or CAL Arts, is opened. Many of Disney's future animators attended the institute.
  • 101 Dalmatians

    101 Dalmatians is released.
  • The Sword in the Stone

    The Sword in the Stone is released. The Sherman Brothers made their first contribution to Disney.
  • The New York World's Fair

    Disney wows audiences with their new technology including an audio-animatronic of Abraham Lincoln.
  • Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, is released. The film is one of Disney's most popular films.

    Walt unveiled his biggest dream - a futuristic city named EPCOT. It would eventually become a part of Walt Disney World.
  • The End of An Era

    Whilst having an operation, surgeons discovered Walt had a tumour in his lungs and he would die from cancer.
  • The Death of Walt Disney

    After collapsing at home, Walt went to hospital. Just ten days after his 65th birthday, Walt passed away at 9:30am with his brother at the foot of his bed.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean

    Pirates of the Caribbean opens at Disneyland.
  • The Jungle Book

    The Jungle Book was released, and is another popular film. It was the last film Walt had worked on.
  • The Haunted Mansion

    The Haunted Mansion opens in Disneyland after several years of being closed off from the public.
  • The Aristocats

    The Aristocats is released.
  • Death of Ub Iwerks

    Ub Iwerks passes away, leaving behind his son who'd go onto to make several documentaries around the company.
  • Walt Disney World

    Roy opens Walt Disney World.
  • The Death of Roy O. Disney

    With the death of Walt and Ub, Roy passed away as well, bringing an end to the original founders of the company.
  • Robin Hood

    Robin Hood is released. Due to the low budget, artists referenced footage from other animated films to animate the dance scene.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

    Winnie the Pooh becomes a popular Disney face. The film is comprised of three animated shorts - Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. Numerous other films and a TV show are released in the following years.
  • The Rescuers

    The Rescuers is released. It would later become infamous for a one-frame image of a half-naked woman, which was removed in later edits.
  • Roy Calls It Quits

    Roy E. Disney, Walt's nephew, quits the company under the belief it is being ruined.
  • The Graphics Group

    The Graphics Group, an early form of Pixar, is formed under LucasFilms. Ed Catmull is hired.
  • Don Bluth

    Don Bluth, a long-time animator for Disney, leaves the company with sixteen other animators to form his own company. This was a major blow to the animation department.
  • The Fox and the Hound

    The Fox and the Hound is released. Members of the Nine Old Men, along with newer animators - John Lasseter, John Musker, Ron Clements, Glen Keane, Tim Burton and Brad Bird - help develop the film. All of these new animators would go on to contribute to Disney, particularly in the 1990s and 2000s.
  • Tron

    Tron is released. An ambitious film containing then state-of-the-art computer effects which could inspire John Lasseter to make computer-animated films.
  • Tokyo Disneyland

    Tokyo Disneyland is opened in Japan by Card Walker.
  • The Beginning of A New Era

    Saul Seinsberg attempts to buy out Disney. However, Roy returns to the company to save it, accompanied by Stanley Gold. Ron Miller steps down as chairman. Roy hires Michael Eisner and Frank Wells to run the company. Eisner hires Jeffrey Katzenberg to revive the studio. Katzenberg's decisions were met with controversy at times.
  • The Black Cauldron

    The Black Cauldron is released. It has a long and difficult development.
  • The Gummi Bears

    The Gummi Bears airs on television. It is the first animated series created by Disney.
  • Pixar

    After being fired from Disney, Lasseter met Catmull and was hired as part of the Graphic Group. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, visited the group and joined them, created Pixar Animation Studios.
  • The Great Mouse Detective

    The Great Mouse Detective is released. Originally called Basil of Baker Street, the name was changed by studio executive Peter Schneider. Ed Gombert sent a fake memo around the studio in Peter's name, saying all of the classic films were to be renamed to simpler titles. Peter was infuriated by this but gathered the animation staff together and formed a better relationship. He would go on to make the deal between Disney and Pixar, and retired from Disney in 1999 to form a theatre group.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit

    The highly ambitious Who Framed Roger Rabbit is released, involving the biggest collaboration of Hollywood's animation studios. Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny appeared together for the first and only time on screen.
  • Oliver & Company

    Oliver & Company is released. It did well at the box office, released on the same day as Don Bluth's The Land Before Time.
  • The Little Mermaid

    The Disney Renaissance begins with the release of The Little Mermaid. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were hired to write the songs. The idea of the film was developed as early as the 1930s. The Little Mermaid was the last Disney film to use the traditional hand-painted cel method of animation.
  • Jim Henson

    Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets, passes away. The attempted deal to hand the Muppets over to Disney falls through.
  • The Rescuers Down Under

    The Rescuers Down Under is released. It is the first official sequel to a Disney animated film. The film utilises CAPS, a computer-based production system intended to help animate difficult scenes for animators, built by Pixar, who had been slowly become rising stars.
  • Howard Ashman

    Diagnosed with AIDS, Howard is hospitalised in New York. After the press unveiling of Beauty and the Beast, Don Hahn, Jeffrey Katzenberg and other animators visited Howard in hospital for the last time. Don Hahn told Howard that the film was going to be a great success with a quip of "Who'd have thought it?" Howard replied with "I would." Howard died shortly after and was honoured at the end of Beauty and the Beast in memoriam.
  • Beauty and the Beast

    Beauty and the Beast is released. Another film initially conceptualised by Walt in the 1930s. CAPS was used to help animate the infamous ballroom scene. The film was a great success and is the only animated film to be nomiated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
  • Disneyland Paris

    Disneyland Paris opens in France.
  • Aladdin

    Aladdin is released. Robin Williams ad-libbed most of his lines as the Genie, but due to marketing disagreements, he quit the role in the film's direct-to-video sequel Return of Jafar. However, after the studio made a public apology, Robin returned to the role in the third film The King of Thieves.
  • Sharon Disney

    Sharon dies from cancer.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas

    Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas is released.
  • Frank Wells' Death

    Frank Wells dies in a helicopter crash.
  • The Lion King

    The Lion King is released with music by Tim Rice and Elton John. It gained a Broadway musical directed by Julie Taymore, and two direct-to-video sequels.
  • Jeffrey Katzenberg Leaves

    After a falling out with Eisner, Katzenberg quits Disney and forms Dreamworks with Steven Spielberg.
  • Pocahontas

    Pocahontas is released.
  • Toy Story

    Toy Story is released, developed by Pixar and Disney. It is the first full-length computer animated film.
  • Disney and Studio Ghibli

    Disney makes a deal with Tokuma Shoten to dub Studio Ghibli's films.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame

    The Hunchback of Notre Dame is released. While much of the adult themes of the original book were removed, the film is still very dark and adult.
  • Hercules

    Hercules is released. Each character had a supervising animator, a first for the studio.
  • Lillian Disney

    Lillian passes away.
  • A Bug's Life

    A Bug's Life is released.
  • Mulan

    Mulan is released.
  • Tarzan

    Tarzan is released. It was the last film of the Disney Renaissance. The music was written by Phil Collins.
  • Toy Story 2

    Toy Story 2 is released, being more successful then its predecessor.
  • Marc Davis

    Marc Davis passes away.
  • Fantasia 2000

    Fantasia 2000, a spiritual sequel to Fantasia, is released.
  • The Emperor's New Groove

    The Emperor's New Groove is released. It had a long, shaky production similar to The Black Cauldron. Music was done by Tom Jones and Sting.
  • Monsters, Inc.

    Pixar releases Monsters, Inc.
  • Kingdom Hearts

    Thanks to a coincidental meeting between a Disney executive and a Square Enix executive, Kingdom Hearts was created by Tetsuya Nomura and released on the Playstation 2.
  • Lilo & Stitch

    Lilo & Stitch is released. The writer/director Chris Sanders created Stitch in 1985, and provided his voice too. The film gained a TV series and several sequels.
  • Glenn McQueen

    Pixar animator Glenn McQueen dies from melamona. Finding Nemo and the character Lightning McQueen are dedicated to him.
  • Treasure Planet

    Treasure Planet is released. It took four and a half years to develop. It is the third Treasure Island adaptation done by Disney, following the 1950s film and Muppet Treasure Island, released in the 1990s.
  • Finding Nemo

    Finding Nemo is released, directed by Andrew Stanton.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Movie

    Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is released. Captain Jack Sparrow becomes a breakout character. The film gains three sequels and revives the pirate thriller genre.
  • Brother Bear

    Brother Bear is released. Phil Collins wrote the songs.
  • Roy vs. Eisner

    Roy and Stanley Gold leave the company again in an attempt to remove Eisner from the position of CEO.
  • Disney and the Muppets

    Disney buys the Muppets.
  • Home On the Range

    Home On the Range is released.
  • The Incredibles

    Brad Bird's The Incredibles is released by Pixar.
  • Roy Strikes Back

    In a shocking development, Eisner declared that Disney would focus only on computer animated films, closing down the animation department and laid off most of the animation staff. Roy returned and led the board to fire Eisner.
  • Roy Returns

    Roy returns to the company as a consultant.
  • Joe Ranft

    Joe Ranft, a Disney/Pixar animator, dies in a car crash. Cars is dedicated to him.
  • Hong Kong Disneyland

    Hong Kong Disneyland is opened in China.
  • Robert Iger

    Robert Iger becomes CEO.
  • Chicken Little

    Chicken Little is released.
  • Disney and Pixar

    Disney acquires Pixar, with Steve Jobs becoming the biggest shareholder of the company, Ed Catmull becoming President of the Walt Disney Animation Studios, and John Lasseter becoming Chief Creative Officer and chief adviser to Walt Disney Imagineering.
  • Oswald Is Saved

    Robert Iger makes a deal with Universal to get Oswald the Lucky Rabbit back where he belongs.
  • Cars

    Cars is released.
  • Ratatouille

    Ratatouille is released.
  • Ollie Johnston

    Ollie Johnston, the last of the Nine Old Men, passes away.
  • WALL-E

    WALL-E is released.
  • Bolt

    Bolt is released.
  • Up

    The highly successful Up is released.
  • The Princess and the Frog

    The Princess and the Frog is released, featuring the first black Disney Princess.
  • Roy's Final Departure

    Roy E. Disney passes away from stomach cancer.
  • Disney Buys Marvel

    Disney buys Marvel Comics.
  • Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

    Tim Burton releases the live action Alice in Wonderland.
  • Toy Story 3

    Toy Story 3 is released, completing the trilogy.
  • Tangled

    Tangled is released.
  • Tron Legacy

    Tron Legacy is released twenty-five years after the first.
  • Winnie the Pooh

    Winnie the Pooh is released.
  • Cars 2

    Cars 2 is released.
  • The Muppets

    Jason Segal's efforts retun The Muppets to cinemas for the first time in over ten years.
  • The Avengers

    The highly anticipated Avengers is released after building up since 2008.
  • Brave

    Brave, featuring Pixar's first heroine, is released.
  • Tim Burton's Frankenweenie

    Tim Burton releases his own remake of Frankenweenie.
  • Star Wars

    Disney buys Lucasfilms, including Star Wars, announcing plans to make three more films.
  • Wreck-It-Ralph

    Wreck-It-Ralph is released.
  • Oz the Great and Powerful

    Oz the Great and Powerful is released, acting as a prequel of sorts to MGM's 1939 film. It is the third Oz-related film that Disney has released.
  • Monsters University

    Monsters University, a prequel to Monsters, Inc. is released.
  • Planes

    Planes, a spin-off of Cars, is released.
  • Frozen

    Frozen is released, based on The Snow Queen.
  • Saving Mr. Banks

    Saving Mr. Banks, based on the events surrounding the development of Mary Poppins, is released. Tom Hanks stars as Walt Disney.
  • Muppets Most Wanted

    Muppets Most Wanted is released.
  • The Good Dinosaur

    The Good Dinosaur is released.
  • Maleficent

    Maleficent, a live action prequel to Sleeping Beauty focusing on the character Maleficent, is released.
  • Big Hero 6

    Big Hero 6, Disney's first animated film based on Marvel Comics property, is released.