The Walt Disney Company: The Art Of Brand Building Keeps Disney Center Stage

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The Walt Disney Company has evolved from a wholesome family-oriented entertainment company into a massive multimedia conglomerate. Not only is Disney a producer of media but it also distributes its and others’ media products through a variety of channels, operates theme parks and resorts, and produces, sells, and licenses consumer products based on Disney characters and other intellectual property. CEO Michael Eisner has been instrumental in many of these changes. How can such extensive changes occur while trying to maintain the Disney brand?

Disney Through the Years

After his first film business failed, artist Walt Disney and his brother Roy started a film studio in Hollywood in 1923. The first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy, was completed in 1928. Steamboat Willie, the first cartoon with a soundtrack, was the third production. The studio’s first animated feature film was Snow White in 1937, followed by Fantasia and Pinocchio in the 1940s. Disneyland, the theme park developed largely by Walt, opened in 1955 in Anaheim, California. The television series, the Mickey Mouse Club, was produced from 1955 to 1959, and the Disney weekly television series (under different names, including The Wonderful World of Disney) ran for 29 straight years. (1)

Walt Disney died in 1966 of lung cancer. Disney World in Orlando, Florida, opened in 1971, the same year that Roy Disney died. His son, Roy E., took over the organization. However, the creative leadership of brothers Walt and Roy Disney was noticeably absent. Walt’s son-in-law, Ron Miller, became president in 1980. Many industry watchers felt that Disney had lost its creative energy and sense of direction because of lackluster corporate leadership and nepotism. In 1984, the Bass fam...

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...y,” Academy of Achievement Lobby,

4. Oneal, Michael. “Disney’s Kingdom,” Business Week, August 14, 1995: 30-34.

5. Lubove, Seth and La Franco, Robert. “Why Mickey isn’t doing much talking these days,” Forbes, 8-25-97: 45-46.

6. “Disney,” Value Line Investment Survey, 1998.

7. Gunther, Marc. “What’s Wrong with This Picture?” Fortune, January 12, 1998: 106-114.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. The Walt Disney Company Fact Book 2000: 44.

11. The Walt Disney Company Fact Book 2002: 7.

12. Shlachter, Barry and Fuquay, Jim. “Disney Holds Annual Shareholders Meeting in Fort Worth, Texas,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March7, 2001.

13. Fact Book 2002: op. cit., 7.

14. Fact Book 2002, op. cit., 19.

15. Fact Book 2002, op. cit., 26.

16. Fact Book 2002, op. cit., 38.

17. The Walt Disney Company Annual Report 2002: 3.

18. Ibid.

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