Disney Conpany,in fullthe Walt Disney Company,formerly (1929–86)Walt Disney Productions, American corporation that was the best-known purveyor of family entertainment in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Walt Disneybegan his career in animation with the Kansas City Film Ad Company inMissouriin 1920. Disney and his friendUb iwerks, a giftedanimator, founded the Laugh-O-gram Films studio inKansas City in 1922 and began producing cartoons based on fables and fairy tales. Joining Disney and Iwerks in theenterprise were noted animators such as Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, and Isadore Freleng.
In 1923, Disney produced Alice in Cartoonland, afilmcombined with both live action and animation . Within weeks of its completion, Disney filed for bankruptcy and left Kansas City to establish himself inHollywood as a cinematographer.Alice in Cartoonlandbecame a surprise hit, and orders from distributors for more Alice films compelled Disney to reopen shop in Hollywood . The Kansas City team soon joined the Disneys inCalifornia, and the company produced Alice films for the next four years.
Disney began his first series of fully animated films in 1927 , featuring the character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. When his distributor appropriated the rights to the character, he altered Oswald’s appearance and created a new character named Mortimer Mouse; at the urging of his wife, Disney renamed himMickey Mouse. Two Mickey Mouse cartoons—Plane Crazy(1928) andGallopin’ Gaucho(1928)—were produced before Disney employed the novelty of sound for the third Mickey production,Steamboat Willie(1928), was the first Mickeycartoon released. The film led to the studio’s dominance in the animated market for many years.
In 1941, Disney suffered a major setback when the studio’s animators went on a strikefor three months. Disney took the action personally, which compelled many of the studio's top animators to resign. The studio produced little on the level ofPinocchioorDumbofor the next decade, concentrating instead on short cartoons, nature documentaries, and features that combined live action and animation such asThe Three Caballeros(1945) andSong of the South(1946). The feature-length cartoonsCinderella(1950),Alice in Wonderland(1951), andPeter Pan(1953) were considered fine efforts, but many felt they lacked the panache and dimension of the early ’40s features.The lady and the Tramp(1955) was a return to form, but Disney’s attention was by then increasingly devoted to live-action features, television productions, and his new theme park,Disneyland, which opened in 1955 inAnaheim, California.
The 1990s were a hugely successful decade for the Disney Company. The revival was marked by the release ofThe Little Mermaid(1989), an animated feature regarded as Disney’s best such effort . More animated blockbusters followed, Beauty and the Beast(1991),Aladdin(1992),The Lion King(1994),The Hunchback of Notre Dame(1996), andFantasia 2000(1999).
The company experimented with computerized animation for the live-action featureTron(1982) and realized technology’s potential with the successfulToy Story(1995) andToy Story 2(1999), films that Disney jointly developed and produced withPixar Animation Studios. Live-action features also found success, especially101 Dalmatians(1996), a remake of Disney’s own animation feature.