Disney Conpany,in full the 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 Disney began his career in animation with the Kansas City Film Ad Company in Missouri in 1920. Disney and his friend Ub iwerks, a gifted animator, founded the Laugh-O-gram Films studio in Kansas City in 1922 and began producing cartoons based on fables and fairy tales. Joining Disney and Iwerks in the enterprise were noted animators such as Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, and Isadore Freleng.
In 1923, Disney produced Alice in Cartoonland, a film combined with both live action and animation . Within weeks of its completion, Disney filed for bankruptcy and left Kansas City to establish himself in Hollywood as a cinematographer. Alice in Cartoonland became 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 in California, 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 him Mickey Mouse. Two Mickey Mouse cartoons—Plane Crazy (1928) and Gallopin’ Gaucho(1928)—were produced before Disney employed the novelty of sound for the third Mickey production, Steamboat Willie (1928), was the first Mickey cartoon 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 strike for 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 of Pinocchio or Dumbo for the next decade, concentrating instead on short cartoons, nature documentaries, and features that combined live action and animation such as The Three Caballeros (1945) and Song of the South(1946). The feature-length cartoons Cinderella(1950), Alice in Wonderland(1951), and Peter 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 in Anaheim, California.
The 1990s were a hugely successful decade for the Disney Company. The revival was marked by the release of The 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), and Fantasia 2000 (1999).
The company experimented with computerized animation for the live-action feature Tron (1982) and realized technology’s potential with the successful Toy Story (1995) and Toy Story 2 (1999), films that Disney jointly developed and produced with Pixar Animation Studios. Live-action features also found success, especially 101 Dalmatians (1996), a remake of Disney’s own animation feature.