25 companies you might not know are owned by Disney
It's hard to imagine that there's a person in America who hasn't heard of Disneyland, Disney World, or Disney movies. Mickey Mouse is probably more instantly recognizable around the world than any real-life movie star or celebrity athlete. From Dumbo and Cinderella to Pinocchio and Bambi, Disney introduced the world to some of the most enduring and beloved characters in the history of American pop culture. Disney has influenced the way the rest of the world views American society since the company was founded in 1923. Its parks and resorts redefined the concept of leisure, its movies are generational hand-me-downs, and its merchandise has brightened bedrooms, offices, and bodies for nearly a century—and it's big business.
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, re-opened the park in July with new safety precautions in place following months of being shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic. But where Florida allowed Disney World to reopen despite the risks, California is more cautious, with Disneyland still closed. Disney's live-action "Mulan" belatedly premiered in September on Disney+ instead of in theaters.
Disney is an international maze of parent companies and subsidiaries that leave few corners of the globe untouched. Its vast holdings are a maze of media networks, film studios, production companies, merchandising ventures, parks, resorts, distribution operations, finance firms, gaming corporations, publishing companies, construction firms, vacation and cruise lines, music studios, and digital content providers. Forbes ranks Disney—which employs more than 200,000 people—among the top 10 most powerful brands in the world and values the company at more than $238 billion.
The company's reach spreads farther than many people might think—in movies and television alone. It's common knowledge that Disney is behind classics like "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King," but many don't know that Disney owns the "Die Hard" and "Alien" franchises, "Family Guy," "M*A*S*H," "American Idol," "Star Wars," "The Muppets," and "The Simpsons." The Disney Channel, Walt Disney Studios, and Disney Parks are famous and obvious centerpieces of the House of Mouse, but there's also a seemingly endless web of companies, properties, holdings, and franchises that don't bear the Disney name yet serve as revenue streams for the corporate empire just the same.
Here's a look at the Disney you might not know.
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When Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion in 2009, it gained one of the biggest movie machines in cinematic history: Marvel Studios. The deal gave it Marvel Cinematic Universe, the highest-grossing film franchise of all time, as well as Marvel Music, Iron Works Productions, Incredible Productions, and several other financial, production, and distribution companies.
Disney scooped up Marvel Entertainment as part of the deal, as well, which gave it Marvel Worldwide, Marvel Television, and the merchandising juggernaut that is Marvel Toys. Marvel's comic books, movies, toys, and merchandise are famous for characters like the X-Men, Spider-Man, Thor, and Iron Man, but those are just the most famous among Marvel's 5,000 characters—all of which are now the intellectual property of Disney.
Pixar Animation Studios
Apple and Disney got cozy in 2006 when Disney purchased Pixar, which was then led by Steve Jobs—and Jobs immediately became a board member at Disney. The studio reinvigorated Disney's floundering animation output with some of the most beloved and successful animated films in recent history. Its catalog includes the "Finding Nemo," "Toy Story," "Cars," and "Incredibles" franchises, as well as critically acclaimed "Up" and "Wall-e."
Buena Vista Theaters Inc.
Disney's home base in Hollywood is El Capitan Theatre, one of the grandest cinema halls in the world with a history dating back to the 1920s and the time of Walt Disney. It's known today as the go-to spot for Disney's biggest premieres. El Capitan is the jewel in the crown of Buena Vista Theatres Inc., which is owned by Disney.
In 1977, George Lucas launched what is arguably the most famous and successful film franchise in history with the debut of "Star Wars." Thirty-five years later in 2012, Disney took the reins when it purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion. Disney got the Force and Lucas got 40 million Disney shares, making him the company's second-largest non-institutional shareholder behind only the estate of the late Steve Jobs.
Disney launched Touchstone Pictures in the 1980s "to reach beyond the kid market," according to the Los Angeles Times. And reach beyond the kid market, it did. Touchstone was the driving force behind hits like "Pretty Woman," "Enemy of the State," "Good Morning, Vietnam," "Dead Poets Society," and "Armageddon." It's still a Disney company, but Touchstone has been dormant for several years as Disney has made a strategic move away from mid-budget movies.
20th Century Studios
Disney is the poster child for media consolidation, and when the company closed a $71.3 merger with 21st Century Fox (since renamed) in March 2019, the media landscape changed forever—Homer Simpson could become an Avenger if Disney said it should be so. The deal gave Disney unprecedented reach in the world of media and entertainment, most notably with the acquisition of 20th Century Fox, which gave Disney not just the company's entire catalog of movies, but also entities like Blue Sky Studios, Fox Searchlight Pictures, and Fox Digital Entertainment.
The 21st Century Fox deal also handed Disney the keys to FX and all its affiliated channels. Most importantly, Disney owns all of FX's original programming, which includes commercial and critical successes like "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," "Rescue Me," "Nip/Tuck," "The Americans," "Sons of Anarchy," "You're the Worst," and "American Horror Story."
National Geographic Channels
Another benefit of the sprawling Fox deal was that Disney picked up the National Geographic channels, which include not just National Geographic, but Nat Geo Kids and Nat Geo Wild. As a bonus, Disney also claims ownership of the paper publication that started it all: National Geographic magazine.
Fox Sports Network
One of the legal conditions of the Fox merger was that Disney was required by the U.S. Department of Justice to divest its regional sports networks. The tradeoff, however, was that it picked up the Fox Sports Network, which includes several associated channels like Fox Soccer Plus and the YES (Yankee Entertainment and Sports) Network.2018 All rights reserved.