August 8, 2023
The Walt Disney Company (Tii:DIS) has a simple mission: to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of storytelling. It has been one of the world’s premier entertainment companies since it was founded by Walt and Roy Disney in the early 1920s. Not bad for a company whose first and most famous character is a mouse.
Since its founding, Disney is an example of how a company can succeed by evolving with the times. It started with "Steamboat Willie," the cartoon that opened to rave reviews at the Colony Theater in New York November 18, 1928. Mickey Mouse was born, and Disney was on its way to becoming an entertainment juggernaut.
Yet Disney is more than just Mickey Mouse, movies, and theme parks. In fact, the business is split into three core business segments: Disney Entertainment, ESPN, and Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. Its broad collection of business units and cultural appeal makes it a popular stock with retail shareholders and it ends up being the first stock owned by many since children often receive a few shares as a gift from individual investor family members who want to kickstart young investing.
Most people know Disney through its sprawling entertainment division. The division is best known for its iconic Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios, but it also includes Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures, ABC Entertainment, FX, Hulu, National Geographic and of course the Disney+ streaming service.
The ESPN division includes the international sportscaster and the ESPN+ streaming service.
Disney’s parks, experiences and products division includes its famous resorts like Disneyland in California and Disneyworld in Florida, but the company also has a growing number of properties around the world including Disneyland Paris, Shanghai Disney Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland. It also has Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, Disney Publishing Worldwide and shopping on Disney.com.
While the company has grown and prospered for nearly 100 years, the company was battered by the pandemic. It lost billions of dollars when its parks were forced to close, and movie theaters were shuttered. Yet it adapted by putting its efforts into streaming services and other online options.
Walt Disney World employs 75,000 total workers, the biggest single-site employer in the United States. From the week beginning April 20, 2020, over 100,000 staff at Disney theme parks and hotels were put on indefinite unpaid leave, to save the company $500 million. More rounds of job cuts were announced in 2021.
Since the parks and movie theaters have reopened, Disney has bounced back, but is still struggling to find its long-term footing in a post-COVID world. On November 20, Robert A. Iger returned as chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company. Iger has recently brought back some of its former executives with the hope of breathing new life into the company, which is still struggling from low attendance at its theme parks, a few box office flops and a streaming audience that isn’t as strong as the company would like.
It's not all gloom and doom at the Magic Kingdom. In early 2022, the company won six Academy Awards, for the films "Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)," "West Side Story," "Cruella," and "Encanto" — the last of which became a cultural phenomenon. Each of the animated feature’s songs, by Lin-Manual Miranda, was a hit on Billboard’s Hot 100, with “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” spending five weeks at No. 1. Marvel Studios releases ruled the year’s box office, as "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," "Thor: Love and Thunder," and "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" all became global hits.
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