It’s hard to imagine a world without the magic and wonder of Disney. For most of us, our childhood consisted of watching Disney movies about witty animals, fantasy wonderlands, fearless princesses and courageous adventurers. Childhood aspirations were pegged on going on an once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disneyland and images of classic Disney characters could be found on almost anything from lunchboxes to pyjamas.
Founded by Walt Disney and his brother, Roy, in 1923, the Walt Disney Company boasts a proud and iconic history. The company is responsible for changing the world of animation through technological advancements and the use of emotive narratives that have inspired generations of children. Its portfolio of world-renowned theme parks has had a significant impact on the tourism industry, attracting millions of visitors from around the world. Today, the Walt Disney Company employs 195,000 employees and has locations in 45 countries, which makes it one of the leading entertainment companies in operation.
The Recipe to Success is Change
Despite being one of the most recognizable brands in the world, the dawn of the new millennium signalled the need for innovation and change to ensure that Disney remained at the forefront of the entertainment industry. Although the cinematic success and resounding popularity of movies such as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Aladdin during the 1990’s, Pixar’s hugely popular releases such as Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo were all the rage. Disney Animation was in need of some breakthrough ideas.
It was Robert Iger, Disney CEO and chair, who was at the helm of breathing new life into Disney Animation. In 2006, Robert Iger struck a deal with then CEO, Steve Jobs, to purchase Pixar for $7.4 billion, sending shockwaves through the industry. This was the first of three major acquisitions that Disney embarked on to secure its future success.
The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment for a reported $4.24 billion in 2009. The company’s second bold move in recent years, it was widely believed that Disney had over-paid for Marvel since three of its top superheroes had already been licenced out. Disney proved the sceptics wrong and has since launched several widely successful superhero movie franchises that include the likes of Iron Man, Avengers, Thor and Captain America.
Disney’s third major acquisition occurred in 2012 when Iger convinced George Lucas to sell them Lucasfilm for $4.6 billion. This was a monumental event in Disney’s strategy to reinvent itself and the deal brought the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises within its fold.
Revitalising Creativity and the Bottom Line
The three acquisitions led to the revitalisation of Disney’s creative juices. The entertainment conglomerate now laid claim to the industry’s most innovative animated film studio, the hottest superhero characters and two iconic franchises that held cult classic status. This allowed Disney to galvanize its bottom line and allowed for the monetization of these popular characters through movies, theme parks and merchandise.
Disney’s strategy of innovation and reinvention has paid off. 2016 delivered the highest quarterly earnings in the history of the company and marked the 10th consecutive quarter of double-digit EPS growth.
Modernising the Happiest Place on Earth
In an effort to encourage a surge of attendance, Disney has also set out to modernise its cherished theme parks with massive construction efforts underway.
The first of its newest attractions opened to guests in May 2017 at the Walt Disney World Resort. Pandora – The World of Avatar is located within Disney’s Animal Kingdom and is one of Disney’s most ambitious undertakings to date. Following this was the launch of the sports-centric venue in their Orlando Park, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex opened amidst much fanfare in January 2018, adding sport to Disney’s already diverse array of entertainment options.
Next to follow is Toy Story land, which will open to guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the end of June 2018. That’s not all; construction for Star Wars land is well under way and is scheduled to open during 2019, proving that Disney always has something new up its sleeve.