Finishing up with a special three-part edition of Disney In Depth, this third and final article recognizes even more defining moments in The Walt Disney Company’s history over these past 50 years (1967 – 2016) since Walt died.
Let the 50 Defining Moments Since Walt Disney Died conclude!
37. Roy E. Disney, Walt’s Nephew and Executive, Resigns From The Company (2003)
Tension with then-CEO Michael Eisner prompted Roy E. Disney to announce his resignation from the company that bore his family name. This surprising move, compounded by the rise of the Save Disney campaign that aimed to remove Eisner from his role, resulted in corporate turmoil.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: Epitomized the influence of Roy E. Disney, whose leadership in the company and family ties profoundly shaped the views of a large percentage of shareholders, who voted against re-electing Eisner to the board.
38. The Muppets Officially Join The Walt Disney Company (2004)
In the years leading to Jim Henson’s untimely death, the creator of Kermit had been in talks with The Walt Disney Company to sell his company and characters. But that death, much like Walt’s, threw the proposed deal into oblivion. At least for a while. More than a decade later, Disney acquired the Muppets.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: Incorporated Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and the gang into the Disney family officially, inspiring two new theatrical films, a short-lived television series, and various efforts within the theme parks.
39. Michael Eisner Departs The Walt Disney Company, With Bob Iger Stepping In As CEO (2005)
The aforementioned Save Disney effort undermined Eisner’s ability to maintain his position, and he exited his CEO role one year prior to his scheduled departure. It was a turbulent time for Disney to say the least, especially in light of one of its most exciting milestones (next on our list).
How it’s a defining Disney moment: Proved that shareholder dissatisfaction with Eisner, in addition to bad press, could upend the rule of one of Hollywood’s most prolific executives.
40. Disneyland Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary (2005)
“The Happiest Celebration on Earth” launched with a global campaign that encouraged individuals across the globe to return to Disneyland for this unforgettable occasion. The park dazzled with new entertainment, 50 hidden “50” signs, grand photomosaics, and merchandise galore. Led by Julie Andrews, the Official Ambassador for the anniversary, Disneyland’s 50th remains one of the finest examples of commemorating the most essential pieces of The Walt Disney Company.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: Represented an almost faultless marketing effort that lived up to the hype through appealing to visitors’ heartstrings, delivering enjoyable entertainment and actually boosting park attendance during a hard time for the Disneyland Resort.
41. Disney Buys Pixar (2006)
In the midst of the corporate problems already mentioned, Disney was planning low-budget sequels to some of Pixar’s hit films without any Pixar involvement. After all, they had the rights to do so. It seemed like Pixar would not have a new deal with Disney once the distribution rights to that original set of movies concluded. However, thanks to Bob Iger, as well as key Pixar figures such as John Lasseter, Steve Jobs, and Ed Catmull, the partnership did not disintegrate. Instead, Disney purchased Pixar, incorporating the computer animation house into the family.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: Not only did this move symbolize Iger’s trend to acquire lucrative properties, but also it improved Disney’s overall quality of content. Pixar has since released such popular films as Up and Inside Out.
42. Disney Reclaims Rights To One Of Its Original Characters, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit (2006)
Al Michaels, the legendary sportscaster, versus Oswald, a forgotten cartoon character that Walt Disney lost the rights to before developing Mickey Mouse. Who’s more valuable? A random, but most important swap took place a decade ago when Disney traded Michaels, an ABC staple, for Oswald, owned by NBC Universal.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: Oswald now greets visitors at times at Disney California Adventure Park, and has also made appearances in various properties, such as Epic Mickey.
Ever wanted to try to draw Oswald? Find out how in this how-to video from the DisneyParks YouTube channel.
43. Expedition Everest Sets A High Bar In Disney Coasters (2006)
Animal Kingdom was to include not only real animals, but also fictitious creatures. Beastly Kingdom, the proposed land with mythical beings, never came to form. Yet the Yeti entered the Walt Disney World park in one of the property’s most ambitious attractions. A humongous mountain resembling Everest, featuring a coaster that would go backwards, was in the works for years before its 2006 opening. It continues to draw crowds to this day, though the complicated Yeti animatronic is not able to exhibit its impressiveness as it first did due to technical issues.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: Helped Animal Kingdom, which only possessed a couple of signature must-see attractions prior to Expedition Everest’s debut.
44. Disney Announces Disneynature Line Of Films (2008)
Disney’s focus on promoting environmental issues only heightened with the formation of a new film banner centered on nature documentaries. Most have been critical hits and released theatrically, though their box office earnings are relatively minimal. Nevertheless, they provide breadth to Disney’s line-up of films.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: A portion of proceeds from each of the theatrical films has benefited nature-based organizations to protect species’ lands from environmental destruction.
45. D23 Launches, Along With D23 Expo (2009)
“Are you 23?” Thus launched an elusive Disney campaign. D23, Disney’s official fan club, commenced with much fanfare and the promise of providing cool, exclusive content to Disney’s biggest fans. It has accomplished just that, in the form of biennial expositions, a quarterly magazine, regional events, and other content designated for Disney aficionados.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: The D23 Expo has been the hub of major announcements, such as new theme park attractions and film releases.
46. Marvel Becomes Incorporated Into The Disney Family (2009)
Your move, Bob Iger. Finding the value of the newly developed Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as its assortment of embrace comic book characters, Marvel joined Disney. Interestingly, this news came days before the first D23 Expo, so fans were abuzz with anticipation of Disney-Marvel news. Major Marvel incorporation into the Disney fold has come more recently. Marvel’s potential to strengthen Disney, and vice versa, is incredible.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: This purchase expanded the scope of entertainment offerings coming from The Walt Disney Studios, which has benefited from hits like Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Civil War, as well as in the theme parks, merchandise, and television.
47. Frozen and “Let It Go” Take Over Society (2013)
The Walt Disney Company would have never expected Frozen to be such a phenomenon. It appeared like a new Little Mermaid for the corporation, in terms of its strong music and appealing characters. But Ariel had nothing on Anna and Elsa. The film was the first Walt Disney Animation Studios production to earn $1 billion worldwide, and earned an Academy Award for its earworm song. The merchandise sales and massive fandom for Frozen has yet to subside some three years later.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: Became The Walt Disney Company’s strongest original brand – meaning not from Marvel, Pixar, or Star Wars – in at least a few decades. The Lion King wasn’t even this big, and that’s saying something, considering its popularity in the mid 1990s.
Among the most viewed YouTube videos is this clip from the Walt Disney Animation Studios YouTube channel that shows Frozen‘s “Let It Go” scene.
48. Domestic Disney Theme Park Admission Passes The $100 Mark For A One-Day Ticket (2015)
Forget inflation. A decade ago, you could go to Disneyland for a day, and it was only $63, or around $75 with inflation. Now it’s past $100. Wow. The extreme upcharge that we have experienced in recent years is not yet deterring visitors, as park attendance at many domestic Disney theme parks is still pretty steady.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: Drew great frustration among visitors who already struggle to save enough money to enjoy the Disney theme park experience. Now it’s even harder to justify the cost, especially if not complemented by a ton of new attractions and experiences.
49. Star Wars: The Force Awakens Overwhelms Pop Culture and Sets Box Office Records (2015)
Surely everyone knew the film could not live up to expectations that were extremely high. Luckily, the overall favorable reviews and one twist that managed to stay hidden up until the film’s release only heightened support for seeing the new Star Wars picture. It reached very close to earning $1 billion domestically, and made more than $2 billion in total worldwide. BB-8 is now a commonplace character, and all cannot wait until the next feature. I’d call that a success.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: Justified Disney’s purchase for Lucasfilm and suggested that the future for the brand is encouraging.
50. Shanghai Disneyland Opens (2016)
More than 15 years in the works, Disney’s first theme park in mainland China debuted with special attractions found nowhere else in the Disney universe. Though the park was met by much criticism for its rowdy guests who defaced and even defecated in some places on the property, the overall beauty of the park trumps some of the initial lewd behavior.
How it’s a defining Disney moment: Unveiled Disney’s most innovative attractions ever created, including the new Pirates of the Caribbean – Battle for the Sunken Treasure and TRON Lightcycle Power Run.
Here’s a look at the development of Shanghai Disneyland from the Disney YouTube channel.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, released on the first and third Thursdays of each month on Geeks of Doom.