1901 A star is born
What Happened: Walter Elias “Walt” Disney was born in Hermosa, Illinois on December 5th.
Lasting Impact: Technically, this is how he got the name ‘Disney’, a word that would eventually become not only a household name in the world of animated films, but also a synonym for an entire feeling evoked through childhood magic and wonder.
1911 Kansas City
What Happened: Walt’s family moved to Kansas City.
Lasting Impact: At his new school, Walt made friends with Walter Pfeiffer, who introduced him to vaudeville acts and motion pictures. Thus the filmmaker in Walt Disney is born...
1919 Newspaper artist
What Happened: At the age of 18, Walt began pursuing a job as a newspaper artist, drawing political satires and comic strips. Alas, nobody would hire him.
Lasting Impact: His lack of work as a newspaper artist led Walt to work creating advertisements for newspapers and magazines. It was here that he met Ub Iwerks, with whom he tried to start an animation company.
1923 First studio
What Happened: Walt signed a contract to produce a series of cartoons under the first beginnings of a company name: Disney Brothers Cartoon, with both Walt and brother Roy as equal partners.
Lasting Impact: It’s Walt’s first foothold in a wider world of animation-making. This was really the first rung in his huge, huge career ladder.
What Happened: Walt Disney created his first major cartoon character with Ub Iwerks. Oswald The Lucky Rabbit made his first (successful) appearance in Trolley Troubles , a short released on September 5th.
Lasting Impact: Oswald became Walt’s first big hit, making way for a whole host of future cartoon characters.
1928 Plane Crazy
What Happened: Mickey Mouse makes his first appearance in a silent test film entitle Plane Crazy , but it was never picked up by a distributor. Later on in the same year though, Disney released Steamboat Willie , Mickey Mouse’s first sound animation and a huge success.
Lasting Impact: The iconic rodent is born to become one of the most recognisable characters on the planet. In 1978, Mickey became the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
1933 The Big Bad Wolf
What Happened: Three Little Pigs is released and it’s most notable song, Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf, is picked up as something of an anthem by those facing the Great Depression.
Lasting Impact: Walt made several sequels to the Three Pigs , but they only received moderate success. This has often been cited as the reason why Walt always pursued other ambitious projects rather than try to recreate his existing success. The Disney slogan is even said to be ”you can’t top pigs with pigs”, as a mantra to remind employees not to rest on their laurels.
1937 Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
What Happened: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs , Disney’s first animated film, was released on February 4th.
Lasting Impact: The film has proved so popular that it has been rereleased many times, leading to a total box office gross of $416 million. It led to Walt receiving an honorary Oscar and, of course, it led him to capitalise on the success by making more movies, while the company has been able to explore the Snow White story in various othe forms, such as merchandise and theme parks.
1940 Pinocchio and Fantasia
What Happened: Pinocchio is released on February 7th, while Fantasia was released on November 13th.
Lasting Impact: Despite both films being critically revered now, at the time they were both box office failures, and suddenly Walt found himself unable to afford to pay promised bonuses to his employees and was forced to make salary cuts. This then led to...
1941 Strike while the ink is wet
What Happened: Walt’s employees strike over a pay dispute during the making of Dumbo (hence the scene where clowns try to “hit the big boss for a raise”) that lasted for five weeks.
Lasting Impact: The number of employees went from approximately 1200 to just 694 and the mood and general atmosphere of the working environment is said to have significantly soured, with Walt apparently never truly forgiving those that turned against him.
What Happened: Bambi is released in theatres on August 13th.
Lasting Impact: In 2011, not only was the film released on Blu-ray, it was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. More importantly though, every now and then, we all remember THAT scene and call up our mum to tell her we love her.
1950 Treasure Island
What Happened: Treasure Island , Disney’s first ever live-action film, was released on July 19th.
Lasting Impact: The film proved to be highly successful which, more importantly, paved the way for a whole other division of live-action movies to be released alongside the animated ones.
1953 Peter Pan
What Happened: Peter Pan was released to theatres on February 5th.
Lasting Impact: As well as the 60th anniversary Blu-ray edition released earlier this year, several other tie-ins and spin-offs have been released over the years, including a successful series of films focusing on Tinker Bell.
1955 Lady and The Tramp
What Happened: Lady And The Tramp is released to theatres on June 22.
Lasting Impact: Couples everywhere jokingly attempt the infamous spaghetti scene, only to spill Bolognese sauce all down themselves. And the less said about 2001’s Lady And the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure , the better.
1959 Sleeping Beauty
What Happened: Sleeping Beauty was released on January 29th.
Lasting Impact: As an initial box office failure, Walt didn’t return to the fairytale genre for inspiration for a number of years. However, having become considered to be one Disney’s classic films, Sleeping Beauty has seen several home entertainment re-releases, culminating in a 50th anniversary Blu-ray in 2008, that was based on a brand new 2007 restoration of the film.
1961 Oh Pooh
What Happened: Disney purchase the film rights to A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh .
Lasting Impact: Disney has licensed the rights to produce a number of films, TV shows and merchandise, which in 1993, outsold Mickey Mouse merchandise for the first time. Basically, it has been an invaluable source of revenue for the company.
1964 Mary Poppins
What Happened: Mary Poppins becomes the first Disney film to receive a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. In fact, it received a total of 13 nominations, to this day a record for any Disney film.
Lasting Impact: It may have lost out on the coveted Best Picture Oscar to My Fair Lady , but Julie Andrews took home the Best Actress gong, and the film also won for Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Visual Effects, and Best Song (for Chim Chim Cher-ee). Not bad for bettering Disney’s already sterling reputation.
1966 End of an era
What Happened: Walt Disney is diagnosed with lung cancer and dies on December 15th.
Lasting Impact: Following the daddy of Disney’s death, his brother, Roy Disney, came out of retirement to take over Walt Disney Productions. Also, just clear up those rumours about Walt’s head being cryonically frozen, his remains were actually cremated two days after his death and his ashes were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
1967 The Bare Necessities
What Happened: The Jungle Book is released on October 18th.
Lasting Impact: Aside from being one of Disney’s best-loved and most memorable films to date, the movie sparked a live-action remake to be released in 1994 and a theatrical sequel, The Jungle Book 2 , to be released in 2003. Forget those though; wait for the Blu-ray release of the original in spring 2014.
1971 Yay, Disney World!
What Happened: The Walt Disney World Resort opened in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Lasting Impact: Amazingly, Disney World (as it is now known) has become the most visited entertainment complex in the world, and it led to property expansion as well as several other such theme park complexes all over the world.
1977 Robbed Roy
What Happened: Walt's nephew Roy E. Disney resigns as company executive, claiming later "I just felt creatively the company was not going anywhere interesting. It was very stifling.”
Lasting Impact: Roy’s departure led to a series of events that ended up with CEO Ronald William Miller being replaced by Michael Eisner, which in turn kickstarted a new lease of life for Disney and an upturn in quality output.
1979 The Bluth Company
What Happened: Disney animator Don Bluth, along with 16 other animators, leave Disney, disheartened at its move away from traditional animation, and set up his own studio, Don Bluth Productions.
Lasting Impact: Not only was Bluth responsible for harder, edgier animated movies, such as The Secret Of NIMH, An American Tail, The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go To Heaven , but his output provided stiff competition for Disney during the late 80s and early 90s.
1982 Welcome to The Grid
What Happened: Tron is released, a film that blends live-action photography with groundbreaking computer-generated imagery.
Lasting Impact: The film received mixed reviews when it was released but has since garnered a huge cult following, resulting in the questionable sequel Tron: Legacy , a substantially better animated series Tron: Uprising and after,14 years since release, an Academy Award For Technical Achievement.
1983 Disney Channel
What Happened: The Disney Channel is created, airing TV programming and cable movies for kids of all ages.
Lasting Impact: The channel is a huge success and is now the main channel of Disney Channels Worldwide, a network of over 90 channels are dedicated to children’s programming, including Disney Junior, Disney XD and Disney Cinemagic.
1984 - Michael Eisner
What Happened: Michael Eisner is made CEO of The Walt Disney Company.
Lasting Impact: His plans to implement new film projects, offer a broader range of entertainment for adults and open extensive theme parks had mixed success but he was responsible for a revitalisation of Disney following some narrowly avoided takeover bids.
1985 Toons at home
What Happened: For the first time in 30 years, Disney starts making cartoons for television. Meanwhile a home entertainment release for Pinocchio becomes a best-seller.
Lasting Impact: Disney’s Adventures Of The Gummi Bears becomes the first major TV hit for Disney, paving the way for future TV cartoon projects to be developed. Also, Pinocchio has since been released on Blu-ray in 2009 and a proposed sequel in the early noughties was thankfully ditched.
1986 Lovely Ghibli
What Happened: Disney agrees a deal with Studio Ghibli to distribute its anime films internationally.
Lasting Impact: A raft of the studio’s critically acclaimed films are made more readily available outside of Japan, including Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo and Arrietty .
1987 Disney Store
What Happened: The first Disney Store opens in Glendale, California.
Lasting Impact: The store becomes a chain and branches can now be found in the UK, Ireland, Denmark France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Australia and Japan, all selling strictly Disney merchandise.
1988 Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
What Happened: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is released, stunning audiences with its blend of live action and animation, as well as it’s self-referential, almost post-modern, take on ‘Toons’.
Lasting Impact: Other than the fact that it still remains to this day the only time that Disney’s Mickey Mouse appears onscreen together with Warner Bros’ Bugs Bunny, a Blu-ray was released earlier this year to mark the film’s 25th anniversary.
1989 - The Little Mermaid
What Happened: The Little Mermaid is released on 17th November.
Lasting Impact: After a string of commercial failures, The Little Mermaid is credited as being the start of a resurgence of Disney animated films known as the Disney Renaissance. Also a stage musical of The Little Mermaid opened on Broadway in 2008.
1991 Academy And The Beast
What Happened: Beauty And The Beast becomes the first animated Disney film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.
Lasting Impact: It paved the way for animated movies to get more recognition from the Academy, leading to both Up and Toy Story 3 getting noms in later years.
1992 Euro fun
What Happened: Disney expands its theme park attractions by opening Euro Disney Resort just outside of Paris.
Lasting Impact: Just two years later, it would be renamed as Disneyland Paris, and become the hit theme park of Europe.
What Happened: Disney acquires Indie film distributor Miramax Films.
Lasting Impact: As a division of Disney, Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein operate with total creative freedom, investing in some of the most revered films of all time. Twelve years later, the brothers would leave to form The Weinstein Company, and five years after that, Disney would sell Miramax to Filmyard Holdings.
What Happened: Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg resigns to found DreamWorks Animation SKG.
Lasting Impact: With movie franchises such as the Madagascar films, How To Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda – not to mention the Shrek films, almost all of which are among the 50-highest-grossing films of all time – DreamWorks now seem like direct cinematic rivals to Disney (and in particular Pixar).
1995 Pixar make their mark
What Happened: Pixar’s first theatrical film, Toy Story , is released by Walt Disney Pictures. It was the first feature-length computer-animated film ever.
Lasting Impact: It went on to earn over $361 million worldwide and spawned two sequels, not to mention home entertainment releases, theatrical re-releases, spin-offs, games, theme park rides and merchandising.
1997 Jazz paws
What Happened: The Lion King: The Musical opens on Broadway.
Lasting Impact: It has become Broadway's fifth longest-running show in history and, as of April 2012, it is the highest grossing Broadway show of all time, having grossed $853.8 million. Two years later, the show would come to London’s West End, and it’s still running.
1998 Still cruisin
What happened: Disney Cruise Line launches with its first ship, the Disney Magic.
Lasting Impact: Yet another successful business venture sets sail.
2000 Mr. President
What Happened: Robert Iger is announced the new president of Disney.
Lasting Impact: Now the chairman and chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, Iger would come to oversee the acquisition of major studios and companies throughout the following years.
2001 Fox Family Network
What Happened: Disney buys Fox Family Network for $3 billion, renaming it ABC Family shortly afterwards.
Lasting Impact: Disney now has TV programming and a cable network reaching 81 million homes.
2002 Spirited Away
What Happened: Disney releases Spirited Away in the United States.
Lasting Impact: It becomes the first anime to win an Oscar for Best Animated Film, opening Studio Ghibli up to a whole new audience.
2003 Partnership with Pixar breaks down
What Happened: Toy Story 2 was originally set to be a straight-to-video release, but was pushed through as a theatrical film after Pixar turned in such a great script.
Lasting Impact: Releasing Toy Story in theatres altered Disney’s agreement with Pixar, with the former stating that it shouldn’t count towards their three-picture agreement and the latter unhappy at the seemingly unbalanced 50-50 profit split. The two companies very nearly go their separate ways...
2004 Muppets for sale
What Happened: Disney buys The Muppets, excluding the Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock characters, from The Jim Henson Company for $75 million.
Lasting Impact: Plans are set in motion to revive the flagging fuzzy friends.
2005 Pop idols
What Happened: Disney signs The Cheetah Girls as a recording act.
Lasting Impact: Acting as the main attraction on a tour that featured the likes of Hannah Montana, The Jonas Brothers and Vanessa Hudgens, The Cheetah Girls embarked on a tour entitled The Party’s Just Begun, which is so popular, it makes $43 million.