The Walt Disney Company has been responsible for some of the most timeless classics to grace our theaters and TV screens since the company’s inception in 1923. The multinational mass media conglomerate is one of the largest companies in the world and has established itself as a leader in the American animation industry as well as live-action film, television, travel, and theme parks. The Disney train has been going strong for decades now and there seems to be nothing stopping its momentum in the coming years.

Disney has spent the last decade or so collecting and stockpiling the rights to some of the world’s most adored and respected franchises. Some of these acquisitions have seen little to no use since their purchase, while others have been re-geared and rethought for a completely new take.  Miss Piggy, Han Solo, and most recently Indiana Jones are just some of the famous characters that have been acquired by Disney in the past few years.

Disney cut a check for $100 million for rights to the beloved Muppets franchise in 2004, buying the rights from the estate of the late puppeteer Jim Henson. Michael Eisner, head of Disney at the time, has been a Muppets fan since the 1960s and had always wanted to acquire the rights to the franchise. In 2006 Disney bought the rights to Pixar, creators of Toy Story and Cars, for a whopping $7.4 billon all-stock purchase after a long deterioration of relations between the two companies. Disney did not stop there. In 2009 the company announced they were in the process of a deal with Marvel Entertainment, home of The Fantastic Four, Spiderman, and others. Disney scooped up Marvel the last day of 2009 for $4 billion. Last year Disney closed a tremendous deal on Lucasfilm for another $4 billion. This acquisition brought the timeless Star Wars franchise into the Disney fold. As of this month Disney announced they have also reached a settlement with Paramount Pictures for the rights to produce future content in the Indiana Jones franchise. The inclusion of the whip-wielding archeologist truly shows that Disney is looking to own your heroes. 

All of this is by no means to say that Disney is floundering with their purchases. Each of these enormous acquisitions have helped further boost Disney into absolute dominion in the entertainment world. Immediately after buying out Lucasfilm at the end of last year, it was announced that there were plans to resurrect the timeless Star Wars franchise with new film installments. Disney also plans to use the Marvel name everywhere it can. Disney hosts tons of television shows for children starring Marvel superheroes and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of the biggest new shows this year. 

You may be asking yourself, why all the acquisitions? Well the answer is pretty simple. Many of the companies or individuals who previously owned the rights to many of these classics no longer continued the financial backing or know-how to revitalize some of these series in both television and cinema. 

Disney hosts no such issues as they steamroll through the ratings and the box office, dominating both markers of entertainment success. The company is also able to begin developing new installments into some of the most beloved film franchises of all time. Star Wars suffered through a controversial prequel series of installments that left many fans divided in their loyalties. Disney has the chance to bring back Star Wars in all of its laser blasting, lightsaber dueling glory. 

Netflix and Disney have also announced that they will be working on four separate series that will be delving deeper into the lives and the struggles of four of Marvel’s characters. Years of original programming have been planned and this is just another instance of Netflix’s own growing empire. 

Long gone are the days of Mickey Mouse as the face of Disney’s impressive media empire. Now we have a company bent on ruling the world of our hearts. Star Wars is in the wings, Indiana Jones is a potential new revival, and franchises like Muppets have already had the opportunity for revitalization on the big screen. The following years will bring about a whole new host of Disney classics, no doubt.

(1) comment

John Flanagan

Yes, Disney is too powerful, having centralized much of the artistic development of familiar characters well into the future. It is the same in music, publishing, media, news, with only a handful of major players. Small entertainment companies and media players can get lucky, but not often any longer. After awhile, a successful company in the media field is eventually sold to the big monolithic giants of the industry. Disney wants to own everything, well almost, and you will notice that many of their newer stuff is not just entertainment, but reflects their own collective social and political messaging.

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