Professor: Kari Day
Warner Pacific College
September 10th, 2009
The Walt Disney Company: A Financial and Organizational Analysis The Organizational History of Disney
In 1939, the Valley Progress newspaper (History, p. 3) announced that San Fernando Valley in southern California would become the home of a million dollar, 51-acre lot called Walt Disney Studios. The then-current residence of Disney was established in 1925 in Los Angeles, and consisted of a single large room of 25 artists. Walt Disney (and his brother-manager Roy) had expanded Disney studios to 150 employees and 20,000 square feet of space by 1929; then, when “Snow White” came out in theatres in 1936, the studio employment had doubled to 300 employees. Operations continued to increase in the years 1937 and 1938, increasing from 300 to 600 to 900 respectively, and finally to 1,000 employees at the time of the above newspaper’s announcement. During this burgeoning period for Disney studios, artists were not the only operational development for what would become Buena Vista Studios. Walt built a coffee shop, restaurant, gas station, sports playfields, and an 800-seat theatre…all for the employees. Four sound stages were produced (among other things, one was exclusive for monitoring dialogue, another for orchestration; two stalwarts when creating Disney cartoons) and, in 1940, just a year after the San Fernando studio cut its ribbon, “Fantasia” would be born and Walter Elias Disney would create a new standard in the industry of animation. It wasn’t that many years prior that Mickey Mouse learned to talk (around 1932, when “talkies” were coming of age in film); a few years before that, Walt and his brother Roy had $290.00 between them. Apparently, Walt had his health but Roy did not, according the Valley Progress (History, p. 5). It was 1923, World War I was past and the Great Depression was the near future. Post WWII
A shock to the Disney system occurred on July 17, 1955, a day referred to as “Black Sunday” (Helmore, para. 2) by Disney itself. Disneyland (“Fantasyland” as it was originally called) opened its gates and faced its worst logistical nightmare. Over 30,000 people arrived for Disneyland’s Day One, broadcasting the event live to ‘50s black-and-white television-watchers. The gates of the park were literally crushed as the throng entered; the walkways had not yet set so women’s heels would penetrate and stick into the asphalt as they walked. Not enough restrooms and a gas leak forced the operation to close early. In spite of these difficulties, Disneyland serviced over a million patrons in the first 7 weeks. The world outside Disney had carnival ride operations that seldom exceeded $50,000.00 per ride with staff picked – literally – right off the street. Disney, on the other hand, went well beyond the norm to create more expensive rides like Frontierland and the Dumbo ride; staffing was handled by seeking recruitment through local colleges to accommodate the “squeaky-clean” look of Disney’s youth group demographic. Disney’s Modern Affairs
Back in 1929, people went to the theatre to watch “Snow White” for the first time; by the late 1990s, over 350 million folks will have danced with Snow White on the walkways of Disneyland itself (Helmore, para. 5). Admission to Disneyland for one day cost $33.00 with an annual ticket for $199.00. But, in the middle and late 2000s, Disney is in the media for all the wrong reasons, apparently. Walter Disney’s personality and vision is a distant echo relegated to the past. Michael Eisner, its most recent CEO, sought to engage Disney enterprises in lucrative deals. He was intent to reclaim Disney as an industry leader in business (and not necessarily animation) by...