What Does Disney Own? Disney Companies In A Nutshell

Disney was founded by brothers Walt and Roy Disney in 1923 as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. From humble premises in suburban Los Angeles, the company established itself as a pioneer in the American animation industry during the 1980s. Since then, Disney has diversified into television, theme parks, live-action film production, streaming media, consumer products, and publishing. Today, The Walt Disney Company is a sizeable corporate enterprise and media empire.

21st Century Fox

Disney acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019 for $71 billion. Through the acquisition, Disney became the owner of 20th Century Fox film and television studios. The company also secured cable networks such as FX and National Geographic and a 30% controlling interest in Hulu LLC.

Many saw the 21st Century Fox acquisition is crucial to Disney’s plans in meeting increased consumer demand for streaming and other media content.

Capital Cities/ABC

Perhaps more significant than the acquisition of 21st Century Fox was Disney’s acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC in 1995. Indeed, the $19 billion merger was the second-largest corporate takeover at the time, bringing together two juggernauts of the media and family entertainment industries.

Importantly, the deal allowed Disney to become the first such company with a major presence in the four key distribution systems of broadcasting, telephone, cable television, and entertainment. 

Among other assets, Disney became the owner of The History Channel, Lifetime Television, and A&E Network. Part-ownership in sports channel ESPN also allowed the company to expand its overseas reach.


Steve Jobs created Pixar after the legendary entrepreneur bought the computer animation division from Lucasfilm in 1986. Under his leadership, Pixar created iconic movies such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo.

After acquiring Pixar in 2006, Disney has released several more iconic films including Cars, Ratatouille, and several Toy Story sequels.

Lucasfilm Ltd.

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm Ltd. in October 2012, many Star Wars fans thought the company would destroy the brand George Lucas had created. 

Similar to its acquisition of Pixar, however, Disney managed to successfully carry on the Star Wars franchise without alienating fans. It has also incorporated the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises into several branded theme parks and resorts.

Steamboat Ventures

Founded in 2000, Steamboat Ventures was named after the 1928 Mickey Mouse cartoon Steamboat Willie.

Steamboat Ventures enables Disney to invest in early growth stage companies pursuing opportunities at the intersection of the technology, media, and consumer sectors.

Some of the more recognizable investments include Photobucket, GoPro, EdgeCast, and Elemental Technologies. Steamboat Ventures also has interests in several Chinese social media and gaming companies.

Key takeaways:

  • Disney was founded by brothers Walt and Roy Disney in 1923. From humble beginnings in suburban Los Angeles, the company is now a vast media and corporate empire.
  • Disney acquired Capital Cities/ABC in 1995 and 21st Century Fox in 2019. These high-profile acquisitions gave the company ownership of various television stations and cable networks and enabled it to meet growing consumer demand around streaming content.
  • Disney expanded into animated and non-animated film production after purchasing Pixar and Lucasfilm. Through Steamboat Ventures, Disney also invests in early-stage growth companies.

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