The Walt Disney Co. is celebrating its 80th anniversary, and over the
course of those eight decades the company has become a worldwide
There is an abundance of success that surrounds the company,
including theme parks, movies, television shows, merchandising and an
unmatched reputation of excellence. The company began with modest
resources, hard work and great imagination.
The company began modestly in 1923, when Walt Disney and his
brother, Roy, rented an office behind Holly-Vermont Realty in Los
Angeles for $10 a month. They began making Alice Comedies, which were
short animated films.
Their small office could not contain their success, and they moved
four months later to a larger neighboring building. There, they hung
up their sign of “Disney Bros. Studio,” and increased their
Once again, they outgrew their studio and purchased a lot on
Hyperion Avenue in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles. The
company grew over the next 14 years, and such timeless characters as
Mickey Mouse were created there in 1928, followed, of course, by the
rest of such Disney notables as Pluto, Goofy and Donald Duck.
The release of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937 would
bring great financial success to the company. Once again, Disney
found that its studio facility was not up to the challenge of
increasing the demand for its animation, so the search for a new
studio location began.
The search brought the company to Burbank, where the Disney
brothers purchased 51 acres of land. Construction of a new and modern
state-of-the-art facility was designed with Walt Disney personally
involved in all aspects of the project. The new studio would have all
the facilities right on the lot to accommodate the company’s
Like it did everybody else, World War II affected Disney Studios,
which put its creative juices in full force and contributed to the
war effort. Disney created insignias for the armed forces, and many
of these images appeared on airplanes, ships, tanks and other armored
vehicles. The creation of the insignias was a morale booster for the
troops and included such images as Donald Duck as a medical corpsman
carrying blood plasma on his rifle. Once the war was over, full
attention could be given to the production of some of Disney’s finest
The 1940s and ‘50s featured some of the greatest animated features
in Disney’s history, including such timeless classics as “Fantasia,”
“Bambi,” “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan.” The
commercial success of most of these productions afforded Disney great
opportunities to expand.
The ‘50s featured continued expansion of the Burbank facility that
included soundstages for the filming of such movies as “20,000
Leagues Under the Sea” and such popular television shows as the
“Mickey Mouse Club.” Perhaps the greatest achievement of the 1950s
for the company was the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim.
While Disneyland was a popular attraction, the company maintained
and expanded its presence in Burbank. By the 1960s, the company was
in full swing, producing animated movies, television shows and, of
course, expanding Disneyland.
The growth of the company continued, albeit sometimes at a slower
pace. By the late 1970s and early 1980s the creative edge that gave
Disney an advantage for so long was coming under attack from other
studios. But by the mid-1980s, Disney changed management, and before
long recaptured the magic and began making animations, movies and
television shows that once again dominated the industry.
Disney’s commitment to making Burbank its home was only solidified
by a major expansion of new corporate headquarters with,
appropriately enough, the Seven Dwarfs supporting the pediment, since
the profits for Snow White were used to purchase the property. Other
expansion included an animation building and occupying more office
space so that there was sufficient room to create more magic.
To celebrate its 80th birthday, the Walt Disney Co. provided the
Burbank Historical Society with a new exhibit showcasing its history.
Once the museum is opened after expansion, people can see the history
of Disney and its role in shaping Burbank.
* CRAIG BULLOCK is the chairman of the Burbank Heritage
Commission. Reach him at email@example.com.