When someone says ‘Disney’, all that comes to our minds are the princesses and Hannah Montana. Maybe, it’s their studio, the amusement parks and rarely, the Avengers. But it wasn’t always fame and stability for Disney. There was the infamous Dark Age and the Post Renaissance during which major rivals rose to take Disney’s place.

These were the periods in which important decisions were made. Let’s take a look at the defining periods of Disney’s empire!

The statue of Walt Disnet and Mickey Mouse at the Disneyland in California, USA

An early start:

To begin, let us know the history of Disney a bit. It had its earliest start as the Disney Brothers Studio in 1923 by the brothers Walt and Roy O. Disney.  It was established as an animation company and true to its legacy, Disney still remains one. It wasn’t easy, becoming a huge company and maintaining the standards and the reputation. The Disney brothers faced a lot of problems and downfalls to reach the big spot.

The Dark Age:

Most of us don’t know about the time when Disney went through its supposed “Dark Ages”. It was during the 70s, shortly after Walt Disney passed away. The leaders of Disney started focusing on only releasing movies rather than ensuring their artistic quality. This led to a lot of the animators being dissatisfied with their work. This was also the time when there were no consistent leaders in Disney. From 1972 to 1984, Disney went through three different CEOs.

One of the animators, an experienced artist named Don Bluth, started a new company named Don Bluth Productions (Sullivan Bluth Studios) with the help of some of the same animators from Disney.

The Sullivan Bluth Studios at Dublin, Ireland

It became more successful than Disney and was its first serious rival. Some of the films produced by Bluth were Banjo The Woodpile Cat (1979) and The Land Before Time (1988). All the while, Disney struggled with endless criticisms and a drop in the box office collections.

But if there’s one thing that Disney never loses, it’s the passion for making memorable stories, which eventually saved the legacy of Disney. Released in 1986 under the leadership of Michael Eisner, The Great Mouse Detective restored some of Disney’s fame and reputation. The Little Mermaid (1989) was the turning point for the entire organisation. With a simple $40 million budget, it was a box office hit, reaping more than $200 million dollars until now. It was the beginning of the famous Renaissance era.

The Post Renaissance Era:

After the end of the 20th century, Disney once again began to change their stories, switching fairytales with adventurous tales, also changing from traditional animation styles to CGI. There was also the rise of other movie franchises such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, which drew audiences toward them.

The movies released during this time (without collaborating with Pixar) such as Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) and Home On The Range (2004) were not successful in the box office. All this while, the movies being made with Pixar were critically acclaimed hits. Due to this, an idea was formed to make Pixar the property of Disney’s.

The Pixar Animation Studios Headquarters at Emeryville, California

A small history of Pixar:

Pixar was founded as a graphics subdivision of Lucasfilm in 1979. A few years later, Lucasfilm wanted to sell Pixar. It was bought by an unexpected, then-struggling businessman in 1986. He then proceeded to focus on the strategic direction of the company and created a good reputation. It was Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, who bought Pixar for $5 million.  

Pixar had been collaborating with Disney previously, working on movies such as Finding Nemo (2003) and The Incredibles (2004)

A new beginning:

It wasn’t an easy decision to make – and definitely not easier to implement. Roy E. Disney, Walt Disney’s nephew, had to convince Steve Jobs to sell it to him for $7.9 billion. And oh boy, it was the best move they could’ve ever done! Not only did all the movies created by Pixar became Disney’s, it also produced great films that attracted newer audiences.

Roy E. Disney

The company entering into the Revival era or the ‘Second Golden Age’ was definitely cool, but the real treat was the animation department being revived with the addition of fresher artists and newer dynamic art styles. Some of the movies released during that time were The Princess and The Frog (2009), Tangled (2010) and Moana (2013).

And this is the story of two of the defining moments in the history of Disney’s reign. There are many lessons to be learnt, but most importantly the ones of “never compromising your values” and “never giving up on opportunities.”

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