The Walt Disney Company is the second largest media company in the United States, after Time-Warner. It is worth fifty-seven thousand million dollars.
Walt Disney and his brother Roy started the company by making short animated films called cartoons. In nineteen twenty-eight, the brothers produced “Steamboat Willie,” a cartoon starring Mickey Mouse. The Disney brothers then made several very successful full-length animated cartoon movies. They also began selling products linked to the characters in their movies.
Walt Disney wanted to expand into other forms of entertainment. In nineteen fifty-five, he opened the Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, California. In nineteen seventy-one, Walt Disney World opened in Orlando, Florida. It is the post popular holiday area in the United States. There are also Disney parks in Tokyo, Japan and Paris, France. Disneyland in Hong Kong is expected to open in September.
Walt Disney died in nineteen sixty-six. But the company continued to grow. In nineteen eighty-three, Disney started its own cable television channel. The next year, Michael Eisner became chairman and chief executive.
During the nineteen nineties, Disney grew into a total media company. It bought movie production companies, newspapers and cable television companies. In nineteen ninety-six, Disney bought the American Broadcasting Company, including the cable sports network ESPN.
Mister Eisner remained the company’s top executive. But last year, about forty-five percent of Disney shareholders voted against him. The Disney board of directors removed Mister Eisner from the position of chairman. It replaced him with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. Recently, Disney made an agreement with Pixar Animation Studios to make five animated movies. The deal produced the extremely popular films “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles.” But, in January of last year, talks to extend the agreement failed. Some shareholders blamed Mister Eisner.
In March, the Walt Disney Company announced that Robert Iger would replace Mister Eisner as chief executive. Robert Iger has been president and chief operating officer of the company for the past five years. Mister Iger will begin the top job at Disney on September thirtieth.
This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. I’m Gwen Outen.