Walt Disney Pictures is an American film studio and a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios, owned by The Walt Disney Company. The subsidiary is the main producer of live-action feature films within the Walt Disney Studios unit, and is based at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. It took on its current name in 1983. Today, in conjunction with the other units of Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Pictures is regarded as one of Hollywood's "Big Six" film studios. Films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar are also released under this brand.
|Walt Disney Pictures|
Roy O. Disney
|Sean Bailey (president, production)|
|Parent||Walt Disney Studios|
(The Walt Disney Company)
The studio's predecessor (and the modern-day The Walt Disney Company's as a whole) was founded as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, by filmmaker Walt Disney and his business partner and brother, Roy, in 1923.
The creation of Mickey Mouse and subsequent short films and merchandise generated revenue for the studio which was renamed as The Walt Disney Studio at the Hyperion Studio in 1926. In 1929, it was renamed again to Walt Disney Productions. The studio's streak of success continued in the 1930s, culminating with the 1937 release of the first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which becomes a huge financial success. With the profits from Snow White, Walt relocated to a third studio in Burbank, California.
In the 1940s, Disney began experimenting with full-length live-action films, with the introduction of hybrid live action-animated films such as The Reluctant Dragon (1941) and Song of the South (1946). That same decade, the studio began producing nature documentaries with the release of Seal Island (1948), the first of the True-Life Adventures series and a subsequent Academy Award winner for Best Live-Action Short Film.
Walt Disney Productions had its first fully live-action film in 1950 with the release of Treasure Island, considered by Disney to be the official conception for what would eventually evolve into the modern-day Walt Disney Pictures. By 1953, the company ended their agreements with such third-party distributors as RKO Radio Pictures and United Artists and formed their own distribution company, Buena Vista Distribution.
The division was incorporated as Walt Disney Pictures on April 1, 1983 to diversify film subjects and expand audiences for their film releases. In April 1983, Richard Berger was hired by Disney CEO Ron W. Miller as film president. Touchstone Films was started by Miller in February 1984 as a label for their PG-rated films with an expected half of Disney's yearly 6-to-8-movie slate, which would be released under the label. Berger was pushed out as a new CEO was appointed for Walt Disney Productions later in 1984, as Michael Eisner brought his own film chief, Jeffrey Katzenberg. Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures were formed within that unit on February 15, 1984 and February 1, 1989 respectively.
The Touchstone Films banner was used by then new Disney CEO Michael Eisner in the 1984–85 television season with the short lived western, Wildside. In the next season, Touchstone produced a hit in The Golden Girls.
David Hoberman was promoted to president of production at Walt Disney Pictures in April 1988. In April 1994, Hoberman was promoted to president of motion pictures at Walt Disney Studios and was replaced as Disney president by David Vogel. Vogel added the position of Hollywood Pictures in 1997, then was promoted in 1998 to head up all live action motion picture units as president of Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group.
After two movies-based-on-ride by other Disney units, Walt Disney Pictures selected it as a source of a line of films starting with The Country Bears (2002) and two in 2003, The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The latter film launched a film series that was followed by four sequels, with the franchise taking in more than $5.4 billion worldwide from 2003 to 2017.
In 2010, Sean Bailey was appointed the studio's president of live-action production. Under Bailey's leadership and with support from Disney CEO Bob Iger—and later Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn—Walt Disney Pictures pursued a tentpole film strategy, which included an expanded slate of original and adaptive large-budget films. The studio found particular success with live-action fantasy adaptations of their animated films, which began with the commercial success of Alice in Wonderland (2010), that became the second billion-dollar-grossing film in the studio's history. Concurrently, Disney was struggling with PG-13 tentpole films outside of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, with films such as John Carter (2012) and The Lone Ranger (2013) becoming major box office bombs. With the continued success of Maleficent (2014) and Cinderella (2015), the studio saw the potential in these fantasy and literary adaptations and officiated a trend of similar films, which followed with The Jungle Book (2016) and Beauty and the Beast (2017). By July 2016, Disney had announced development of nearly eighteen of these films consisting of sequels to existing adaptations, origin stories and prequels. Disney identified this line as "Disney Fairy Tale" in its enlarged slate announcement on October 8, 2015 with four scheduled without titles attached. Despite the renewed focus on tentpole films, the studio continued to produce successful smaller-budgeted films, such as The Muppets (2011), Saving Mr. Banks (2013), and Into the Woods (2014).
Walt Disney Pictures also took another push at theme park attraction-adaptations in the 2010s. Tomorrowland, first to be loosely based on a theme park area, was released in 2015. Additional announced films have included adaptations of Haunted Mansion, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride,  It's a Small World, Tower of Terror, and Jungle Cruise.
Until 1985, instead of a traditional production logo, the opening credits of Disney films used to feature a title card that read "Walt Disney Presents", and later, "Walt Disney Productions Presents". In Never Cry Wolf, and the pre-release versions of Splash, it showed a light blue rectangle with the name "Walt Disney Pictures" and featured a white outline rectangle framing on a black screen.
Beginning with the release of The Black Cauldron on July 24, 1985, Walt Disney Pictures introduced its fantasy castle logo. The logo was created by Walt Disney Feature Animation in traditional animation and featured a white silhouette of Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle against a blue background, with the studio's name and underscored by "When You Wish Upon A Star". A short rendition of the logo was used as a closing logo as well as the movie Return to Oz, although the film was months before The Black Cauldron was released. Beginning with Dinosaur (2000), an alternative logo featuring an orange castle and logo against a black background, was occasionally presented with darker tone and live-action films. A computer-animated variant appeared before every Pixar Animation Studios film from Toy Story until Ratatouille, featuring an original fanfare composed by Randy Newman.
In 2006, the logo was updated with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest at the behest of then-Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook and studio marketing president Oren Aviv. Designed by Disney animation director Mike Gabriel and producer Baker Bloodworth, the modernized logo was created completely in computer animation by Weta Digital and yU+co and featured a redesigned 3D Waltograph typography. The final rendering of the logo was done by Cameron Smith and Cyrese Parrish. In addition, the revamped logo includes visual references to Pinocchio, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, and Cinderella, and its redesigned castle incorporates elements from both Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella Castle, as well as Walt Disney's family crest. Mark Mancina wrote a new composition and arrangement of "When You Wish upon a Star" to accompany the 2006 logo. Beginning with the release of The Muppets on November 23, 2011, the sequence was modified to truncate the "Walt Disney Pictures" branding to "Disney".
The studio's first live-action film was Treasure Island (1950). Animated films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar are also released by Walt Disney Pictures. The studio has released four films that have received an Academy Award for Best Picture nomination: Mary Poppins (1964), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Up (2009), and Toy Story 3 (2010).
Walt Disney Pictures has produced four films that have grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), and Beauty and the Beast (2017); and has released five animated films that have reached that milestone: Toy Story 3 (2010), Frozen (2013), Zootopia, Finding Dory (both 2016), and Incredibles 2 (2018).
‡—Includes theatrical reissue(s).
Disney also exploited new technologies and delivery systems, creating synergies that were altogether unique among the studios, and that finally enabled the perpetual “mini-major” to ascend to major studio status.
Disney pioneered the recent and lucrative trend of taking either old animated classics or fairy tales and spinning them into live-action features.