Since it was founded in 1923, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) has captivated the masses by fostering imaginative, family friendly entertainment. Having grown into a $155 billion company today, Disney is also arguably the world's most successful diversified media conglomerate.
Here are 21 interesting facts about the thriving business Walt Disney built:
1. In 1929, The Walt Disney Company marked the beginning of its merchandising business by licensing a children's writing tablet bearing the image of Mickey Mouse.
2. In fiscal year 2014, consumer products generated revenue and operating income of nearly $4 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively, for the House of Mouse.
3. When mulling names for his first theme park, Walt Disney even considered "Mickey Mouse Village" before settling on Disneyland.
4. Disneyland could have just as easily been called the "Snow White Village." Disney took a massive risk producing the world's first feature-length animated movie in 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which required a then-enormous $1.499 million production budget. Industry skeptics called the project "Disney's Folly" before it even hit theaters.
5. Snow White turned out to be a huge commercial success, grossing over $66 million during its 1937 theatrical run before reaching $185 million with the help of rereleases in 1983, 1987, and 1993. Today, Snow White's inflation-adjusted box office total of $885 million ranks it as the 10th highest-grossing domestic movie of all time.
6. After completing Disneyland in 1955, Disney almost opened a ski resort. The site would have been near California's Sequoia National Park, was meant to accommodate as many as 20,000 skiers, and progressed so far that Disney even acquired Forest Service approval and a roads deal with the Governor of California. After Walt Disney's death in 1966, however, the company chose to instead focus on completing its ambitious Walt Disney World project, which opened in 1971.
7. Walt Disney World is still by far the company's largest resort, occupying 25,000 acres of company-owned land. That includes four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom), 800 campsites on Disney's Fort Wilderness camping and recreational area, and 18 resort hotels with a total of approximately 23,000 rooms, 3,000 vacation club units, and 468,000 square feet of conference meeting space.
8. With the exceptions of 1976, 1977, and 1988, Disney has increased Magic Kingdom daily admission prices every year since it opened. Note those exceptions immediately followed the stock market crashes of 1973-1974 -- which left the U.S. in recession until mid-1975 -- and late-1987.
9. Walt Disney Studios exceeded $4 billion in calendar year box office receipts for the first time in company history on Nov. 25, 2013, thanks primarily to the $1.215 billion contribution from Iron Man 3, and $744 million from Monster's University.
10. This year, Disney reached the same milestone nine days earlier, helped by grosses of well over $700 million each from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Maleficent, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
11. Disney's first film to exceed $1 billion in global box office receipts was Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which reached $1.066 billion in 2006. Since then, five more Disney films have eclipsed the 10-figure mark including 2010's Alice in Wonderland ($1.026 billion) and Toy Story 3 ($1.063 billion), 2011's Pirate of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($1.046 billion), 2012's Marvel's The Avengers ($1.519 billion), and 2013's Iron Man 3 ($1.215 billion) and Frozen ($1.274 billion).
12. Note half of those $1 billion-plus films stemmed from Disney's decisions to acquire Pixar for $7.4 billion in 2006 ($6.3 billion net of Pixar's cash), and Marvel for $4 billion in 2009.
13. To date, the 16 post-acquisition movies from Pixar and Marvel have collectively generated estimated gross profit for Disney of nearly $3.4 billion.
14. Disney hopes to duplicate that early success with its $4 billion 2012 acquisition of Star Wars and Indiana Jones creator Lucasfilm.
15. Several industry analysts have already predicted the late-2015 launch of the first film stemming from that purchase, Star Wars: Episode VII, could gross more than $2 billion worldwide.
16. For perspective on how long Disney can keep generating content from these acquisitions, keep in mind there are over 26,000 combined names between the Marvel and Lucasfilm character universes.
17. As it stands, Disney's largest and most profitable segment is Media Networks, which generated fiscal year 2014 revenue of $21.2 billion, and operating income of $7.3 billion.
18. Disney's media networks not only include the Disney Channels, but also ABC Family, an 80% stake in ESPN, and 50% stakes in A&E, The History Channel, Lifetime Movie Network, The Biography Channel, H2, and three Lifetime channels.
19. The August 2013 launch of the Disney Infinity game franchise almost single-handedly turned around Disney's languishing Interactive gaming business, driving the segment to a $116 million operating profit in fiscal year 2014. Previously in fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2013, Disney Interactive had posted operating losses of $87 million and $216 million, respectively.
20. Disney aims to consistently return around 20% of all cash generated by the company to shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchases.
21. Given its unrivaled portfolio of content from media networks and movie studios, as well as the subsequent trickle down to parks and resorts and other consumer products, long-term Walt Disney Company shareholders can safely expect that cash to keep flowing for decades to come.
Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.