Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

12 Facts You May Not Have Known About Walt Disney Co.

By Daniel B. Kline - Jan 16, 2016 at 10:09AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

The company has a long history with a few surprises even big fans may not be aware of.

The Walt Disney Co. (DIS -0.86%) has been very good at maintaining an air of wonder around its businesses.

That's important when a large chunk of your operations involve entertaining people. Disney has cultivated that sense of magic around its movies and especially at its theme parks. It's not a tangible effect, more a subtle branding that creator Walt Disney cultivated and that current management has built back.

But just because we know more about Disney and the company has to disclose some things because it's a publicly traded company, that doesn't means all its secrets are well known. There are still a number of things you may not know about Walt Disney Co., and here are 12 of them.

1. Instead of blaming Yoko, it may be time to blame Walt for The Beatles' breakup. John Lennon signed the legal papers officially ending the band while on vacation at Disney's Polynesian Resort in Florida on Dec. 29, 1974, according to Travel & Leisure.

2. Planning to upload your vacation videos on Alphabet's YouTube? You might not be allowed to, because the company has a legal right to stop you from doing so.

"Disney theme parks are tremendously popular as places where guests create lasting memories with family and friends using media such as videos," a spokesperson for Disney Parks told Daily Finance. "In instances when uploaded video violates our intellectual-property rights we have options to protect it."

Disney has not done this one any broad level, but it could.

Disney's Magic Kingdom theme park. Source: Walt Disney Co.

3. When Disneyland, the company's first theme park was built in the early 1950s for a 1955 opening, founder Walt Disney wanted to be on-scene as much as possible, To do that, according to Empire Online, he built an apartment for his family over the faux Fire Department on Main Street. "A lamp in the window signaled to staff that he was in residence, and this is now always alight in his honor," reported the website.

4. Disney paid George Lucas $4 billion for the rights to the Star Wars franchise nd the rest of LucasFilms. In addition to having that purchase pay off at the box office with the massive success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it also paid off in terms of generating social-media buzz. The term "Star Wars" made Google's list of most-searched terms in 2015. In December alone it had more than 155 million searches, less than the more 439 million Adele generated in November, but more than the Kansas City Royals got (144 million) for winning the World Series.

5. Founder Walt Disney changed his name from his French family name D'Isigny. 

6. In 2014, the most recent full year Disney has reported on, Disney's Hollywood Studios was the least visited of the company's four Orlando theme parks. It pulled in slightly fewer visitors than Disney's Animal Kingdom. That, however, should change in the next few years as the park adds its biggest single-themed expansion ever, when the company opens the Star Wars land it has already announced. 

7. When Disney let football announcer Al Michaels out of his contract so he could go to NBC as the lead voice on Sunday Night Football, he was traded in part for the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a predecessor to Mickey Mouse. The character, whose rights were owned by Universal, was the the star of 26 cartoons beginning in 1927, according to ESPN.

"As the forerunner to Mickey Mouse and an important part of Walt Disney's creative legacy, the fun and mischievous Oswald is back where he belongs, at the home of his creator and among the
stable of beloved characters created by Walt himself," Disney President Robert Iger said after the deal was made, the sports network reported.

8. Mickey Mouse was not always named that, according to Time. The famous character began life as "Mortimer Mouse," but Walt Disney's wife, Lillian, didn't think that name was marketable and persuaded her husband to change it. The Mortimer character was later brought back as "Mickey's Brooklyn-accented rival, vying for Minnie Mouse's affection," the news magazine reported.

9. Walt Disney was involved with the creation of the school that is now known as CalArts and left 25% of his estate to the institution.

10. The company started its licensing business in 1929 with a writing tablet carrying the image of Mickey Mouse.

11. Before his death, Walt Disney had been working on developing a ski resort. Had it happened, it would have been near California's Sequoia National Park. Upon his death, however, the company scrapped the plan, believing it could only work on one major project at a time and electing to go with Disney World as its next effort.

12. When Walt Disney World first opened in 1971, a single-day ticket cost $3.50. Now, a single-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom park starts at $105.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned.  He went to Disney World a couple of years ago but skipped the Magic Kingdom. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and 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.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
The Walt Disney Company
$123.88 (-0.86%) $-1.08

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/17/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.