Walt Disney Pictures
|Formerly||Walt Disney Studio|
Walt Disney Productions
|Founded||October 16, 1923 (as Walt Disney Productions)|
April 1, 1983 (as Walt Disney Pictures)
|Headquarters||500 South Buena Vista Street, |
|Parent||Walt Disney Studios|
(The Walt Disney Company)
|Footnotes / references|
Walt Disney Pictures, also known as Disney Live Action, is an American film production studio and subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios, which is owned by The Walt Disney Company. The studio is the flagship producer of live-action feature films within the Walt Disney Studios unit, and is based at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. Animated films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios are also released under the studio banner. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures distributes and markets the films produced by Walt Disney Pictures.
Disney began producing live-action films in the 1950s, under the company's all-encompassing name, Walt Disney Productions. The live-action division took on its current incorporated name of Walt Disney Pictures in 1983, when Disney reorganized its entire studio division; which included the separation from the feature animation division and the subsequent creation of Touchstone Pictures; a sister division responsible for producing mature films not suitable for release through Walt Disney Pictures. At the end of that decade, combined with Touchstone's output, Walt Disney Pictures elevated Walt Disney Studios as one of Hollywood's major film studios.
Walt Disney Pictures is currently one of five live-action film studios within the Walt Disney Studios, the others being 20th Century Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, and Searchlight Pictures. The 2019 remake of The Lion King is the studio's highest-grossing film worldwide with $1.6 billion, and Pirates of the Caribbean is the studio's most successful film series, with five films earning a total of over $4.5 billion in worldwide box office gross.
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. By the 1950s, the company had purchased the rights to his work of L. Frank Baum.
The live-action division of Walt Disney Productions 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 the studio's PG-13 and R-rated films with an expected half of Disney's yearly 6-to-8-movie slate, which would be released under the label. That same year, newly named Disney CEO Michael Eisner pushed out Berger, replacing him with Eisner's own film chief from Paramount Pictures, 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 1984–1985 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 picture production at Walt Disney Studios and David Vogel was appointed as Walt Disney Pictures president. The following year, however Hoberman resigned from the company, and instead began a production deal with Disney and his newly formed production company, Mandeville Films. In addition to Walt Disney Pictures, Vogel added the head position of Hollywood Pictures in 1997, while Donald De Line remained as head of Touchstone. Vogel was then promoted in 1998 to the head of Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, the newly formed division that oversaw all live-action production within the Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone, and Hollywood labels. The move was orchestrated by Walt Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth, as an effort to scale back and consolidate the studio's film production. As a result of the restructuring, De Line resigned.
That same year, Nina Jacobson became executive vice-president of live-action production for Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group. Jacobson remained under this title until May 1999, when Vogel resigned from the company, and Jacobson was appointed by Roth to the role of president of production. During her tenure, Jacobson oversaw the production of films at Walt Disney Pictures, including Pirates of the Caribbean, The Chronicles of Narnia, Bridge to Terabithia, National Treasure, Remember the Titans, and The Princess Diaries, and was responsible for establishing a first-look deal with Jerry Bruckheimer Films. In 2006, Jacobson was fired by studio chairman Dick Cook, and replaced with by Oren Aviv, the head of marketing.
After two films based on Disney theme park attractions, Walt Disney Pictures selected it as a source of a line of films starting with The Country Bears (2002) and The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (both 2003). The latter film—the first film produced by the studio to receive a PG-13 rating—began a film series that was followed by four sequels, with the franchise taking in more than $5.4 billion worldwide from 2003 to 2017. On January 12, 2010, Aviv stepped down as the studio's president of live-action production.
In January 2010, Sean Bailey was appointed the studio's president of live-action production, replacing Aviv. Bailey had produced Tron: Legacy for the studio, which was released later that same year. Under Bailey's leadership and with support from then Disney CEO Bob Iger—and later studio chairman Alan Horn—Walt Disney Pictures pursued a tentpole film strategy, which included an expanded slate of original and adaptive large-budget tentpole films. Beginning in 2011, the studio simplified the branding in its production logo and marquee credits to just "Disney". 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. However, the studio had found particular success with live-action fantasy adaptations of properties associated with 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. With the continued success of Maleficent (2014) and Cinderella (2015), the studio saw the potential in these fantasy 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. Although Walt Disney Pictures produced several successful smaller-budgeted genre films throughout the 2010s, such as The Muppets (2011), Saving Mr. Banks (2013), and Into the Woods (2014), the studio shifted its production model entirely on tentpole films as they had found that a majority of the smaller genre films were becoming financially unsustainable in the theatrical market.
In 2017, The Walt Disney Company announced it was creating its own streaming service platform. The new service, known as Disney+, would feature original programming created by the company's vast array of film and television production studios, including Walt Disney Pictures. As part of this new distribution platform, Bailey and Horn confirmed that Walt Disney Pictures would renew development on smaller-budgeted genre films that the studio had previously stopped producing for the theatrical exhibition market a few years prior. In 2018, nine films were announced to be in production or development for the service. These films would be budgeted between $20 million and $60 million. The studio is expected to produce approximately 3-4 films per year exclusively for Disney+, alongside its theatrical tentpole slate. Disney+ was launched on November 12, 2019, in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands, with subsequent international expansions. Within the first two months of the service's launch, Walt Disney Pictures had released three films (Lady and the Tramp, Noelle, and Togo) exclusively for Disney+. According to Insider, in 2022 Disney+ will be adding around 30 new movies varying from Marvel Studios, Disney Animation Studios, Pixar studios, and more. There will be multiple sequels that will be released in the coming year, such as Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Hocus Pocus 2, as well as many new movies that we have not yet been introduced to. 
On March 12, 2020, Fox Family president Vanessa Morrison was named president of live-action development and production of streaming content for both Disney Live-Action and 20th Century Studios, reporting directly to Bailey. That same day, Philip Steuer and Randi Hiller were also appointed as president of the studio's physical, post-production and VFX, and executive vice president for casting, respectively–overseeing these functions for both Walt Disney Pictures and 20th Century Studios.
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).
Although Walt Disney Pictures maintains a family-friendly image, generally releasing G and PG-rated films, it does occasionally release films rated PG-13, something Touchstone Pictures was capable of doing until its closure in 2016. The first PG-13 rated film released by Walt Disney Pictures was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Additionally, Tales from Earthsea, a Studio Ghibli film, is the first and so far only animated film released by Walt Disney Pictures to receive the rating. Hamilton is notable for being the first Walt Disney Pictures film to use the expletive "fuck", although two instances of it were censored to avoid an R rating. The 2020 live-action remake of Mulan was the first live-action Disney remake to receive a PG-13 rating, with Cruella later following suit.
Films released by Walt Disney Pictures with a PG-13 rating include:
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
- Tales from Earthsea (2010)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
- John Carter (2012)
- The Lone Ranger (2013)
- Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
- The Finest Hours (2016)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)
- Hamilton (2020)
- Mulan (2020)
- Cruella (2021)
- Jungle Cruise (2021)
- The Beatles: Get Back–The Rooftop Concert (2022)
Film series and franchises
Walt Disney Pictures has produced five live-action 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), Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Aladdin (2019); and has released eight animated films that have reached that milestone: Toy Story 3 (2010), Frozen (2013), Zootopia, Finding Dory (both 2016), Incredibles 2 (2018), The Lion King, Toy Story 4, and Frozen II (three in 2019).
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