10 Incredible and Surprising Facts About Disney

The entertainment giant and the startup world aren't as far apart as you might think.
10 Incredible and Surprising Facts About Disney
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Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
4 min read

This year Disney is celebrating its 95th year in business and its continued pop cultural dominance. From movies and TV to parks and resorts to conventions and supporting up-and-coming entrepreneurs, check out 10 facts you might not know about the beloved behemoth.

1. Working from home
Walt Disney had an apartment built for him and his family in Disneyland so he could be on site as much as possible while the California park was being constructed. It sat above the Fire Department on Main Street, and staff knew he was around when the lamp was lit on the window -- and it still shines in honor of the late founder, who died in 1966.

2. Office romance
Russi Taylor, the voice actress of Minnie Mouse, and Wayne Anthony Allwine, who was the voice of Mickey Mouse, actually got married in real life in 1991. They were together until Allwine died in 2009.

3. A surprising connection
After Disney bought Pixar in 2006, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs became Disney’s biggest shareholder with a 7.3 percent stake in the company. He also served on the board of directors. The relationship was mutually beneficial, with Jobs helping to bolster Disney’s retail presence, and Disney being the first studio to sell its TV and film properties in the iTunes store.

Related: Disney to Ditch Netflix and Start its Own Streaming Service

4. Spare no expense
Over the past 12 years, Disney’s been particularly savvy when it comes to buying properties that more than pay for themselves. In 2006, the company bought Pixar for $7.4 billion. In 2009, it snapped up Marvel for $4.24 billion. And in 2012 Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion. Next in the queue is the soon-to-be-completed purchase of 21st Century Fox’s film and TV properties in a deal worth about $52 billion. It is also the parent company of networks including ABC, ESPN and A&E.

5. Worldwide domination
By the time Disney opened its first store in China in 2015, there were more than 200 Disney Stores in North America, more than 40 in Japan and more than 70 Disney Store locations in Europe. It currently operates six resorts and 12 parks across the world.

6. The nose knows
Disney is known for its impeccable storytelling, apparently even right down to what you smell when you’re at Disneyland, depending on where you are in the park. An Imagineer named Bob McCarthy patented a machine called the Smellitzer that produces specific scents for each attraction.

7. First-name basis
Apparently the reason why Disneyland employees only have their first names on their badges is because Walt Disney didn’t appreciate being called Mr. Disney.

Related: What Does the 'Star Wars' Universe Smell Like? Head to Disney.

8. The road not taken
While Mickey Mouse is now iconic, the 90-year-old rodent almost wasn’t Disney’s resident cash cow. The first animated creation was a creature with similar features named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Disney lost the rights to the character in the late 1920s to Universal. However, he was spurred on to make Steamboat Willie, starring the one and only Mickey Mouse. Oswald made a return appearance in the 2010 video game, Epic Mickey.

9. All things Disney
Disney has so much going on under the tent that since 2009, twice a year for three days, the company takes over the Anaheim Convention Center to give fans a look at what’s next with the D23 Expo.

10. Next generation of innovators
Disney has a venture capital arm called, appropriately, Steamboat Ventures. To date, it has invested in 30 companies, including ecommerce platform Joyus, GoPro and mobile advertising platform GreyStripe. In 2014, the company launched the Disney Accelerator program, which has counted companies including Brit + Co, littleBits and Epic Games as participants.

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