Tag Archives: Walt Disney Company

Disney to Take Full Control Over Hulu

The Walt Disney Company and Comcast Corporation announced today that Disney will assume full operational control of Hulu, effective immediately, in return for Disney and Comcast entering into a “put/call” agreement regarding NBCUniversal’s 33% ownership interest in Hulu. Under the put/call agreement, as early as January 2024, Comcast can require Disney to buy NBCUniversal’s interest in Hulu and Disney can require NBCUniversal to sell that interest to Disney for its fair market value at that future time. Hulu’s fair market value will be assessed by independent experts but Disney has guaranteed a sale price for Comcast that represents a minimum total equity value of Hulu at that time of $27.5 billion.

“Hulu represents the best of television, with its incredible array of award-winning original content, rich library of popular series and movies, and live TV offerings. We are now able to completely integrate Hulu into our direct-to-consumer business and leverage the full power of The Walt Disney Company’s brands and creative engines to make the service even more compelling and a greater value for consumers,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company, in a statement this morning.

Disney and Comcast have agreed to fund Hulu’s recent purchase of AT&T Inc.’s 9.5% interest in Hulu, pro rata to their current two thirds/one third ownership interests and, going forward, Comcast will have the option but not the obligation to fund its proportionate share of Hulu’s future capital calls and will be diluted if it elects not to fund. Disney has agreed that only $1.5 billion of any year’s capital calls can be funded through further equity investments with any capital in excess of that annual amount being funded by non-diluting debt. Whether Comcast funds its share of those equity capital calls or not, Disney has agreed that Comcast’s ownership interest in Hulu will never be less than 21% such that Comcast is guaranteed to receive at least $5.8 billion under the put/call agreement.

In addition to the put/call agreement, Comcast has agreed with Hulu to extend the Hulu license of NBCUniversal content and the Hulu Live carriage agreement for NBCUniversal channels until late 2024 and to distribute Hulu on its Xfinity X1 platform. NBCUniversal can terminate most of its content license agreements with Hulu in three years’ time, and in one year’s time NBCUniversal will have the right to exhibit on its own OTT service certain content that it currently licenses exclusively to Hulu in return for reducing the license fee payable by Hulu.

Alan Bergman Upped, Alan Horn Expands Role at The Walt Disney Studios

Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, and Alan Horn, Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, have announced that Walt Disney Studios President Alan Bergman has been elevated to Co-Chairman of the Studio Entertainment division. He will serve alongside Horn, while Horn will assume the additional title of Chief Creative Officer, continuing to guide the Studios’ overarching creative strategy.

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As Co-Chairmen, Horn and Bergman will report to Iger and will jointly oversee Disney’s world-class film, music, and theatre groups, as well as the Studios’ global marketing, distribution, communications, and human resources. Producing content both for theatrical release and Disney’s direct-to-consumer platforms, the Studios’ collection of film labels includes Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Disneynature, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm, as well as Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Family, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox 2000, and Blue Sky Studios following The Walt Disney Company’s recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox. Bergman will continue to oversee the Studios’ business groups including operations, technology, business and legal affairs, labor relations, and finance.

“Seven years ago, I had the good fortune of hiring Alan Horn as Chairman of our Studios, and since then, our Studio Entertainment group has delivered creative excellence and tremendous box office success,” said Iger. “Alan Bergman’s leadership has also been key to making our Studios the gold standard of the industry. The new ‘co-chair’ structure formally recognizes the powerful partnership behind one of the most successful eras in our Studios’ history and ensures we remain focused on creating extraordinary entertainment experiences for audiences around the world.”

“When I joined The Walt Disney Studios as Chairman in 2012, I was fortunate to gain an immensely talented, passionate, and dedicated leadership team, chief among them Alan Bergman, who has been a trusted partner and friend ever since,” said Horn. “We’ve worked in close consultation throughout my tenure, and the success we’ve had over the past several years would not have been possible without him. As The Walt Disney Studios has grown to encompass not only Disney but Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and now the Fox film division, I’m thrilled to acknowledge how Alan’s role has likewise expanded by naming him to lead the Studios alongside me as Co-Chairman.”

“The Walt Disney Studios team is the best in the business, and I’ve been inspired to do my best every day because of the extraordinary group of people I’m fortunate enough to work with,” said Bergman. “I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished together, and it’s a great honor to be asked to serve as Co-Chairman alongside Alan as we look forward to the years ahead.”

As President of The Walt Disney Studios since 2005, Bergman has played a significant role in guiding the transformation of Disney’s film studio into an industry powerhouse. He led the Studios’ integrations of Pixar Animation Studios and Marvel Studios, led with Horn the integration of Lucasfilm, and is currently leading with Horn the integration of the Fox film labels under The Walt Disney Studios umbrella. Bergman joined The Walt Disney Company in 1996 and held executive roles in Disney’s controllership and operations planning groups before being named Chief Financial Officer of The Walt Disney Studios in 2001.

Serving as Chairman since 2012, Horn has presided over an unprecedented time of growth at The Walt Disney Studios. Horn is a longtime industry veteran, having served as Chairman and CEO of Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio’s Embassy Communications and later co-founding Castle Rock Entertainment. Prior to joining Disney, Horn ushered in the modern blockbuster era as President and Chief Operating Officer at Warner Bros., which led the global box office seven years during his 12-year tenure.

Under Horn and Bergman’s leadership, Disney became the first and only studio to cross the $7 billion mark at the global box office, first in 2016 reaching $7.6 billion, and again in 2018 with $7.3 billion, when Disney also set an industry record of $3.09 billion domestically. Together, they’ve overseen the release of 15 billion-dollar hits, including two films – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Avengers: Infinity War” – that have surpassed $2 billion out of only four in industry history.

During their tenure, Disney has released the biggest domestic release of all time (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), the biggest domestic animated release of all time (“Incredibles 2”), and the biggest global animated release of all time (“Frozen”), and a Disney release has led the box office domestically and globally every year since 2015. Among the films they’ve guided together are Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Jungle Book”; Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia” and “Moana”; Pixar’s “Coco” and “Inside Out”; Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel”; and Lucasfilm’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” while Disney’s theatrical group has debuted popular Broadway and touring productions of “Frozen,” “Newsies,” “Aladdin,” and others.

The Studios 2019 film slate is its most ambitious yet, with “Captain Marvel” and “Avengers: Endgame” already surpassing $1 billion each; live-action Disney releases “Dumbo,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” and “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”; Fox’s “Dark Phoenix,” “Stuber,” and “Ford V. Ferrari”; Pixar’s “Toy Story 4”; Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen 2”; and Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” among others. The Studios is also producing highly anticipated content for Disney’s upcoming streaming service Disney+, including “The Mandalorian” from Lucasfilm, several Marvel Studios limited series, and Disney’s live-action “Lady and The Tramp.”

Disney and Make-A-Wish Launch #FriendLikeMe Challenge in Celebration of ‘Aladdin’

The Walt Disney Company and Make-A-Wish® have announced the #FriendLikeMe Challenge in celebration of the upcoming release of the highly anticipated new movie Aladdin. Actor/recording artist Will Smith, who stars in the upcoming film as the wish-granting Genie, helped kick off the campaign, which continues through May 24, 2019, when Aladdin opens in U.S. theaters. The global cause marketing campaign begins today—World Wish Day®—and is supported by Disney and Smith, who are both Make-A-Wish wish granters.

In a video released today, Smith encourages fans to join the campaign and help show the world: Where there’s a wish there’s a way. The campaign poses the question, “If you were the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin and had the chance to grant three heartfelt wishes for someone, who would you share them with? Tag a friend on Twitter and/or Instagram. For every public post with #FriendLikeMefrom now through May 24, 2019, Disney will donate $5 up to $1 million to Make-A-Wish to help grant life-changing wishes to children battling critical illnesses all over the world. For more information, go to FriendLikeMe.org. See Disney’s Aladdin in theaters May 24.”

“The release of Aladdin presents an authentic opportunity to connect the film’s powerful theme of wish-granting to the wonderful work Make-A-Wish does in support of children dealing with serious illnesses around the world,” said Elissa Margolis, senior vice president, Enterprise Social Responsibility for The Walt Disney Company. “Wishes are all about hope and we’re so glad to be able to continue our work with Make-A-Wish and invite fans to join us in helping grant more wishes that will bring hope into the lives of deserving kids and their families.”

Since 1980, Disney and Make-A-Wish have helped grant life-changing wishes for more than 130,000 children with critical illnesses around the world. Today, one out of every two wishes granted in the U.S. is a Disney wish. When a wish is granted, a child replaces fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Granting wishes is a part of The Walt Disney Company’s philanthropic and outreach initiative, Disney Team of Heroes, which delivers comfort and inspiration to families with children facing serious illness.

“The #FriendLikeMe Challenge unites two of our longest-tenured and most passionate wish granters in Disney and Will Smith,” said Richard Davis, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish America. “Both Disney and Will have forever transformed the lives of countless wish kids by allowing them to experience the hope and healing of a wish come true.”

Michel Rudolphie, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish International added, “By participating in the challenge, members of the global community can do their part to bring the life-changing impact of a wish to more children. We are grateful to Disney and Will Smith for joining us on this journey to transform the lives of more children, families, volunteers, supporters, medical professionals and entire communities worldwide.”

For additional information, visit FriendLikeMe.org.

Disneynature’s Penguins Continues Legacy of Conservation at The Walt Disney Company

Through breathtaking photography and compelling storytelling that is grounded in reality, Disneynature’s Penguins, opening in U.S. theaters today, transports audiences to Antarctica to go on a journey with Steve, an Adélie penguin who sets out to build a suitable nest, find a life partner and start a family. Despite punishing weather conditions and predators that include killer whales and leopard seals, Steve’s quest is relatable to modern audiences who will empathize with the first-time father as he navigates parenthood with nothing to go on but instinct.

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Penguins, the eighth theatrical release from Disneynature, continues a legacy that dates back to Walt Disney himself. The 28-minute-long documentary Seal Island was the first of 13 True-Life Adventures to be produced by Walt between 1948 and 1960. The films won eight Academy Awards® following their theatrical debuts, and continued to captivate viewers as they were later featured on The Wonderful World of Disney or screened in elementary schools. The pioneering series of documentaries also inspired countless budding conservationists and nature filmmakers, including the team behind Disneynature’s latest film.

“They were my introduction to nature in a certain sense. And I just remember as a kid the wonder of these amazing animals, whether it was The Living Desert (1953), The Vanishing Prairie (1954) or Jungle Cat (1959),” says Penguins producer Roy Conli, an animation veteran whose credits for Disney include the Oscar®-winning Big Hero 6 and Tangled, as well as Disneynature’s Born in China.

“It is impossible not to be inspired by their enormous cultural influence,” says Jeff Wilson, the son of two conservationists, who serves as director of Penguins with Alastair Fothergill. “All of our team members, myself included, grew up dreaming of being part of that legacy. The difference in the modern day, though, is that we have become far more technologically advanced and can now really achieve the impossible in bringing the true stories to the natural world to the big screen. There are no limits.”

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For Penguins, the production team went to greater lengths—and colder temperatures—than ever before, making it the largest logistical operation ever undertaken by Disneynature. The world’s top polar experts spent three years filming in Antarctica, capturing footage between October and February—the only viable window before the sea ice freezes over and sun sets on the region for six months. The filmmakers shot for nearly 900 camera days, including 128 days of underwater filming, in remote locations that were accessed by helicopter, by boat and on foot—and rarely did the temperature rise above 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The team also faced the same climatic challenges as their subjects, including subzero temperatures and katabatic winds in excess of 150 miles per hour. “In these conditions, tents and emergency shelters can disappear in an instant and one could succumb to exposure in a matter of minutes. We had to draw on every ounce of our experience to survive these conditions,” says Wilson.

The filmmakers called upon innovation and ingenuity to tackle a very different challenge during production: how to spotlight Steve, rather than his approximately 499,999 Adélie neighbors. In addition to wide-angle lenses, shallow depths of field and careful framing to keep Steve front and center, the photographers also engineered a specially designed “penguin cam” involving the use of a Ronin, or stabilizing rig, that’s typically used follow humans at their eye level. To film the diminutive birds, the filmmakers literally flipped the Ronin on its head and made additional modifications that would provide maximum stability while they tracked the winning penguin protagonist.

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Penguins continues the Disneynature tradition of empowering the audience to join Disney in making a difference—taking to heart the words of Walt Disney, who noted that conservation is “a matter that concerns all of us.” For every ticket sold during the film’s opening week (April 17–23), Disneynature will make a donation to the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) to help protect penguins across the southern hemisphere. WCN invests in a select network of on-the-ground conservationists, including top experts in the field of penguins like the Global Penguin Society (GPS), the worldwide leader in science-based penguin conservation. Visit Nature.Disney.com to learn more.

Conli, who take tremendous pride in continuing the legacy of conservation at Disney, hopes viewers of Penguins—especially younger audiences—will discover the same “wonder of nature” that first struck him while viewing Disney’s True-Life Adventures at a similar age. “I want kids, particularly, to sense what a magical world they live in,” he says. “When you see these amazing animals and these amazing landscapes and recognize how precious and how important it is to protect them, it truly is an inspiring proposition.”

Disney Team of Heroes Debuts Innovative Experiences at Texas Children’s Hospital

Just over 12 months since Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, announced a bold $100 million commitment to support children’s hospitals around the world, leaders from Disney and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas, debuted a suite of experiences, murals and interactive art aimed at providing comfort and inspiration for children and families.

The initiative, called Disney Team of Heroes, builds on The Walt Disney Company’s long legacy of delivering comfort and inspiration to families with children facing serious illness. Disney Team of Heroes combines Disney’s beloved characters with the unparalleled creativity of its employees and cast members to bring classic stories to life in innovative ways that are designed to reduce the anxiety of a hospital stay.

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“As the name ‘Team of Heroes’ implies, at Disney we know that if you want something to be timeless and touch the hearts of millions, it requires a talented team to bring it all to life. That is why we are so fortunate to have Texas Children’s Hospital and our advisory board help guide on this effort,” said Elissa Margolis, senior vice president, Enterprise Social Responsibility. “We could not have done this without all the guidance, partnership and collaboration from doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, child life specialists, creative teams, tech leaders and also, importantly, parents.”

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To reimagine the patient journey, Disney consulted a Panel of Experts that included physicians, caregivers and child life specialists who stated that the Company could make the greatest impact by focusing on moments of highest anxiety for children and families in hospitals, such as arrival and transitions to examination and operating rooms (including the “kissing zone,” in which patients and their families separate before the child undergoes surgery). Teams from every line of business across The Walt Disney Company came together to deliver solutions that are simple for hospitals to implement, sustain and scale.

The concepts unveiled at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) today are designed by many of Disney’s creative and technology experts, storytelling and experience experts, and the world-renowned Imagineers, who set out to bring a little bit of Disney magic to families during a challenging and uncertain time. The teams at Disney took a holistic approach to the program, which encompasses a range of experiences, from reimagined public spaces that create a warm and inspiring atmosphere for patients and families; to personal moments that empower patients and build connections to caregivers and hospital staff; and engaging content that will be accessed across a variety of platforms and transformative events. They also focused on opportunities to engage hospital staff, who are an integral part of these magic moments Disney has created for patients and their families.

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In TCH’s public spaces, Imagineers today unveiled Magic Windows, which provide mesmerizing views into the active, living worlds found in the stories of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars; and Magic Portals, which engage patients and families with games and favorite characters from across the worlds of Disney.

Breathtaking murals, intended to draw one’s imagination into the vibrant environments of Disney’s classic stories, have been designed with a magical twist: The characters from each mural spark to life in stories and games that can be accessed via the Disney WOW app on mobile devices.

The Disney WOW app activates augmented reality experiences that help create a more personal journey for each patient—one of the program’s key objectives. A child can literally wear their favorite character, thanks to themed hospital gowns that feature costume style designs from Disney, Marvel and Star Wars. Newly designed wristbands, which debut today, help staff recognize the favorite character of a child and also serve as symbolic “tickets” to special experiences and spaces throughout the hospital. Patients select their wristband and their chosen character remains with them throughout their hospital journey via personal experiences that include care packages, and the delightfully charming Magic Art, which delivers fun, animated, inspirational messages to patients.

An array of colorful Disney-themed products featuring characters patients know and love are intended to make hospital rooms feel more like home and a patient’s stay more comfortable. Care packages come filled with toys, games, books and activities that entertain patients; while an array of themed room décor items—from tray liners to cups—also helps to bring color and familiarity to the patient’s room and brighten his or her stay.

Engaging content and events will provide welcome distractions for patients and create opportunities to spend time with family and friends. In addition to the Disney WOW app, patients can access stories, games and other entertainment offerings through the DisneyNOW app on mobile devices and enjoy them throughout the hospital or from the comfort of their room. A virtual reality headset, designed in partnership with Starlight Children’s Foundation specifically for children’s hospitals, immerses patients in a new realm of fantastic experiences—filled with beloved characters and delightful story worlds—that they can explore from their own hospital beds, and a Mobile Movie Theater makes it possible for patients to view favorite movies with family and friends in various gathering spaces throughout the hospital.

Disney has also created opportunities for hospital staff to connect with the program while forging deeper connections with their patients. Themed Staff Badges—each representing a favorite Disney character of the staff member who wears it—activate special and engaging moments for patients and family to enjoy throughout the hospital. Additionally, hospital leaders and staff will receive specialized training provided by Disney Institute to help them deliver an exceptional level of care, compassion, comfort and connection—along with a little Disney magic.

The TCH pilot will enable the Disney teams to learn more, adapt and continue to strengthen the initiative overall for the benefit of patients, families and hospital staff. Additional concepts will be added over time, including a Comfort Corridor, which incorporates artwork and music to provide comfort and distraction for patients and families prior to surgery; and one-of-a-kind, story-themed Playspaces where anyone can play, interact and make new friends. As the program rolls out in additional hospitals here in the U.S. and around the globe, teams at Disney will continue to collaborate with experts to measure the impact of the work and ensure the Company is delivering on its commitment to ease the stress of a hospital stay in ways only Disney can.

“The magic and joy we have all experienced at a Disney park is now apparent as you walk throughout our hospital, and I am looking forward to seeing how this special partnership enhances the patient and family experience at Texas Children’s,” said Dr. Larry Hollier, surgeon-in-chief, Texas Children’s Hospital.