Founded in 1923, The Walt Disney Company is responsible for some of our favorite childhood characters and movies, from the 1937 classic Snow White to 1992’s Aladdin, which featured Robin Williams as the lovable and memorable Genie. Disney is also behind 14 different theme parks around the world, including Walt Disney World and Disneyland. But did you know that the corporation earns more in revenue than every other broadcasting and cable company except Comcast, or that it has a dark history that includes racist depictions of minorities? Here are 12 things that may surprise you about a company that began with a cheerful, adorable little cartoon mouse.
12. ESPN is Disney’s Most Profitable Arm
Disney makes tons of money from theme parks, movie tickets, cruise lines and Disney princess toys, but in 2012, with a contribution from the Disney Channel, ESPN was generating more revenue than the rest of Disney’s other properties combined. Disney wasn’t always connected to the top sports cable network; ESPN first launched in 1979, after Bill Rasmussen was fired from his job as a hockey player and created the network, along with its top show, Sports Center. The company grew over the next few decades, spawning ESPN Radio in 1992 and ESPN 2 in 1993. Three years later, ESPN was acquired by The Walt Disney Company. ESPN isn’t a very big part of Disney’s theme parks, and ESPN Zone restaurants didn’t do so well for the company (most have closed, except for some in Southern California) – but the channel is still a huge winner for Disney. Time will tell if Fox Sports and NBC Sports can make the competition heat up.