As a mega-corporation, the Walt Disney Company has had considerable growth over the years. A lot of that came from buying out other companies to get assets that helped them continue to excite and expand. Over the past few years the Disney acquisition news has been particularly exciting, with the purchase of Marvel (home of Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men and many more) and Lucasfilm (owner of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc.). Those purchases are definitely going to affect the Disney theme parks in a big way. In fact, they've already started to. Here's a look at all the acquisitions that made differences in the future of Disney parks.
1. The Jack Wrather Estate
When Walt Disney spent every last dime he could get a hold of to fund his “risky” Disneyland project, he needed to turn to a friend when it came time to build a hotel for guests of the theme park. Jack Wrather agreed to pay for the Disneyland Hotel through his company Wrather-Alvarez, and benefited from that decision in a big way almost immediately. Because of the financial rewards of the Disneyland Hotel, he refused to sell the Disneyland Hotel and the rights for Disney hotels in California. Only his death would wrest the rights away from Wrather’s company. The CEO of the Walt Disney Company in the 1980s, Michael Eisner, bought the Jack Wrather Corporation mainly to gain the right to build Disney hotels in California and pave the way for a full Disneyland Resort. The Estate was also the owner the film property Zorro, but that hasn’t been utilized much at the Disney theme parks as of yet.
ABC a.k.a. the American Broadcasting Company was a major purchase by the Walt Disney Company in 1996, costing the Mouse a staggering $19 billion. ABC and Disney had a long relationship prior to that, though. In exchange for financing for Disneyland Park, Walt Disney agreed to host his anthology series that went by a variety of names including Walt Disney Presents (1958–1961), Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (1961–1969), The Wonderful World of Disney (1969-1979, 1994-2009) and of course its original title, Disneyland, on the network.
To long-time surveyors of Disney’s history the acquisition seemed very fitting, and it’s certainly done a lot for the company. The theme parks weren’t a priority when the acquisition was being considered, but they’ve certainly been affected in some small ways by Disney’s ownership of one of the main broadcast networks.For instance, the ABC Commissary at Disney's Hollywood Studios features signed scripts and props from ABC shows like The Middle, Revenge and Once Upon a Time. Though we haven't seen a full-fledged attraction yet based on an ABC property, many have been pushing for something from the universe of Lost to appear at one of Disney's parks.
ESPN was acquired by ABC Studios in 1984 and was therefore was part of the package when Disney purchased ABC Studios back in 1996. The ownership of ESPN led to Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex being rebranded to the ESPN Wide World of Sports in early 2010, after first announcing the change in May 2008. While not necessarily a theme park, the Wide World of Sports Complex is a significant element of the Walt Disney World Resort and certainly a draw for people visiting Orlando.