In celebration of the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company, a series of six all-new illustrations explores the vast history of Disney’s creative endeavors by the eras—from the humble beginnings of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in 1923 to the company’s latest cinematic, streaming, and Disney Parks adventures.
Illustrated by noted visual artist Sam Carter (whose work has been featured at the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts, WonderGround Gallery, and beyond), in creative partnership with senior Disney designer Melanie Lapovich, the artwork first debuted as a series of photo locations at the Disney100: D23 Royal Anniversary Ball, held at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, on October 15, 2023—the eve of the company’s centennial.
The artwork is so stunning—and filled with so many beloved moments from Disney history—we thought D23 Members around the globe would love the chance to celebrate with an up-close look!
This decade is when it all began. In 1923, the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio launched, soon to be renamed the Walt Disney Studio, then Walt Disney Productions. In this piece, we have Alice from the Alice Comedies, Walt’s first series of films distributed after he arrived in California, having established his own studio with his brother Roy. Behind her is Walt’s first breakout animated star, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Two of the first iterations of Mickey Mouse are also represented here: Plane Crazy (1928) in the distance and Steamboat Willie (1928), the first Mickey Mouse short to be distributed and the first-ever animated film with fully synchronized sound, in the foreground. We can also catch a glimpse of the memorable skeletons from the first Silly Symphony short, The Skeleton Dance (1929).
The 1930s mark the debut of Walt’s first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Snow White herself serves as the focal point of the piece, with the Carthay Circle Theatre, where the film premiered, behind her. This era also saw the release of Fantasia in 1940, with Mickey Mouse playing the Sorcerer’s apprentice. Other animated features from the 1940s include Pinocchio (1940) and Bambi (1942). To celebrate the Burbank opening of The Walt Disney Studios lot in 1940, we have the famous water tower, the iconic Mickey Avenue and Dopey Drive street sign, and the original Animation Building. This piece also celebrates the beginnings of Disney comics and consumer products in 1930 with the very first Mickey Mouse newspaper comic strip; the first Mickey Mouse book; and a 1940s edition of the Mickey Mouse watch.
This era is famous for the opening of our first Disney theme park, with Disneyland opening in Anaheim, California, in 1955 and Walt Disney World opening near Orlando, Florida, in 1971. This piece contains many famous attractions and characters created by WED Enterprises, now known as Walt Disney Imagineering: “it’s a small world,” the original Barker Bird from Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Monorail, and the Main Street Electrical Parade. The Orange Bird, created by Disney for the Florida Citrus Commission, also flew in! In the sky is the famous badge from the original Mickey Mouse Club television series in 1955. Famous icons from memorable movies round out this era: Maleficent in dragon form from Sleeping Beauty (1959), Peter Pan and the Darling children from Peter Pan (1953), and the title character of Walt Disney’s live-action masterpiece Mary Poppins (1964).
This decade saw the opening of EPCOT Center (now EPCOT) at Walt Disney World Resort, with the iconic Spaceship Earth attraction and the lovable original character Figment. The first Disney Park outside the U.S. also opened in 1983—Tokyo Disneyland—represented by Cinderella Castle, the Meet the World attraction, and Minnie Mouse wearing a kimono. In this piece you’ll find an homage to Splash, released by the newly created Touchstone Pictures banner in 1984. This decade also marked the launch of The Disney Channel in 1983 and other original programming for television, including DuckTales (1987–1992) with Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey, and Louie in front of Scrooge’s Money Bin!
This era is home to some of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ most iconic films, including Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992). Disney Theatrical Productions also launched in the 1990s, with The Lion King debuting on Broadway in 1997—and it’s still performed in New York today! We also see an ABC camera and an ESPN microphone in this piece to celebrate the TV networks, which joined the Disney family in 1996. Six theme parks opened during this era—Disneyland Paris (originally called Euro Disneyland) in 1992; Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in 1998; Disney California Adventure Park and Tokyo DisneySea in 2001; the Paris-based Walt Disney Studios Park in 2002; and Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005—and Disney Cruise Line’s first ship, the Disney Magic, embarked on its maiden voyage in 1998. In 2006, Disney welcomed Pixar Animation Studios to the company, so we see the Pixar ball along with Woody and Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story films, Lightning McQueen from Cars (2006), Nemo and Dory from Finding Nemo (2003), and Carl’s house from Up (2009).
This era saw the additions of Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Studios, so you’ll find several iconic characters and scenes to celebrate. Iron Man, Black Panther, and Spider-Man fly over a skyline featuring Avengers Tower to honor the Marvel Cinematic Universe and The Infinity Saga. Representing Star Wars is Grogu from The Mandalorian (2019–), while Rey and BB-8 venture off in the distance. We see Alex Honnold Free Solo-ing a cliff (from the 2018 National Geographic documentary), while Kiri from Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) rides an ilu. Enchanted Storybook Castle fills out the skyline to celebrate Shanghai Disney Resort’s opening in 2016. Finally, we highlight two films from Walt Disney Animation Studios: Frozen from 2013 and the upcoming Wish, in theaters November 22!