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The Walt Disney Company (DIS)’s Colorful Origins and the Birth of Medicare

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The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)On this day in economic and business history…

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) was an innovator as well as an entertainer. This began early with Mickey Mouse, whose debut in 1928’s Steamboat Willie gave audiences their first experience with a cartoon synchronized to its own soundtrack. Four years later, on July 30, 1932, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) released Flowers and Trees, the first film ever released using the full Technicolor process.

Flowers and Trees‘ innovative use of color, which Disney had secured through an exclusive five-year contract with Technicolor, wowed audiences and Academy voters alike. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) won the first Oscar given for animated shorts later that year, beginning a momentous relationship with the Academy that eventually earned Walt 22 Oscars, 12 of which were awarded for short cartoons. The exclusive Disney-Technicolor five-year contract also locked out competing animators, giving Disney’s Silly Symphonies cartoons a big leg up in quality that helped carry the company forward for several years. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) released Snow White two years after the contract expired, ensuring its legacy as the world’s premiere animation company.

Exactly 66 years later, on July 30, 1998, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) expanded into watery new frontiers with the launch of Disney Magic, the first of its cruise ships. The family-friendly cruise liner is now one of four Disney ships plying the world’s waters (though the line is primarily based in the Caribbean), and Disney Cruise Lines has become an important part of the company’s parks and resorts segment, which grew from a $5 billion unit by revenue the year before Disney Magic launched into a $13 billion juggernaut in 2012. The growth of this segment is just one of the reasons why The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) has become one of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Indices:.DJI)’s standouts since its induction in 1991. In its more than two decades of Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Indices:.DJI)’ membership, the House of Mouse has returned 700% to shareholders compared to the Dow’s 425% performance during the same time frame.

Blackout of the century
A devastating series of blackouts in northern and eastern India that began on July 30, 2012 holds the dubious distinction of being the largest power outage in human history. Over two days, the outage cascaded across the country, affecting 620 million people. However, a later Wall Street Journal review of power access determined that just more than half of the people in affected regions had any electricity in the first place. For the rest, it was “darkness as usual.” Still, the reach of the blackout is truly sobering. Imagine a nationwide power outage crippling the United States for two days. The results would be ugly, to say the least.

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