Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures is an American motion picture distributor owned by The Walt Disney Company. Established in 1953 as Buena Vista Film Distribution, the company handles distribution for films produced by the Walt Disney Studios; including Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, 20th Century Studios, Disneynature, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Blue Sky Studios, and Lucasfilm.
Prior to 1953, Walt Disney Productions' short films and feature films were distributed by Celebrity Productions, Columbia Pictures, United Artists and RKO Radio Pictures. A dispute with RKO over the value of Disney's True-Life Adventures series of live-action documentary featurettes in 1953 led to Walt and his older brother Roy Oliver Disney to form its wholly owned subsidiary Buena Vista Film Distribution Company, Inc. (BVD) to handle the U.S. distribution of their own films. Despite this, RKO would continue to distribute some of Disney's theatrical shorts until 1956. Buena Vista's first release was the Academy Award winning live-action feature The Living Desert on November 10, 1953 along with Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, Buena Vista's first animated release. Notable subsequent releases include the foreign film, Yang Kwei Fei (Most Noble Lady), released in US theaters in September of 1956, The Missouri Traveler in March 1958, and The Big Fisherman in July 1959 (the first third-party production financed by Disney). In 1961, Disney incorporated Buena Vista International, distributing its first PG rated film, Take Down, in January 1979.
Other names for the division were Buena Vista Distribution Company, Inc. (April 1960-July 1987) and Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc. (July 1987-April 2007).
In April 2007, Disney dissolved the Buena Vista moniker in its distribution branding and re-branded itself as Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
On October 12, 2020, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced the founding of Disney Media Distribution, as the result, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Disney Music Group and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment are all transfered to this new division.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures is noteworthy for having 25 films that have surpassed the $1-billion-mark and 3 films of the $2-billion-mark in worldwide ticket sales:
- Avengers: Endgame (2019; $2,797,800,564)
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015; $2,068,223,624)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018; $2,048,359,754)
- The Lion King (2019; $1,656,821,650)
- The Avengers (2012; $1,518,594,910)
- Frozen II (2019; $1,450,026,933)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015; $1,402,805,868)
- Black Panther (2018; $1,347,280,838)
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017; $1,332,539,889)
- Frozen (2013; $1,280,802,282)
- Beauty and the Beast (2017; $1,263,521,126)
- Incredibles 2 (2018; $1,242,805,359)
- Iron Man 3 (2013; $1,214,811,252)
- Captain America: Civil War (2016; $1,153,304,495)
- Captain Marvel (2019; $1,128,274,794)
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019; $1,074,144,248)
- Toy Story 4 (2019; $1,073,394,593)
- Toy Story 3 (2010; $1,066,969,703)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006; $1,066,179,725)
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016; $1,056,057,273)
- Aladdin (2019; $1,050,693,953)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011; $1,045,713,802)
- Finding Dory (2016; $1,028,570,889)
- Alice in Wonderland (2010; $1,025,467,110)
- Zootopia (2016; $1,023,784,195)
Disney is the only major Hollywood studio that has released more than four films that have crossed the $1-billion-mark (in worldwide grosses). In addition, Disney is the first of only two studios to have released two $1-billion films in the same year (the other being Warner Bros.). The top three highest grossing animated films have been released by Disney (4 films if counted The Lion King). Seventeen of the twenty highest grossing G-rated films were also distributed by Disney. In 2012, Disney achieved its largest yearly box-office gross in North America.
The company distributes all features produced by The Walt Disney Studios, other Disney film units and some third-parties including:
Active producer/distribution deals
Former producer deals
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International was formed in 1961 as Buena Vista International, Inc., which is the owner of Disney Channel Asia. In 1992, Disney opted to end a previous joint venture with Warner Bros., that began in 1988 to distribute their films in overseas markets (UK, Ireland, Benelux and Scandinavia). In those territories from 1993-2007, Disney reactivated the Buena Vista International name, and also sent distribution under it in countries that did not have any current arrangements with other companies. Distribution rights in West Germany were given to MGM (under CIC in the early 1970s) and later to 20th Century Fox before the Warner Bros. joint venture. In Russia and CIS, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Greece, Singapore and the Philippines, Disney films had been distributed in a joint venture with Sony Pictures Entertainment. In Japan, distribution rights are handled in partnership with Toho.
- Other international distributors
- UK/Ireland — Rank Film Distributors (1954–1986) and Warner Bros. (1987–1992)
- Turkey — Warner Bros. (–1994), United International Pictures (1994–present)
- Ukraine — United International Pictures, and Sony Pictures Releasing (2007–present)
- Kazakhstan — United International Pictures, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Releasing International (1997–present)
- Finland — Suomi-Filmi
- France — Gaumont Buena Vista International (1993–2004)
- Belgium/Netherlands/Benelux — Warner Bros (1987–1992), United International Pictures (1993–present)
- Australia/New Zealand — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1959–1968; through in 1973–86), Greater Union Organization (1968–1972), CIC-Fox (1973–1981), United International Pictures (under UIP-Fox) (1982–1986), Village Roadshow (1987–1992)
- Italy — Cinema International Corporation (1974–1981), United International Pictures (1982–1987), Warner Bros. (1987–1991) and Columbia TriStar Italia (1992–1995)
- Short films
- Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953)
- Ben and Me (1953)
- Grand Canyonscope (1954)
- How to Have an Accident in the Home (1956)
- Jack and Old Mac (1956)
- A Cowboy Needs a Horse (1956)
- The Story of Anyburg, U.S.A. (1957)
- The Truth About Mother Goose (1957)
- Paul Bunyan (1958)
- Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959)
- How to Have an Accident at Work (1959)
- Noah's Ark (1959)
- Goliath II (1960)
- Aquamania (1961)
- The Saga of Windwagon Smith (1961)
- Donald and the Wheel (1961)
- The Litterbug (1961)
- A Symposium on Popular Songs (1962)
- Freewayphobia (1965)
- Steel and America (1965)
- Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966)
- Donald's Fire Survival Plan (1966)
- Scrooge McDuck and Money (1967)
- Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968)
- It's Tough to Be a Bird (1969)
- Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974)
- The Small One (1978)
- Vincent (1982)
- Fun with Mr. Future (1982)
- Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore (1983)
- Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International was formed in 1961 as Buena Vista International. In 1992, Disney opted to end a previous joint venture with Warner Bros., that began in 1988 to distribute their films in overseas markets (UK, Ireland, Benelux & Scandinavia). Distribution rights in West Germany were given to MGM and later 20th Century Fox before the Warner Bros. joint venture. In Russia and CIS, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines, Disney films had been distributed in a joint venture with Sony Pictures Entertainment. In China, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International can have promoting rights for its films, but based on Chinese Movie Releasing Law, the distribution must take over by China Film Group Corporation and Huaxia Film Distribution.
- Other international distributors
- UK/Ireland — Rank Film Distributors (1954-1987) and Warner Bros. (1987-1992)
- Turkey — United International Pictures
- Ukraine — United International Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment
- Kazakhstan — United International Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros. (former 20th Century Fox)
- Finland — Suomi-Filmi
- Belgium/Netherlands/Benelux — United International Pictures
- Australia/New Zealand — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1959-1968), Greater Union Organization (1968-1987), CIC-Fox (1970s-1987), Village Roadshow (1988-1992)
- China — China Film Group Corporation and Huaxia Film Distribution.
- Disney retains all the distribution rights to these 14 DreamWorks films in perpetuity
- GKIDS acquired the theatrical distribution rights to Studio Ghibli's films from Disney in 2014 and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment retained the U.S. home media distribution rights to 13 Ghibli films before those films also went to GKIDS in 2017 (outside of Disney retaining the rights to The Wind Rises).
- Buena Vista is only a distribution studio working for Disney, and does not exist as a separate company.
- California Business Entity #: C0246226
- "Disney to Reorganize, Prioritize Streaming In New Leadership Structure" (October 12, 2020).
- California Business Entity #: C0412021
- The Disney Studio Story, by Richard Holliss and Brian Sibley, 1988.
- Disney, Sony team up for Russian content, The Hollywood Reporter, December 27, 2006.
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