As far as movies and theme parks are concerned, the two are some of the most popular names that comes to mind.
Universal has Marvel characters in it’s theme parks, this often time make people think that Disney owns Universal.
Although within be past years, Disney has been acquiring lots of properties and studios like Fox, FX, just to mention a few. This makes it easy for people to believe that they have also acquired Universal as well.
Well, if you are wondering if Universal has been bought up by Disney, this you are in the right place. Because, in this article, we won’t just you the answer, but we would go into details about these companies as well.
Is Universal Owned By Disney?
The answer is No. Disney doesn’t own Universal, as a matter of fact, Universal is one of the oldest film studios not just in the United States but also in the world that still produces movies.
However, Universal has had several owners in the past but none of them has been Disney.
Universal is currently owned by NBCUniversal and Comcast. So, even though you can see some Marvel characters as well as other Disney properties in it’s parks, doesn’t it’s owned by Disney.
Who Is The Owner Of Universal?
Currently, NBC Universal and Comcast currently owns Universal, and they story behind it is too long a tale.
Universal started with a handful of men who wanted to get involved in the movie business. Universal main founder was Carl Laemmle.
Carl Laemmle had some partners who invested and contributed to the studio. Some of these men are; Mark Dintenfass, William Swanson, Robert H. Cochrane, Adam Kessel, David Horsley, Jules Brulatour, Pat Powers, and Charles O. Baumann.
In April 30th, 1912, Carl Laemmle became the president of Universal, and the studiy was called Universal Film Manufacturing Company.
Over the years, lots of film studios have been birthed from Universal. Some of these studios include; New York Motion Picture Company, Rex Motion Picture Manufacturing Company, Independent Moving Picture and Champion Film Company.
In those early days of film making, it was easy for filmmaking studios to run out of business. They were collapsing at every turn and their big stars couldn’t attract audiences to their theaters. This was what made Carl Laemmle to focus on film production, distribution and exhibition at different locations and venues.
Laemmle broke the norm, he didn’t follow the usual strategy other studios were using, he created his own.
He then devised the strategy of owning a chain of theaters across the country which would be showing their films and the attendance at the theaters would then earn the money.
Laemmle also decided not to take loans to produce films, rather he ran on low budget and funded his films independently so he would stay out of debt.
This is the reason why Universal didn’t have the greatest high-quality films at the time but they also had some major successes and turned them into a household name.
Some of their major successes include films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, this was released in 1923, and The Phantom of the Opera, which was released in 1925.
Laemmle secretary, Irving Thalberg contribute immensely to the success but was later pouched by MGM.
The First Acquisition
The control of the studio later fell on Carl Laemmle Jr. He wanted to correct some of the mistakes his father made.
In 1928, Carl Jr. became the head of the Universal Studio at the age of 21. It was handed over to him as a birthday gift and one of the first things Carl Jr. did was to setup a chain of theaters within the country.
He was one of the first people to introduce sounds as talkies at the time. He made the studio to focus on high-production films, especially horror movies.
In 1930 and 40s, Universal studios became popularly known for high-production horror movies.
But the young Carl Jr. lacked his father’s restrain whichade him overspend on the productions and eventually, they had to borrow money.
They borrowed from Standard Capital Corporation. And I’m April 1936 Carl Jr and his father were removed from the studio when their budget went over $300,000. And Standard Capital Corporation took over Universal Studio.
J. Cheever Cowdin became the new president of Universal Studio. At the time, two British entrepreneurs, J. Arthur Rank and C.M. Woolf bought stakes in the studio.
Due to the previous experience, the new president focused on low-budget films. The studio was one of the last to have a contract with Technicolor. And at the time other studios in the country had moved from Technicolor to more expensive technologies.
Second Acquisition — The Forming of Universal-International
The merger between Universal and International Pictures resulted to United World Pictures. J. Arthur was part of that merger and it failed. He wanted to try again and they negotiated another merger with William Goets and Leo Spitz, the two founders of International.
In June 30th 1946, they became co-heads of the newly formed Universal-International Pictures studio.
This became the subsidiary of the Universal Pictures Company. This studio was used by Arthur Rank to distribute his British films and also used it to buy stakes in home-movie dealer, Castle.
Within in short period, Arthur Rank became the sole owner of the company. Even though the Universal had expanded, they were still struggling to produce films that attracted audiences which resulted to both Spitz and Goetz to leave the company paving way for Milton Rackmil.
In 1952, Milton Rackmil being part of Decca records took over Universal Studio. The studio was held by Decca for a decade before it merged with MCA which formed Universal City Studio in 1964.
This resulted to another subsidiary which gave Universal the type of budget they needed to make it an A-list studio.
The Road To NBCUniversal
This new Universal had several goals but the most important one was to go global and they thought that had finally gotten the opportunity when Matsushita Electronic which later became Panasonic, acquired MCA.
The acquisition cost 6 billion dollars and the Japanese company paid in full. But over time, their cultural differences couldn’t make thing go as smoothly as it should so, Matsushita withdrew from the acquisition and sold 80 percent of its stake to Seagram.
Universal was now acquired by Seagram, a Canadian drink distributor. Seagram bought lots of companies at the time like PolyGram and a lot of others entertainment properties.
After a while, Vivendi, a utility company bought SeaGram and they wanted to expand into the film business.
Vivendi owned another studio called Studio anal. And after the acquisition, Universal became Vivendi Universal.
In 2004, Vivendi got into a financial trouble which made them sold 80 percent of its stake to General Electric. And General Electric is the parent company of NBC.
Is the reason why it’s named NBCUniversal. Over the years, the have retained their legal name and since this acquisition, they have been a primary part of the company focusiyon the production of feature films.
In 2011, General Electric, purchased the rest of Vivendi’s stakes.
The Final Acquisition
In 2011, a party interested in the company started buying stocks and in 2013, they succeeded in buying the remaining 43 percent.
Since then, the leadership of the company has shifted ad it’s acquired new subsidiaries.
Although Comcast owns Universal today but it’s still Universal Studio that is still in charge of it’s film production. This explains the reason why you see Universal Studio in the credits and not Comcast when watching one of their movies.
So, since the studio started in the 1900s, it has gone through several mergers and acquisitions to be where it is today. And regardless of the different owners over the years, the company has continued to produce sensational films such as Jaws, Jurassic Park, just to mention a few and of course several other horror movies.
In 2016, Universal acquired DreamWorks Animation.
Why Are There Disney Characters In Universal Theme Park?
It’s easy to think Disney owns Universal because of the Marvel characters you find in their theme parks. You can easily see Marvel Super Heros like Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, etc. in the Island section of the park.
At the theme parks, you can even find rides named after Marvel characters such as Incredible Hulk Coaster, Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, etc.
The reason these can be seen in Universal Theme Park is because Universal make a contract with Marvel Comics in th 1990s, and at the time, Marvel wasn’t doing well.
And at the time, the comic studio were not as famous as it is today, although there were loyal followers but it was small.
Universal made a contract with them at the time to allow them make rides and have these characters from their comic in their parks.
The reason for this was to make Marvel characters more popular because fans at the park could be meeting these characters for the first time, thereby getting used to them.
A clause in the contract states that no other theme park could feature these Marvel characters east of the Mississippi River. Meaning that Disney World can not feature Marvel characters.
In 2009, Disney acquired Marvel and started to make a huge franchise out of it. So, even though Disney owns Marvel, Universal’s contract still remains valid.
Which is why you still find Marvel characters at Universal Studio despite being owned by Disney.
Will Disneyland Show Marvel Characters?
Although Universal may have blocked Disney from featuring Marvel characters at it’s Orlando theme park, but it’s a different ballgame for it’s California park because Disneyland is not easy of the Mississippi River, hence can display the Marvel characters.
There is already an Avenger Campus which is set to open in 2023. And the Campus will feature some of the favorite heors like Doctor Strange, Iron-Man, Ant-Man, etc.
Although Disneyland can display these Marvel properties, the same can not be said for Disney World.
However, Disney have some loopholes which is being used to bring some semblance of its Marvel property to Disney World. So, Disney World will feature the Guardians of the Galaxy. And they have an attraction set up for new characters and new areas.
The details of the agreement between Universal Studio and Disney is not known but is believed atht Disney can not feature Marvel characters that are already being claimed by Universal at their theme park but they can use the ones that Universal has not introduced to it’s park.
So, it’s highly unlikely, that Disney World will ever have Captain America, the Hulk, Spider-Man or Wolverine walking around.
However, Disney World can feature other super heros like Black Panther, Moon Knight, etc.
If these characters are not seen at Disney World, you can expect to see them at Disneyland.
Who Owns Disney?
Disney is owned by The Walt Disney Company. And they have have different subsidiaries.
Not every theme park has The Walt Disney Company as it’s primary owner.
Although The Walt Disney Company owns Disneyland but at the time of its creation, the company didn’t have the entire park. At the time, The Walt Disney Company only owned 16 percent. And the rest of it belonged to several other partners who helped built the park.
The Walt Disney Company eventually bought out it’s partners and now they have 100 percent ownership of Disneyland theme park
Haven said that, Disney does not own any of its Tokyo theme parks. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea belong to Oriental Land Company. Although Disney is still very much involved in the park.
Disney send their imagineers to Tokyo to help design and build rides for them. They also send some of their employees to the park to make sure everything is running well.
The Oriental Land Company pays Disney a licensing fee to use their characters and themes.
Walt Disney World in Florida is completely owned by The Walt Disney Company. Although this was not the case at the beginning because U.S. Steel own part and Disney owned part but Roy Disney acquired U.S. Steel in 1971.
Disney Paris shares it’s ownership with Disney. Although, this wasn’t the case when it first opened. Disney owned only a part of the park. While the other major owner was Kingdom Holding Company.
The Walt Disney Company bought out the Kingdom Holding Company and got 100 percent ownership over Disneyland Paris.
Disneyland Paris is now operated by Euro Disney S.C.A, a subsiiof Disney.
Disney still doesn’t completely own Hong Kong Disneyland. Disney shares it’s ownership with the Hong Kong government. The Hong Kong government owns the higher percentage of 53 while The Walt Disney Company owns 47 percent.