It goes without saying that the Walt Disney Company is one of the most widely recognized corporations on the planet, and the Company’s theme parks are cornerstones of the entertainment giant’s brand.
But of the Company’s six parks, how many are actually owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company?
The answer: only SOME of the Disney Theme Parks around the world are exclusively Disney owned and operated. So, it’s Disney…but NOT Disney? We’ll break it down for you.
Walt’s park is, indeed, 100% Walt Disney Company-owned today. Although when the Park was constructed, Walt himself only owned 16.55% of the shares while the Walt Disney Company partnered with two other companies to compile funding for the project.
By 1960, though, the Company bought out its partners; and by 1988 the Company had complete ownership — including the final 1988 acquisition of Disneyland Hotel which had, until that point, been owned by Jack Wrather.
Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea
The Tokyo Parks — Disney’s first in Asia — are owned and operated 100% by Oriental Land Company. That’s right: Disney has no ownership of Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea.
Oriental Land Company itself is owned by a handful of Japanese companies, and the Resort pays a licensing fee to Disney for both characters and names. But despite that international ownership, Disney Imagineers still design the Parks’ attractions, and Disney keeps employees on property to maintain standards.
Walt Disney World
This is the second Park the Walt Disney Company fully owns, but even this deal wasn’t entirely Disney-owned and -built in the very beginning. The Resort’s first two hotels — Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort — were built by U.S. Steel and bought out under the leadership of Roy Disney in 1971.
Of course, the Company’s ownership and control in Walt Disney World goes even further, as the Florida legislature approved the Reedy Creek Improvement District and essentially allows the Company full control over planning and development on its property.
You can see all the details on the Reedy Creek Improvement District in this video!
Disneyland Paris has seen its share of ups and downs over the past 27 years, and to this day it remains the only Disney Park in Europe. And up until 2017, Disney shared ownership of the park with Kingdom Holding Company (whose founder and chairman is Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal), which owned 23.3% of Disneyland Paris.
In 2017, the Walt Disney Company bought out enough shares of the stock to force a mandatory buy-out and took over 100% ownership. Through the transition, Disneyland Paris continued to be operated by Euro Disney S.C.A., a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company.
Hong Kong Disneyland
This Disney Park is owned as a partnership between the Walt Disney Company and the government of Hong Kong, where Disney owns 47% and the government 53%. The partnership even has a name: Hongkong International Theme Parks Limited. While Disney is a minority shareholder, the Company does directly oversee operations at the Park.
Similar to the Hong Kong property, Shanghai Disneyland is owned by a partnership between the Walt Disney Company and the government of China. This partnership is called Shanghai Shendi Group. In this case, Disney owns 43% and China 57%. Park operations are tasked to a management company that is 70% owned by Disney.
So, interestingly, many of the Disney parks aren’t entirely DISNEY parks! But from the development expected in Parks around the globe, one thing is clear (even if ownership isn’t): the demand for magic remains high. For more information about the history of Disney Parks ownership, see this article by Attractions Magazine and this chronology by Ken Polsson.
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Did you know about the Disney Parks not fully owned by Walt Disney Company? Let us know what you think about this fun (or frustrating) factoid in the comments!