Disney and Warner Bros are two of the biggest names in entertainment, known for their iconic animated characters, blockbuster superhero franchises, and family-friendly classics. But does Disney actually own Warner Bros?
The short answer is no. Disney does not own Warner Bros. The two companies have a long and intertwined history as rivals in the animation and film industry, but they remain completely separate corporations.
In this article, we’ll explore the complex relationship between Disney and Warner Bros and answer common questions about their ownership and studios, including:
- Disney’s Relationship With Warner Bros Explained
- The Mickey Mouse Gang vs The Looney Tunes
- DC Vs Marvel Comics
- Who Owns Warner Brothers?
- What Studios Does Disney Own?
Disney’s Relationship With Warner Bros Explained
Disney and Warner Bros were both founded in 1923 and have been compared ever since. While they don’t directly compete anymore, they were once bitter rivals dominating the animation industry.
As the two largest Hollywood studios, Disney and Warner Bros frequently vie for the top box office spot. Disney has held the #1 spot for the past few years thanks to massive hits like Star Wars, Marvel, and live-action remakes. But Warner Bros remains a close second with franchises like Harry Potter, DC Comics, and more.
The rivalry between the two is a long and complex story. Here’s a quick look at some of the key moments:
- 1930s: Disney’s Mickey Mouse competes with Warner Bros’ Looney Tunes characters like Bugs Bunny. Both studios churned out beloved animated shorts.
- 1980s: Warner Bros gains ground with hits like Lethal Weapon and Batman. Disney goes through a slump.
- 1989: Disney enters its Renaissance era with The Little Mermaid and other animated musicals.
- 1990s: Disney purchases competitors like Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm to expand its content.
- 2000s: Warner Bros soars with Harry Potter, The Dark Knight, and other major franchises.
While the two companies compete for box office dominance, they manage to co-exist without any major mergers or acquisitions between them.
The Mickey Mouse Gang vs The Looney Tunes
The rivalry between Disney and Warner Bros started back in the 1930s during the Golden Age of animation.
In 1928, Disney struck gold with the creation of Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse cartoons like Steamboat Willie wowed audiences and made Disney a star animation studio.
Seeing Disney’s success, Warner Bros launched its own animation department in 1930. They debuted popular characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig under the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies banners.
For over a decade, Disney and Warner Bros battled it out over animated shorts. Both studios churned out iconic cartoons that are still beloved today. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy starred in Disney shorts, while Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and Wile E. Coyote led the Looney Tunes roster.
During this era, Warner Bros posed the first real challenge to Disney’s dominance in animation. But by the late 1930s, Disney pulled ahead with the first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This cemented Disney as the leader in animation.
The success of Snow White allowed Disney to build on feature films while Warner Bros focused on animated shorts. The friendly rivalry continued for decades and shaped the landscape of Western animation.
DC Vs Marvel Comics
Beyond animation, Disney and Warner Bros also compete in the world of comic books through their respective subsidiaries, Marvel and DC Comics.
DC Comics features iconic superheroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and more. It was purchased by Warner Bros in 1969.
Marvel features Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men, Iron Man, and others. Marvel Comics was bought by Disney in 2009.
So while they don’t directly own the publishers, Disney and Warner Bros each control the world’s biggest comic book universes. Fans often debate whether Marvel or DC has better superhero storylines and blockbuster films.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been one of Disney’s major assets and forms the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has struggled to find its footing, though hits like Aquaman and The Batman have shown promise.
Superhero showdowns like Captain America vs Superman regularly fuel the pop culture debate over Marvel and DC. But in reality, both publishers prosper under their respective parent companies. Comic fans don’t have to choose sides.
Who Owns Warner Brothers?
Warner Bros is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, which was formed in 2022 from a merger of Discovery Inc. and the former WarnerMedia. AT&T previously acquired WarnerMedia in 2018 before spinning it back off.
Here’s a quick look at the ownership history:
- 1923: Warner Bros is founded by the Warner brothers: Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack.
- 1967: Warner Bros merges with Seven Arts Productions to form Warner Bros.-Seven Arts.
- 1969: Kinney National Company acquires Warner Bros.-Seven Arts and renames it Warner Communications.
- 1990: Time Inc. merges with Warner Communications to create Time Warner.
- 2018: AT&T acquires Time Warner and rebrands it as WarnerMedia.
- 2022: Discovery Inc. merges with WarnerMedia to form Warner Bros. Discovery.
So while Warner Bros has changed hands a few times, it remains an independent studio not owned by Disney. Warner Bros Discovery now contains Warner Bros, HBO, CNN, Discovery Channel, and other major media brands.
What Studios Does Disney Own?
Disney has grown into a media titan over the past century through major acquisitions and building its own film labels. Here are some of the major film studios now owned by Disney:
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Founded in 1923 as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, this studio created classic animated films like Snow White, Cinderella, and The Lion King. It pioneered feature-length animation and continues producing hits like Frozen.
Pixar revolutionized computer animation with CGI-animated films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Inside Out. Disney purchased Pixar in 2006 but allows it to operate independently.
Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009, gaining the rights to Marvel superheroes like Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Panther. Disney now releases MCU films like Avengers: Endgame.
By purchasing Lucasfilm in 2012, Disney acquired the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. It has since released new Star Wars films, with others in development.
20th Century Studios
Disney acquired 20th Century Fox in 2019 and rebranded the studio as 20th Century Studios. Its holdings include Avatar, Die Hard, Planet of the Apes, and other major franchises.
Disney also acquired Fox’s arthouse film studio Searchlight Pictures in 2019. Searchlight is known for films like Little Miss Sunshine, The Shape of Water, and Nomadland.
Along with its own TV networks, Disney now owns an unmatched collection of blockbuster film franchises spanning animation, superheroes, sci-fi/fantasy, and more. But it does not yet own any part of its old rival Warner Bros.
While Disney and Warner Bros have been competitors for nearly a century, they remain completely separate companies. Neither studio owns the other.
They continue to compete for box office dominance and pop culture relevance through their iconic animated characters, superhero franchises, and other intellectual property.
Disney has grown into the world’s largest media company through major acquisitions like Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Fox. But Warner Bros also owns lucrative assets like DC Comics, Harry Potter, and its vast film/TV library.
The relationship between Disney and Warner Bros is complex and ever-evolving. But the studios target mostly different audiences and have managed to succeed side-by-side for decades without merging. Their friendly rivalry lives on as each produces content that shapes pop culture and entertains millions around the world.