What started as an independent animation studio in the 1920s is now a $41 billion media giant, ranging from theme parks to ABC, Pixar to Disney.com, even ESPN. And as one of the most powerful brands in the world, Disney continues to prove itself an exceptional idea factory and hit maker. Lost, Wall-E, High School Musical, and Hannah Montana are just a few of the projects and franchises that gripped the cultural zeitgeist in 2008.
Yet while holding onto its core identity of family and fun, the company hasn't shied away from reinvention: Six years ago, the company was selling mouse-clad sweatshirts for $75 at the high end of its retail market; last fall, it pursued luxury lifestyle goods, with designer wedding gowns, handbags, and cashmere sweaters.
The next frontier: Russia, considered one of the last untapped media mega-markets. The Disney Channel -- available in 22 languages in 135 countries and often used as a litmus test for full-on brand introduction in a new market -- will bring the Big Mouse to the Great Bear later this year.