5 Reasons Disney Will Get Even Bigger - and More Fun

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Things are heating up at the company behind "Frozen." Disney (DIS) may have posted mixed quarterly results after Thursday's market close, but there are also plenty of reasons to be optimistic about its future.

Let's go over five things that could make the family entertainment giant even bigger in the coming months and years.

1. You've Got a Friend in "Toy Story 4"

Disney waited until Thursday afternoon's earnings call to announce that "Toy Story 4" will hit theaters three summers from now. Disney fans had mixed feelings about the announcement. As much as many would love to see the characters back in more than just an animated short, there was also something satisfying and final about the way that "Toy Story 3" ended.

Pixar has proven that it can make a sequel without sacrificing quality, but is Disney pushing things too far here? I don't think so. History will likely shine kindly on this move. With studio chief John Lasseter returning to direct, the excitement will be there. The movie won't hit theaters until June 2017, giving the anticipation plenty of time to build. "Toy Story 3" rang up $1 billion in global ticket sales and nearly $10 billion in retail sales. It'll work. Purists initially complained about "Toy Story 2" and "Toy Story 3," too.

2. C-3PO and See Three "Star Wars" Movies

Disney also turned heads on Thursday by announcing a name for next year's "Star Wars" movie. "Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens" will hit theaters in 13 months. This is the moment that should make Disney's decision to pay more than $4 billion for Lucasfilm pay off.

It won't stop there. The eighth chapter in the saga will follow in 2017, with the ninth chapter hitting what will likely be record audiences come 2019. Between now and then we will likely see a larger presence of the "Star Wars" franchise in some of Disney's theme parks.

3. Shanghai Disney

Speaking of Disney theme parks, Shanghai Disneyland will open in late 2015 or early 2016. Most of us will never see the resort, but it will go a long way toward cementing the Disney brand in the world's most populous nation. Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005, but the new resort will be more accessible to all those people on the mainland. Disney announced during Thursday's call that it will announce a firm opening date in early 2015.

4. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boom

"Cinderella" is one of Disney's earliest animated classics, and in April it will get a new spin as a live-action theatrical release. This could sound hokey in the wrong hands, but with Kenneth Branagh directing and a critically acclaimed international cast that includes Helena Bonham Carter and Cate Blanchett, there may actually be some favorable buzz from critics.

Disney had a hit when it gave "Sleeping Beauty" a live-action tweak with "Maleficent" earlier this year. It wouldn't be a surprise if it catches lightning in a bottle again, in a way that draws even more attention to the thriving Disney Princess line.

5. Theme Parks Celebrate Hot Movies, Characters

Disney's stateside theme parks are posting record attendance, and things should get even better in the coming years. A "Frozen" ride is coming to Epcot's Norway pavilion in 2016, and Animal Kingdom's "Avatar"-themed attractions will open in 2017. That's really just the beginning.

Disney announced this summer that it will reveal its plans for "Star Wars"-themed additions come early 2015. Given the way that it has been closing up attractions at Florida's Disney Hollywood Studios, it's a safe bet that something will go there to fill the void. Let's also not forget Marvel. Disney is restricted from tapping certain franchises in Florida given the existing licensing deal between Marvel and Comcast's (CMCSK) Universal Orlando resort, but those restrictions don't apply in California or internationally.

From its MyMagic+ technology to its ambitious new attractions, there will be plenty of things drawing consumers to one of Disney's growing number of theme parks in the coming years.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Bring the magic of dividends to your portfolio: Check out our free report on our favorite high-yielding dividend stocks.
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