Disney: A Goofy Year in Review

Mickey Mouse has had a busy year of retro revivals, mortal box office returns, and reaching outside of its rich character portfolio for theme park expansion ideas.

Did I mention that Disney (NYS: DIS) CEO Bob Iger announced that he will be stepping down in a few years?

The result is that Disney is trading marginally lower this year on the mixed -- though largely positive -- developments at the family entertainment giant.

Exotic ports of call
The year began encouragingly enough, with Disney christening its third and fanciest cruise ship -- Disney Dream -- in January. A month later, Disney posted better-than-expected quarterly results for its fiscal first quarter with operating profits posting double-digit gains at four of its five segments.

Disney's stock was at a multiyear high, and the good cheer was trickling through the family-oriented leisure universe. Regional amusement park operators Cedar Fair (NYS: FUN) and Six Flags (NYS: SIX) were also hitting fresh highs.

The house of mouse celebrated its buoyant springtime run by breaking ground at Shanghai Disneyland in April, but the good times wouldn't last.

Draw your own conclusion
In May, Disney did something that it has only done four times in Iger's six-year reign at the helm: It missed Wall Street's quarterly profit target.

The media giant was also sputtering on the theatrical animation front. Mars Needs Moms was a box-office bomb. Would Cars 2 save the day? The sequel had no problem drawing audiences, but it was the first Pixar flick that film critics generally panned.

Computer animation giants would routinely turn to sequels as low-lying fruit, but even DreamWorks Animation's (NYS: DWA) Kung Fu Panda 2 was a cinematic disappointment this year.

Searching for success
Angling for popcorn-munching landlubbers, the fourth installment in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean series fared well.

Its new timeshare resort in Hawaii had some embarrassing accounting hiccups, but theme park attendance was moving in the right direction.

The opening of Blackstone Group's (NYS: BX) Legoland Florida in October and improving turnstile clicks at Comcast's (NAS: CMCSA) Universal Orlando resort after its 2010 Harry Potter addition were drawing attention away from Disney's Florida travel stronghold. Disney bounced back in September with plans to team up with James Cameron to open an Avatar-themed land at its Animal Kingdom park in a few years.

The final report card holds up for Disney, despite the slightly lower share price. Revenue and profitability inched higher in fiscal 2011, and Disney did manage to overcome the weak fiscal second-quarter report to beat analyst profit targets in its three other quarters.

It wasn't a great year, but it'll do for one that was more goofy than Goofy.

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At the time thisarticle was published Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of DreamWorks Animation SKG and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Disney. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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