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If you invested in Disney 10 years ago, here's how much you'd have now

Getty | Chesnot / Contributor

On Nov. 12, Disney debuted its long-awaited Disney+ streaming app. With this direct-to-consumer app, subscribers have access to an ad-free platform with a wide range of family-friendly content.

Despite the app experiencing technical difficulties just a few hours after launching, Disney's decision to hype it months in advance garnered 10 million Disney+ subscribers within one day of its release. It also caught the attention of investors, which helped the company's stock performance.

In April, Disney gave the world its first look at Disney+ and revealed details about all that was to come with the streaming service. The announcement caused Walt Disney Co. stock to surge the most it had in a decade.

If you invested in Disney 10 years ago, that decision would have paid off. A $1,000 investment in 2009 would be worth more than $5,500 as of Nov. 12, 2019, for a total return of around 450%, according to CNBC calculations. In the same time frame, by comparison, the S&P 500 earned a total return of nearly 250%. The media business, which debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in 1957, has a current share price of around $145.

CNBC: Disney's stock as of November.

While Disney's shares have done well over the years, any individual stock can over- or underperform, and past returns do not predict future results.

Nearly a century of Disney

Since Disney was founded in 1923 by then 22-year-old Walt Disney, the media company has churned out some of the most-watched animated films of all time. One of the earliest characters created by Disney is Mickey Mouse, who emerged in 1928 as part of the "silent era" of film, followed by Snow White, whom Disney introduced as the lead character in his first full-length feature film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," in 1937.

The classics don't stop there. In 1940, Disney released "Pinocchio," followed by "Mary Poppins" in 1964, "Robin Hood" in 1973, "The Little Mermaid" in 1989 and "The Lion King" in 1994.

A shot of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
RandomEye Photography | Twenty20

In the last nearly 100 years, Disney has grown into a business empire, reaching far beyond just movies. Today, the company has theme parks worldwide, including the two originals: Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It has its own resort hotels, cable TV's "Disney Channel," hundreds of Walt Disney stores in shopping malls around the world and more.

Disney's many acquisitions throughout the years have also contributed to its long-term success. Disney CEO Bob Iger has made four key acquisitions in the last 14 years, according to CNBC: Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009, Lucasfilm in 2012 and, most recently, 20th Century Fox in March 2019.

Those purchases have paid off. Lucasfilm, which Disney bought for a whopping $4.05 billion, is "one of the smartest acquisitions in history," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, told CNBC in 2018.

Disney has pocketed around $11 billion at the global box office from Pixar films, and it has earned over $18.2 billion from Marvel.

While Disney has certainly had a great run, its long history hasn't been without scandals and controversies. Through the years, the company has been met with criticism over the context of several of its story lines. Movies such as "Peter Pan," "Dumbo" and "Jungle Book" have been called out as racist.

What to expect with Disney+

Disney+ is available for just $6.99 a month and can be streamed on most devices, including PCs, smartphones (Android and Apple), select smart TVs, tablets, video consoles and more. Users can try it free for a week. They also have the option to bundle Disney+ with the company's other streaming services, ESPN+ and Hulu, for $12.99 per month. And, if you are the holder of a Verizon Wireless unlimited data plan, you can also get a complementary year of Disney+.

When Verizon announced last month that its new and existing wireless unlimited data plan holders would get a free year of Disney+, Disney's shares jumped more than 1.5%.

Bob Iger, CEO, The Walt Disney Company
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

The service features original Disney+ shows and movies, including a remake of the animated classic "Lady and the Tramp" and a "Star Wars" spin-off series, "The Mandalorian." Disney has said it plans to release episodes of its original series on a weekly basis. Users can also browse through a vast catalog of existing content and watch classics from Pixar, Marvel, Disney and more.

Some customers reportedly had problems signing up for Disney+ on the first day, and many said they received error messages when trying to browse the app. Disney responded in a tweet, saying that the issue was caused by higher-than-expected consumer demand for Disney+ and that the Disney team was working "quickly" to fix the problem.

While thousands of customers reported experiencing issues, many were able to sign up without any glitches, and before long, Disney+ and its "The Mandalorian" series had received so much buzz that it became a trending topic on Twitter. In the first 24 hours after the new streaming service launched, the Disney+ mobile app for iOS and Android was downloaded 3.2 million times, with 89% of those downloads happening in the U.S.

Shares of Disney increased 1.3% after the official launch of Disney+ on Tuesday.

However, it's still up in the air whether Disney+ will be able to have a real impact in the market, especially when it comes to taking users from competing streaming services, such as Netflix. Wall Street analysts predict Netflix will be able to withstand a bit of competition from Disney.

More Disney news to know

The company has been in the news recently for more than just its new streaming app.

In the summer, Disney opened Dahlia, a new rooftop restaurant at its Coronado Springs resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The restaurant is themed after "Destino," a film that Salvador Dali helped to storyboard, and its menu is inspired by the cuisine of Spain, Dali's home. For guests who are fans of "Star Wars," the dining spot has a great view, overlooking the newly opened Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge park inside Disney's Hollywood Studios.

On Dec. 7 and 8, 2019, fans can bid on highly sought-after Disney memorabilia dating back to the 1950s. Included in the lineup is an original, hand-drawn map by Walt Disney, detailing his vision for Disneyland Park when he first pitched the idea.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Source: Walt Disney

Disney also has a ton of new films on the horizon. The much-anticipated "Frozen 2" comes out Nov. 22, and "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," the third and final film in the latest "Star Wars" trilogy, releases on Dec. 20. A new Marvel film is in the works as well: "Black Widow" is scheduled to release in May 2020. For a full look at upcoming Disney films, see this extensive list from Rotten Tomatoes.

If you are considering getting into investing, experts, including Warren Buffett, often advise starting with index funds, which hold all of the companies in an index, such as the S&P 500. Because index funds fluctuate with the market and aren't tied to the performance of a single business, they're less risky than individual stocks, making them a safer choice for beginners.

Here's a snapshot of how the markets look now.

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