The huge box office results for "Frozen," surpassing $870 million in ticket sales worldwide since its November release, pushed it past "The Lion King" as the most successful Disney-branded animated film to date, according to CEO Bob Iger.
It also justified Disney's $7.4 billion purchase of Pixar in 2006, which was meant in part to rejuvenate animation at Disney under new leadership, Iger said. "Frozen" not only has the potential to become a franchise, with the possibility of sequels or spin-offs, but it will also be made into a Broadway show, he said.
"Its success speaks volumes about the future of animation at our company," Iger said on a conference call with analysts following the release of the earnings report.
Disney's net income in the fiscal first quarter through Dec. 28 rose to $1.84 billion, or $1.03 per share, from $1.38 billion, or 77 cents per share, a year ago.
Excluding restructuring charges and other items, adjusted earnings came to $1.04 per share, beating the 92 cents expected by analysts polled by FactSet.
Revenue rose 9 per cent to $12.31 billion, beating the $12.25 billion expected by analysts.
Shares rose $2.54, or 3.5 per cent, to $74.30 in after-hours trading Wednesday, after already gaining 71 cents to close at $71.76 in the regular session.
Along with the strong movie studio results, revenue and profit grew for Disney's TV networks, with growth at ESPN offsetting weakness at ABC. Higher theme park ticket prices and more guest spending also offset higher costs associated with the launch of its MyMagic+ bracelet, which helps visitors plan their trip and buy merchandise.
It was too early to tell exactly how much the rollout of MyMagic+ boosted spending, but Iger said during the peak holiday season, use of MyMagic+ for things like booking multiple rides ahead of time meant that Disney could accommodate 3,000 more people per day at its Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
"It's more efficient and secondly, it's enabling guests to have a substantially better experience than they've had before because they're doing more," he said.
The consumer-products division also grew, thanks to the inclusion of Lucasfilm items following Disney's acquisition of the maker of "Star Wars" in late 2012. Disney plans to release a sequel, "Star Wars: Episode VII," in December 2015.