Prior to the 1950's, films from the Disney Studios were distributed by various outside companies with varying success. The first distributor was Universal Studios, who ended up stealing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Pat Powers Distribution tried to do the same thing with Mickey Mouse and ended up luring Walt's friend Ub Iwerks away. Since Mickey Mouse had become a household name, finding a new distributor after Pat Powers was easy to do- the established studio RKO was more than willing to release Disney movies.
However, RKO had a clause in its contract that allowed it to choose which films it released (or did not release.) As the Disney Studios diversified into live action films, RKO became less interested in distributing Disney's live action product. In 1953 they denied Disney's request to distribute the company's new "True-Life Adventure" films. Angry at RKO and in need of a new way to get these films out in theaters, Roy Disney put together a team of staff members to handle the distribution themselves. Eager to keep more of each film's profits for the studio, Roy told the team that if they were successful they would become a permanent division. They were indeed successful and RKO was shown the door. Disney Productions would now be released by "Buena Vista Distribution", named after the street the Disney Studios was located on.