Johnson Industries (Johnsonverse)
Johnson Industries (often simply known as Johnson) is an American conglomerate operating in the mass media, transportation, financing, restaurant, and aerospace industries. Based in San Jose, California since its inception, the company was founded in 1862 as Johnson Bros. Holdings to fund the construction of the Central Valley Railroad between San Francisco and Fresno via Pacheco Pass, a railroad that opened in 1870. The railroad has grown to be the largest Class I railroad in North America, under the name Continental Rail (a name adopted in 1880 when the railroad's scope broadened). Shortly after the initial segment of the Central Valley Railroad was completed, a steamship company known as Continental Shipping Lines was formed in 1875, gaining an early headstart on the Pacific and soon expanding to the Atlantic in 1886, operating scheduled transatlantic services between New York and Southampton.
The 20th century was an era of immense growth for the company, and saw the formation of Johnson Records (1900), Johnson Publishing (1908), Johnson Studios (1912), Johnson Optical and Sound (1915), Johnson Theatres (1918), Johnson Cartoon Studios (1920), Johnson Radio (1926; parent station KJON), Johnson Clothing (1930), Johnson Theatricals (1934), Johnson Fuels (1940), Johnson Real Estate (1943), Johnson Toys (1945), Johnson Financing (1949), Johnson Television (1950), Johnson Technologies (1954), Johnson Comics (original 1957-1991; current 1991), Continental Airlines (1960-1965), Johnson Foods (1961), Johnson Motor Company (1964), Continental Hotels (1966), Western Broadcasting Company (1968; parent station KSJ), Johnson Electric (1970), Johnson Home Video (1972), Johnson Parks (1975), Johnson Games (1982), Johnson Bell (1983), Johnson Paramilitary (1983), Johnson Aerospace (1987), Johnson Online (1992), Johnson Stores (1992), ContinentalNet (1995), Johnson Environment (1996), WBC News Network (1998), and Johnson Malls (2000).
The period between 1981 and 1991 was marked by a dark age when the company was bought out by Stacker and Associates. Infamous CEO Phil Stacker controlled the company until his resignation on October 10, 1991.
Following Stacker's resignation, Johnson climbed back to the top, with its never-retired steam locomotives and ocean liners, releasing new movies (most notably the 1997 blockbuster EarthBound) and television shows (most notably Detective Jenny and the famed and beloved Monster World), and launching its own spacecraft to service the International Space Station (under NASA, ESA, and RSA contracts), as well as providing a reliable fleet of launch vehicles for any customer's needs.
The 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s have been marked by multiple high-profile acquisitions, including the PrimeStar satellite television service, Hasbro, Game Show Network, and many other companies. In 2009, the company acquired the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), and set to work making a turnaround (mainly involving the development of a new car to replace the unpopular Car of Tomorrow, bringing old favorites such as Rockingham and North Wilkesboro back to the schedule, and by 2014, ousting Brian France and Mike Helton). The 2010s saw the acquisition of Cartoon Network from Time Warner (adding multiple channels and web platforms), but by far, the most shocking and high-profile acquisition was of the Walt Disney Company (now Walt Disney Productions) in 2013, which added a plethora of television networks (broadcast, cable, and satellite), production studios (Johnson was mainly eying Lucasfilm), theme parks, cruise ships, and websites under the Johnson banner. These acquisitions have only bolstered the company's profits, and Johnson Industries remains one of the most profitable companies in the world. Johnson also acquired the British rail network, Amtrak, and CEC Entertainment, along with Nintendo, WWE, Capcom, and Sega. 2012 also saw Johnson introduce the Johnson Aligned Universe (Johnsonverse). This consisted of high-profile movies, TV series, and video games, all of which have been massive successes. The company is also known for having been voted as the "Most Ethical Company" every year since 1940, as well as its iconic Blue J and Blue Globe logos.
Johnson Industries is not related to the Howard Johnson's brand of motor lodges, restaurants, and frozen foods (which Johnson owns), Johnson & Johnson or S.C. Johnson & Son.
Johnson Industries began life as Johnson Bros. Holdings on February 1, 1862, when the eponymous brothers, Daniel and J. R. Johnson, who were down to their last $2,900 after several failed ventures, founded the company to fund the construction of the Central Valley Railroad (now Continental Rail) between San Francisco and Fresno, California, via Pacheco Pass. The growing port in San Francisco was rife with opportunity, and the growing agriculture industry in the Central Valley was a prime target for moving exports to Asia. Due to the Civil War, the railroad wasn't completed until 1870, when the first train departed San Francisco, made a stop in the railroad's hometown of San Jose, and arrived at Fresno five hours later, on time, where the train was greeted by schoolchildren. The railroad’s logo used the famous "Blue Globe" logo that became affiliated with Johnson.
Five years later, Johnson Bros. Holdings was reorganized as Johnson Industries, now eying rapidly-expanding markets in the Pacific and Asia. The San Jose Times newspaper was established in 1869, and Continental Shipping Lines was established in 1875. With few Pacific-based steamship companies in existence at the time, CSL had a virtual monopoly on the Pacific and Asian markets. CSL then began steamboat operations on the Sacramento River, which saw the growth of inland seaports in Sacramento and Stockton. Starting mainly with freighters and riverboats, the influx of immigrants from China saw the addition of transpacific ocean liners. CSL expanded to the Atlantic in 1886, entering into direct competition with Cunard and White Star.
The Central Valley Railroad was renamed the Central Valley and Lake Tahoe Railroad in 1875 following the completion of the Sierra Line from Sacramento to Carson City via the Lake Tahoe Basin, and again to Continental Rail in 1880 as its scope expanded. The railroad had already expanded to Sacramento via Oakland to connect with the First Transcontinental Railroad, as well another line from Fresno to Sacramento, creating the "California Circle Route", plus the aforementioned Sierra Line. The first major expansion project was from Gilroy to Los Angeles, the Coastal Route, as well as a northern route from Sacramento to Portland, Oregon. In 1887, the West Coast route was further expanded to Seattle. A northern route between Seattle and Chicago was briefly considered, but James J. Hill's Great Northern Railway put pay to those thoughts. Continental Rail also began feeling pressure from the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific, both of whom built parallel lines in an attempt to sap the railroad's business. Southern Pacific was granted trackage rights on the Coast Line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, via its own line built west of Continental Rail's trackage between San Bruno and San Francisco (Continental Rail's route was the more direct, and was referred to as the Bayshore Cutoff by SP). Several smaller California railroads were folded into Continental Rail and were established as branchlines, all of which are still in operation today. In 1896, the Johnson Mint was established. It is used to mint tokens promoting various Johnson properties.
Era of Expansion (1900-1914)
Johnson Industries began rapid expansion in the early 1900s, obtaining trackage rights via the Central Pacific from Sacramento-North Platte, Union Pacific from North Platte-Chicago, and New York Central via the Water Level Route to Grand Central Terminal. Shortly afterwards, Continental Rail's flagship passenger train, the Transcontinental Zephyr, was created. Considered one of the most elegant passenger trains in the United States, it still runs today. Continental Rail also expanded its Pacific Northwest services, establishing regular services between Los Angeles and Seattle, later expanding to San Diego via ATSF trackage rights. These ventures proved fruitful, and soon, Continental Rail bought controlling interest of the New York Central in 1904, a move that was not revealed until 2014.
CSL expanded its Pacific and Atlantic services. By now, they had left the freight business to focus on the ocean liner industry, mainly competing with Cunard and White Star in the Atlantic and Canadian Pacific in the Pacific (this was a two-front war, being fought both at sea and on the rails). CSL ran a smear campaign in 1912 following the sinking of the Titanic, blaming the disaster on the incompetent helmsman who decided it would be a good idea to reverse speed while going hard to starboard, when simply maintaining speed, as investigations using their own ships had revealed. They also ran a smear campaign against Leyland Lines over the non-response of the SS Californian, who had believed that Titanic's emergency flares were fireworks, when in fact, no passenger ships were, at the time, certified to launch any fireworks of any form.
The early 1900s also saw the formation of a third subsidiary, Johnson Records, and a fourth subsidiary, Johnson Publishing. The publishing arm was the first company to publish Victor Hugo's novels in translated and unabridged format.
The fourth subsidiary, Johnson Studios, was formed in 1912 to chronicle operations of Continental Rail and Continental Shipping Lines. Johnson Optical and Sound was founded three years later to provide special effects for their films.
World War I, 1914-1918
Johnson Industries was hit hard by World War I, with CSL losing roughly 45% of its fleet to submarine warfare. When the United States entered the war, Continental Rail was affected. Operating in all three divisions of the USRA, the railroad was provided with the new standardized locomotive and freight car designs, also taking the opportunity to replace their aging passenger equipment with new Pullman cars.
CSL was a key player in ending the war. One liner, the USMS Canaveral (USMS standing for United States Mail Ship, in vein of Royal Mail Service, or RMS), had a record of sinking five U-Boats, the most of any liner.
Following the end of World War I, Continental Rail retained its USRA equipment, and gave the Canaveral a well-earned retirement, eventually being converted into a hotel/museum in 1974 and moored in Stockton.
The First Golden Age (1918-1941)
The Roaring Twenties (1918-1929)
In 1918, Johnson formed its theater arm, Johnson Theatres, though it only had one theater, the San Jose Theatre, which was (and still is) used for the premieres of many Johnson Studios productions. It eventually acquired the Indian Hills Theater in 2002 and, with the Disney acquisition in 2013, the El Capitan Theatre.
Johnson Industries entered into its first Golden Age in the 1920s, expanding rail operations into Canada and Mexico. The operations in Mexico proved especially fruitful following the Mexican Revolution, as the railroad contributed to reconstruction efforts in hard-hit areas. The railroad also began electrifying the coastal line from San Diego to Seattle, later extending to Vancouver and Tijuana, forming the "Northwest Corridor". Using electric locomotive designs made for the Milwaukee Road and New York Central, the first electric-powered train ran on July 4, 1925.
CSL expanded its operations in the Atlantic and Pacific, establishing new routes, most notably the Vancouver-Vladivostok, Hamburg-New York, and Valencia-Boston routes. CSL also entered into an agreement with Cunard, by which any ocean liners they retired would be sold to CSL instead of the scrappers or any other line. This was in the interest of preservation, rather than competition. CSL also established a dedicated fleet of tugboats, initially operating in their homeport of San Francisco, before expanding to harbors and ports worldwide. The tugboat division is still operational.
Johnson Studios began producing its own movies in 1919. In 1920, the studio created its own cartoon division, Johnson Cartoon Studios, and in 1925, it became the first studio to use sound in its movies, while a new subsidiary, Johnson Radio, was established in 1926. The first station, KJON, serves the San Francisco Bay Area. A year later, the Johnson Philharmonic Orchestra was formed. Its first composer was Wilbur Johnson, who remained until his 1937 death. His son Cal took over, composing until his 2010 death, and Cal's son, Cal Johnson, Jr., took over and remains the composer today.
The Great Depression (1929-1941)
When the Stock Market crashed in 1929, Johnson Industries surprisingly weathered the Great Depression quite well. In addition to acquiring multiple failed shortline railroads, Cunard-White Star upheld its agreement to sell ships and tenders to CSL. The initial set of ships were:
- RMS Olympic (later used in the 1953 film Titanic, the 1958 film A Night to Remember, and the 1979 TV movie SOS Titanic)
- RMS Mauretania
- RMS Adriatic
- SS Ceramic
- RMS Homeric
- SS Doric
All ships of the original class remain in service, except the Ceramic, which was lost during World War II as one of only two ships lost by CSL during the war.
Johnson Studios co-produced King Kong with Universal Studios in 1933, and in 1938, Johnson Radio broadcast messages stating that there was no Martian invasion in progress in response to the mass panic incited by Orson Welles' now-famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast.
Johnson Studios' main output in the 1930s consisted of the Ludicrous Limericks (which have been produced since 1926) and Little Orphan Annie shorts, the latter starring Shirley Temple as Annie and Lon Chaney Jr. as Daddy Warbucks. The shorts were produced from 1934 to 1940, when Temple became too old for the role and Chaney was moving on to horror films such as The Wolf Man.
Continental Rail had a fling with diesels in 1938, acquiring five NW1 switcher locomotives. These locomotives, while cheaper to maintain and easier to operate, were not seen as a replacement for steam traction, as Johnson Industries had a policy stating "if it isn't broke, don't replace it", a philosophy that has seen steam locomotives and steam-powered ocean liners survive into the present day. In 1935, Continental Rail entered into an agreement with Southern Pacific. SP, unsatisfied with the Market Street Depot in San Jose, CA that it had shared with CR for some time, built a brand-new depot at Cahill Street. Continental Rail was allowed to move its long-distance trains to the new station in exchange for CR taking full control of the Market Street Depot and the entire 4th Street Line. Shortly after the deal was completed, CR was given permission to electrify SP's new bypass to allow its electric locomotives to run into Cahill Street as needed. Today, Cahill Street Depot (now Diridon Station) is the primary terminus for the Transcontinental Zephyr, as well as the mid-way point for the Western Star and Pacific Bullet. Most regional trains stop at Market Street Station to avoid crowding the finite track space at Diridon Station, though roughly 25% of them stop at Diridon.
In 1936, Johnson Cartoon Studios introduced the current star of the Ludicrous Limericks series, Chocodile. The cartoon shorts revolve around Chocodile spreading joy to the children of the world, while dodging his rival Larry J. Crock, a green-skinned crocodile who thinks he should be eating humans, not fraternizing with them, as well as chasing his girlfriend Cherridile, and Solomon, an Australian hunter who wants his skin because its pigmentation is one-of-a-kind, with his little daughter June trying to stop him. During World War II, however, Chocodile became a propaganda tool, and by the 50s and 60s, he was an anti-communist symbol, and was also used to essentially advertise Continental Rail's passenger and freight services, before becoming more of an everyman by the 70s, evolving into a deadpan snarker with a chip in his shoulder in the 80s; he currently has his 70s depiction as an everyman. As his name suggests, Chocodile is a huge fan of chocolate, but he remains thin and surprisingly athletic. Chocodile was originally voiced by Mel Blanc from 1936 until his death in 1989. After Blanc's death, his son Noel assumed the role full-time until 1995, and continued to voice the character occasionally until his 2005 retirement; Dana Snyder has voiced the character since then.
World War II (1941-1945)
At the outbreak of World War II, Johnson Industries shifted into war mode. Johnson Radio created pre-recorded attack warnings, specifically against Japanese invasions on the West Coast. Johnson Studios used their signature miniatures effects to create propaganda films, utilizing vehicles with individual motors that had to be turned on and off by hand (there was talk of using radio-control, but the technology was considered rudimentary at the time), boats pulled on strings, aircraft held aloft on wires and then inserted into scenes using the then-new chroma key technique, or sent down a wire, and live pyrotechnics. Over the years, the techniques have been refined and improved, and are still used today, a far cry from the CGI-filled films of the modern era.
Continental Rail and CSL were instrumental in the American war effort. GIs were moved by both companies to both the Pacific and European theatres, and also affixed anti-air guns and depth charge launchers to their liners. Large, rail-based artillery guns were also constructed to defend against foreign invasion, but ultimately, were never used.
RMS Majestic Sinking
On June 14, 1941, U-438 launched two torpedoes at what the crew believed was the RMS Queen Mary. They would later learn that the ship was actually the RMS Majestic, another three-funnel liner that, in what was considered “a cruel twist of irony”, was herself a German-built liner (SS Bismarck) handed over to White Star as war reparation following World War I. The Majestic suffered a chain reaction of explosions of the fuel and ammunition she was carrying, as well as the boilers. During the sinking, the #2 funnel exploded when boilers below decks detonated, while the #3 funnel toppled over and crashed through the superstructure; the #1 funnel remained standing during the entire sinking, but was noted by a survivor to be rather scorched.
An SOS signal was sent twice before the radio room was engulfed in flame; the bridge was also engulfed in flame, killing all staff on the bridge including the captain; it was because of the captain's death that no abandon ship order was ever given. Despite no order being given, passengers and crew still scrambled for the lifeboats, but many were unable to evacuate because they were either below decks and trapped by fires, killed in the explosions, or were unable to find a lifeboat (CSL did not have the "women and children first" policy), as explosions had hurled half of the lifeboats into the Atlantic waters.
U-438 managed to get a closer look, but were disappointed to find the ship was not the Queen Mary. One of the crew members of the U-Boat, though, later testified to being horrified when he realized the liner was the former SS Bismarck.
Another CSL ship, the Mauretania (which, like the Majestic, is an ex-Cunarder), was nearby going in the opposite direction, and responded to the SOS signal. Survivors clinging to driftwood and metal chunks from the #2 funnel and superstructure were plucked from the water using Mauretania's own lifeboats, while the Majestic's lifeboats were reeled up one-by-one. News cameras were aboard the Mauretania, and caught the final minutes of the Majestic.
Ten minutes after the initial torpedo hit, the Majestic suffered a massive explosion when her fuel oil reserves detonated, as did fuel and ammunition that were placed nearby (a move that later brought the surviving crew under investigation). The explosion buckled the hull, and tore it apart, causing the ship to break her back and splash back down, crushing a lifeboat that had blundered under her. The remaining passengers and crew aboard the liner perished when the last of the fuel and ammunition aboard the ship exploded and destroyed the stern, debris flying at the Mauretania (fortunately, none hit the ship). Seconds after the last of the flaming hulk that was the stern sank below the water, several explosions came from underwater, indicating ammunition that hadn't exploded during the initial chain reaction on the bow.
U-438 was caught by the news cameras, and retreated. The U-Boat was later found by British destroyers and forced to surrender.
Survivors plucked by the Mauretania were brought back to New York, and salvage ships were sent to collect debris and bodies. The search revealed that the sinking had happened 30 miles southeast of Halifax, and was resting in unusually shallow waters, aiding salvage teams. The bow had severe scorching, and the bridge was blasted out. Several barrels of fuel that remained undetonated were recovered and delivered to Britain, having not suffered any leakage. The stern was in even worse shape. 95% of the superstructure and 60% of the hull had been destroyed, and was scattered around the debris field. Very few bodies were recovered from the area around the stern, as most of the fatalities of the stern explosion were most likely vaporized or blasted apart (eyewitnesses did report seeing a few flying body parts after the explosion, and a blasted-apart ribcage landed on the Mauretania). There was talk of possibly raising the bow so it could be sold for scrap, but this was considered cost-prohibitive, especially due to the threat of further U-Boat attacks.
The sinking marked the largest loss of civilian life at sea in World War II, and remains a major footnote in maritime history. Following the sinking, it was decided that carrying fuel and ammunition aboard a liner with civilian passengers was too dangerous, as a majority of the fatalities were passengers. Thus, ocean liners stopped carrying war materials, and stuck to being exclusively passenger liners and troop transports.
Post-War Era (1945-1960)
Following the war, the surviving CSL ships re-entered service on their normal routes, while the fleet grew as Cunard retired ships. Continental Rail benefited from new electric locomotive designs for the Northwest Corridor, while Johnson Studios began refining the use of scale models in their productions. Continental Rail also began funding the preservation movement in the United Kingdom, as well as buying up steam locomotives from scrapyards and British Railways itself, and storing them at various secluded sites around the United States and Canada.
A new subsidiary of Johnson Studios, Johnson Television, was formed in 1950. Its first series was an anthology series called The Little Orphan Annie Show, which was a compilation of classic Little Orphan Annie shorts framed with newly-made segments starring Kathryn Beaumont as the title character from 1950 to 1951, Sharon Baird from 1951 to 1958, and Mimi Gibson from 1958 to 1961. The series aired on CBS until 1961, continuing in reruns until 1972, and was extremely popular.
The 1950s were an era of prosperity for the company. Continental Rail began reaping the fruits of suburbanization, mainly through commuter rail traffic. All the same, though, even with diesels becoming prevalent on other Class I railroads, Continental Rail resisted full-dieselization and continued operating steam locomotives in large numbers, even buying steam locomotives from other railroads, due to their "if it ain't broke, don't replace it" philosophy. Indeed, Continental Rail had perfected the art of steam locomotive maintenance to the point where maintenance and labor costs were the lowest they had ever been, and easily outweighed by profits. The travelling public could not comprehend why Continental Rail was still using such "outdated machines", but children and railfans were enamoured. By 1959, Continental Rail proved that steam, diesel, and electric locomotives could co-exist in harmony and be profitable, a combination that survives to this day.
Continental Rail had a brief fling with bus feeders, but the experiment was considered a failure due to the amount of traffic in suburban areas. Instead, the railroad added passenger trains to previously freight-only branchlines. And to areas with no branchlines, Continental Rail constructed interurban lines using cars from recently-defunct streetcar systems in other systems. Continental Rail was also heavily involved in the General Motors streetcar conspiracy, actively opposing National City Lines at every step of the way and saving many streetcar lines from demolition; National City Lines eventually sued Continental Rail under the frivolous charge of "conspiracy to commit corporate espionage", a case that was quickly dismissed and caused the case against General Motors dismissed in 1949 to reopen, eventually uncovering a conspiracy to demolish America's streetcar networks and replace them with buses to create a monopoly, eventually resulting in the Supreme Court finding General Motors guilty of attempting to monopolize mass transit with what was described as "inferior bus substitutes" in a “desperate attempt to make money”. Continental Rail proceeded to purchase National City Lines and reconstruct all streetcar systems that had fallen victim to the conspiracy, rescuing any remaining streetcars from the scrapyards, ordering new ones from PCC, and using any means necessary to get the systems rebuilt, even getting court orders to have businesses built atop street car ROWs relocated.
The Second Golden Age (1960-1981)
The period between 1960 and 1981 is often considered to be the company's second golden age. It was a time of growth and success, as well as of experimentation. Between February 1, 1960 and June 15, 1965, Johnson operated a small-scale airline, Continental Airlines, using DC-3 aircraft, but shut it down after five years due to flagging ridership numbers, often attributed to Continental Rail's superior legroom and CSL's amenities. Nevertheless, the company spun off into an independent company under the same name, and became a successful airline until merging with United Airlines on March 3, 2012. Johnson never tried another airline again, and almost every Johnson CEO since then has criticized the airline industry for its attempts to “take down engines and ocean liners forever”.
Johnson acquired McDonald's Corporation in 1961 after beating out franchisee Ray Kroc. With the acquisition, Johnson formed its new susidiary, Johnson Foods. The McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice, continued leading the company until Maurice's 1971 death and Richard's 1985 retirement. The Des Plaines, IL location (the ninth location and the first owned by Kroc) was restored in 1984 after a plan to demolish the building was found out and swiftly torpedoed; a similar plan was torpedoed again in 2018, and the building and sign were instead moved to the Volo Auto Museum, where it still functions as a McDonald's, while the lot will be turned into a park. The San Bernardino location still stands, while a replica of the original 1940 structure opened across the street on December 12, 1983, the 35th anniversary of the chain, alongside a museum dedicated to the history of the company.
1963 saw the release of the film adaptation of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. The film was praised for its faithfulness to the book, as well as accurately reflecting how dangerous meatpacking was in 1906.
In January 1964, Johnson announced a new subsidiary called Johnson Motor Company, and started selling its first car, the 1965 Geyser Hawk, in December. The Hawk ran in the NASCAR Busch Series from 2000 to 2006, and returned in 2020. In addition, Johnson bought the Studebaker brand, which also returned in 2020.
Throughout the 1960s, Continental Rail passenger services, both long-distance, regional, and commuter, remained profitable mainly due to an advertising campaign promoting advantages over cars, buses, and planes; CR also managed to rescue many passenger trains that other Class I railroads were discontinuing. The same type of advertising campaign kept Continental Shipping Lines in the ocean liner industry, and remained as such even after Cunard began focusing on cruises. The last of the old Cunard ocean liners, the RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth, both came under CSL ownership. The QM was not put into service by CSL due to its historical significance, and instead became a hotel/museum ship in Long Beach, CA, where it remained for years. There was a provision in the bill of sale, though, that the ship could and would be rebuilt back into an ocean liner at any point, something that often put employees on edge, knowing that CSL could requisition the ship any day. It was confirmed on June 16, 2018 that CSL would requisition the QM in July 2018 and rebuild it back into an ocean liner. The conversion was started on June 21, and ended on July 10, putting the QM back into service for the first time in fifty years. The QE, meanwhile, was put into service and remains on the Southampton-New York route to this day. 1966 saw Johnson buy Holiday Inn. With the acquisition, Johnson formed Continental Hotels.
1967 saw Johnson change its logo after 100 years to the current "Blue J" logo on September 1 of that year, with the Continental-branded "Blue Globe" logo following suit. On December 19, Johnson acquired the Howard Johnson's lodging and restaurant chains, and its frozen food line. With the acquisition, Johnson formed Johnson Foods, for the purpose of controlling the restaurants.
1968 was a banner year for Johnson Industries, marking the launch of the Western Broadcasting Company (WBC) on October 11, 1968, as a viable fourth network alongside ABC, NBC, and CBS. Johnson Radio personality Don George anchored the network's news broadcasts from its inception until his death in 1995, at which point Tom Stephenson, the "Roving Reporter" from 1968 to 1995, took over and remains in the post to this day. WBC's first broadcast was of the launch of Apollo 7. Throughout the Apollo program, WBC provided its own brand of coverage, using models to illustrate the missions.
1968 also marked the release of Hot Cuba, a film exploring a scenario of what could have happened had the Cuban Missile Crisis gone hot. The film starred Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, and future US president Ronald Reagan, with narration by Rod Serling, and was a critical and commercial success. Among the film's merits were its pioneering special effects (which would later be perfected in the original Star Wars film in 1977), powerful imagery, and realistic depiction of nuclear war. July 1 of that year saw Johnson begin using the "Blue J" logo for all of its subsidiaries, in one of the earliest examples of brand unification.
1969 brought a film along the same lines as Hot Cuba called 1957: Civil War. Using the Little Rock stand-off as a jumping-off point, the film's alternate universe is created when the governor of Alabama orders the Little Rock National Guard to kill the Little Rock Nine, leading the reformation of the Confederate States and the start of a second civil war. 1969 also had WBC broadcasting a NASCAR race, the Rebel 500 at Darlington, flag-to-flag (though it is often overshadowed by CBS' broadcast of the 1979 Daytona 500), with Tom Stephenson as the host, Ken Squier as the play-by-play announcer, color commentators Ned Jarrett, David Hobbs, and Barney Hall, and pit reporter Brock Yates; Stephenson, Squier, Jarrett, Hobbs, and Yates (until his 2016 death) all returned when WBC started broadcasting races full-time in 2014. On December 29, 1970, Johnson was listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the name JON. They also acquired Kentucky Fried Chicken at that time, and hired back Colonel Sanders to run the chain until his death on December 4, 1990.
Another major blockbuster, known as Invasion of the Empire, depicts the Japanese invading San Francisco in 1942 during the Second World War, the subsequent American pushback, and the Battle of Los Angeles being an actual battle, culminating in Japan being defeated in early 1943, and as a result, the atomic bomb being dropped on Berlin instead, killing Adolf Hitler and causing the Soviet Union to back off, which in turn sees Germany remain unified under a democratic government (and a NATO member); other than that, the epilogue states that the Cold War has gone pretty much the same as our timeline (as the film was released in 1970).
1971 brought the release of the film adaptation of George Orwell's book 1984. The film was praised for improving on Hot Cuba's special effects.
When Amtrak was formed in 1971, Continental Rail was one of seven railroads who opted not to join (the other six being the Rock Island, D&RGW, Southern, South Shore Line, Georgia Railroad, and Reading Railroad). This led to Amtrak and Continental Rail often butting heads throughout the 1970s, as Amtrak eyed Continental Rail's vast passenger network as a potential money-maker. But Continental Rail refused, mainly because Amtrak was underfunded and could be shuttered at any time. Despite Amtrak's survival, Continental Rail held firm and refused to hand over its passenger rail operations, knowing that many of their trains would be discontinued and others rerouted and/or reduced in frequency (as most of Continental Rail's long-distance trains have eight departures daily, four in each direction). Plus, Continental Rail still had a large amount of steam-powered passenger trains with heavyweight coaches, which they knew Amtrak would sell off due to switching from steam-heating to head-end power with the new F40PH locomotives (of which Continental Rail was the largest customer, with the entire fleet still in service to this day as Continental Rail's chief passenger locomotive). Eventually, though, by 1977, Amtrak was content with Continental Rail's existence, as most of the routes it discontinued were picked up by the latter, and remain in service to this day; despite this, they maintained an uneasy coexistence due to Continental Rail giving its own passenger trains priority over Amtrak's, and in turn, Amtrak denied Continental Rail trackage rights on the Northeast Corridor, which CR skirted by building its own tracks on the corridor directly adjacent to Amtrak's.
In January 1975, Johnson announced the formation of Johnson Parks and the creation of McDonaldland USA, a theme park based on the McDonaldland ad campaign. It opened in Redland, CA (a neighboring town to San Bernardino) on December 12 with a ribbon-cutting by King Moody as Ronald McDonald. It was followed by Harveyland USA (a theme park based on characters from Harvey Comics) a year later at Ithaca, New York.
1980 saw the release of the film adaptation of Animal Farm, another Orwell book, which was praised for its impressive animatronics and special effects, an excellent score by John Williams, fast-paced editing, an all-star cast, including Patrick Stewart as Napoleon and Ringo Starr as Snowball, and its close adherence to the book, as well as correctly predicting the Soviet Union's downfall with an ending showing that Animal Farm collapsed due to the pigs' despotic rule.
On December 30 of that year, Johnson acquired Time magazine, The Kellogg Company, Dairy Queen, and Arby's. The Dairy Queen buyout was controversial, due to Johnson already owning Howard Johnson's, which also sells ice cream. However, Johnson clarified that Dairy Queen had soft serve, while Howard Johnson's had hard-serve ice cream.
The Dark Times (1981-1991)
On June 1, 1981, a financial company known as Stacker and Associates bought out Johnson Industries in a hostile takeover, a move considered unthinkable at the time. S&A CEO Phil Stacker, henceforth, became CEO of Johnson Industries, deposing Sheldon Johnson and the entire Johnson family. Immediately, sweeping revisions were made. Stacker was clearly interested more in money than catering to the masses, and this showed during his tenure. Under Stacker, Johnson made five acquisitions: Subway and Dunkin' Donuts in 1982, three of the newly divested "Baby Bell" companies in 1983: Cincinatti Bell, Southwestern Bell, and BellSouth, which were merged into one company known as Johnson Bell, Mark Goodson Productions in 1986, and the Rankin/Bass Productions and Filmation animation studios in 1987, as noted below.
Surprisingly, Continental Rail and Continental Shipping Lines were allowed to remain autonomous, as Stacker was aware they were the company's main moneymakers, aside from the restaurants, and any drastic alterations could cause them to go under (not to mention his personal interest in trains and ocean liners). As a result, both companies suffered the least during the Dark Times, and with the advent of the Staggers Act in 1980 that deregulated the railroads, Continental Rail shifted into maximum overdrive, actively competing with roads in both the West and the East, snapping up rail lines abandoned by other railroads and successfully opposing the SPSF merger (as it would have booted CR from many of the joint railways established between 1892 and 1912). Continental Shipping Lines, meanwhile, entered the cruising industry with the launch of two cruise ships (the MS Mauna Loa and MS Kilauea) on itineraries out of San Francisco to Hawaii. Also created was Johnson Games in 1982, which developed games based on Johnson's animated films for the Atari 2600 and later the NES. However, the Great Video Game Crash of 1983 led to low sales until the company's first NES game, Colt’s Crushin’ (a launch title credited with popularizing the beat-'em-up genre), was released in 1985.
WBC began to suffer under Phil Stacker's regime, making many changes, most of which hurt the network dramatically (see the WBC page for more). The network itself was renamed Johnson TV (JTV) for the 1982-1983 television season, as Stacker didn't want to be associated with the other WBC (the Westboro Baptist Church), and because he wanted to build a brand new, "younger and hipper" identity.
Johnson Studios suffered greatly, with new blood brought in. The resulting movies were a string of flops, the nadir being 1983’s Chocodile's Cool Movie, with the only bright spot being some animated films that provided serious competition for Disney (films such as The Wizards of Elderitch, American Eagles, Dinosaur Rising, and the Toei co-production Future War 198X) and were mature in content, tone, and production values, as well as the ongoing alternate history movies. In addition, while several movies experimented with CGI, often with mixed results, practical effects such as models, pyrotechnics, chroma key, stop motion, and the new go-motion techniques developed by Lucasfilm remained the rule, and if anything, improved during this era, and the effects were often seen as the best part of even the worst of the movies, since Johnson Optical Studios remained independent of other units at Johnson Studios.
Johnson Radio didn't do much better, due to transitioning to a news/talk format, completely abandoning scripted programming, a move that was rather unpopular.
All these changes, as well as Phil Stacker publicly calling his employees "drones" by accident in a radio interview, along with a best-selling novel released in 1985 called Stacker Sabotage, written by a then-young Sheldon Johnson, Jr., as well as an infamous parody of JTV’s "We're Cool!" campaign created by some disgruntled JTV personalities, caused Johnson Industries to decline. JTV viewership, box office returns, Johnson Parks attendance, and even advertising revenues declined. Continental Rail, Continental Shipping Lines, Continental Hotels, and Johnson Foods were the divisions keeping the company afloat, with CR and CSL's passenger and freight revenues, mainly due to retaining their high service values stemming from Stacker's hands-off approach towards the railroad and line, the hotels being improved, and the restaurants' continuing stream of revenue. Johnson also acquired Mark Goodson Productions in 1986 to bolster their library of game shows.
Meanwhile, the Johnson family was disgruntled at having the company they had built over a hundred years ripped away from them by a man whose decisions had infamously brought down his family's restaurant chain, Stacker's Bistro, in 1979, leaving just the original location in San Francisco, CA. An antitrust case from March 1, 1982 to March 20, 1983 ruled in Stacker's favor. Left with no choice, the Johnson family began buying up stock in large lots, owning 35% by November 1983.
On January 16, 1987, during a progress report meeting, Phil Stacker was informed of the decline of the company. Rather than brushing off these concerns, Phil was reported to have buried his face in his hands, muttering various obscenities and saying ,"Oh, God" over and over again. He soon began seeking ways to reverse the trend, and started by making a public apology for calling his employees "drones". He also began restructuring JTV, and most notably, had production of The Transformers moved from Sunbow to JTV, along with moving production of The Chipmunks from DiC to JTV in 1990, and, for the former, began making a full fourth season, as well as eight more seasons from 1988-1989, and then 1993-1999 (1990-1992 were marked by three primetime specials: Zone, The Decepticons Strike Back, and Operation Combination; seasons seven through nine carried the subtitle Generation 2, while the remaining seasons carried the subtitle Machine Wars, the series remains one of the longest-running American cartoons in history, capping off with a primetime special), and for the latter, a full ninth season was created, with the series continuing until 1995, and a 2015 revival. He also reportedly became physically sick when he saw experimental CGI being used in a sci-fi movie in production at the time and ordered it to be completely remade using more practical effects (the film in question, Star Pirates, ended up being the company's first non-animated blockbuster hit since 1980), and even created Johnson Aerospace, a division promising to create its own spacecraft and launch vehicles. The division was created after JTV planned to start a satellite service (scrapped with Johnson's 1992 PrimeStar buyout), and initially planned to use the Space Shuttle. This changed after Challenger. Also, Stacker acquired the Rankin/Bass Productions and Filmation animation studios on September 1, 1987 in an effort to expand Johnson Television Animation, and as a result, Rankin/Bass and Filmation (which were otherwise allowed to remain autonomous, and continued to be led by their respective founders, Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass, as well as Lou Scheimer until his retirement in the mid-2000s, respectively) received substantially higher budgets, with better animation for their shows, as well as a substantial animation library. In addition, Stacker picked up a game show adaptation of the popular board game Monopoly from Merv Griffin Enterprises, though many changes were made. It still airs to this day, with host Mike Reilly (a former Jeopardy! contestant) and announcer Paul Boland, who replaced Charlie O'Donnell after his 2010 death. Stacker also picked up a pilot for a revival of Match Game for the 1990-1991 season, though with original host Gene Rayburn, as Stacker was the only network executive who didn't mind his age (72 at the time). Like Monopoly, it still airs to this day, though with host Ross Shafer due to Rayburn's 1999 death.
In 1989, Stacker successfully rallied against a proposed redevelopment of Block 37 in Chicago, Illinois, calling it "a disgrace to Chicago history", as he had been born in Chicago and spent his early childhood there. Meanwhile, Johnson Foods partnered up with Aaron Fechter and his company, Creative Engineering, to create the Looney Bird's franchise in 1990, which only opened twelve locations in California, before future expansion was halted due to royalties disputes between Stacker and Fechter; the disputes were settled in early 1992, allowing expansion to once again take place, and the chain was retired once Johnson acquired CEC Entertainment, Inc. in December 2014, with the last location in Jackson, Tennessee closing on August 18, 2015 to be converted into a ShowBiz Pizza Place.
Things seemed to be improving, but on February 12, 1991, things began going sour again. During a news broadcast during Desert Storm, Tom Stephenson (filling in for Don George, who was ill) let America know exactly what he thought of Stacker and purposefully referred to the network by its still-legal name WBC instead of JTV out of spite for him, as Stephenson was a critic of Stacker's business practices. This led to Stephenson being fired and all of his retirement benefits being refused (Stephenson has stated that he doesn't "regret it one bit"). However, Stacker was becoming paranoid that he was losing his grip on the company, as the Johnson family kept buying up large amounts of its undervalued stock, eventually owning 85% by September.
It all came to a head when, on October 7, Stacker sold the original Johnson Comics to Marvel in an effort to "raise the company's profits", unaware that it had been one of Johnson's most profitable entertainment subsidiaries. Done without Johnson's permission, and with Marvel refusing to sell it back, the board of directors voted to oust Stacker on October 9. During this meeting, they discovered that the 1982-1983 antitrust lawsuit had ruled in Stacker's favor because Stacker had bribed the jury, giving each member $5 million in exchange for ruling in his favor, as he didn't want to forfeit the profits Continental Rail, Continental Shipping Lines, Continental Hotels, and Johnson Foods were providing him. It was also discovered that Stacker acquired the company without the Johnsons' permission, as a large group of disgruntled, conservative employees had coerced him to buy it as part of a conspiracy to ruin it out of spite for the Johnsons, who were (and still are) committed leftists, and that the sale of Johnson Comics was due to threats from that same group. He saw it coming, though, and was reportedly already packing his desk when the board was meeting. The next day, he announced his resignation, stating he "screwed up" and should have never bought out a company that was doing fine on its own, and admitted that he bought the company because he had been threatened by those employees. Stacker had made his final public appearance as Johnson CEO on October 5 at the first home game for the Johnson-owned San Jose Sharks. As a gesture of goodwill, though, the Johnson family named a brand-new GP60 after him, but regardless, he was arrested for jury tampering and served a two-year prison sentence, during which his wife Helga ran Stacker and Associates. During the Stacker-Johnson transition, JTV was mostly dead-air, only showing the WBC test card from 1968 to 1982, and added text at the bottom saying:
"The Stacker Era is over. Stay tuned."
In addition, episodes of The Transformers from the first two seasons, and episodes of The Chipmunks from the first season, were shown throughout the day, the test card being shown when commercials would normally be shown. As this was the era before the "Emergency Tapes", and the dead-air situation was short-notice, the Transformers episodes used the pre-broadcast masters later made infamous by the Kid Rhino home video releases between 1999-2004.
The Third Golden Age (1991-present)
Picking up the Pieces and Return to Prominence (1991-2009)
Full control of the company by the Johnson family was restored on October 11, 1991, exactly 23 years after JTV’s inception, starting an era dubbed the Third Golden Age. Sheldon Johnson, Jr. was announced as the new CEO, Johnson Radio reintroduced scripted programming, JTV was rebranded back to WBC on October 20, the Johnson Philharmonic Orchestra was fully restored after operating on a skeletal basis throughout the 80s, only composing the animated films and Star Pirates, WBC saw many changes, such as the removal of the Radicals, and all synth music was excised from network bumpers. In fact, in a live event shortly after the network had signed on for the day, Chocodile brutally and unceremoniously killed his cohorts from the infamous series The Cool Adventures of Chocodile, Vanillagator and Caracaiman, by shooting them dead offscreen in a P-51 Mustang privately owned by Don George (it was no secret that Chocodile utterly hated them, as he was always leading them into deadly situations that they got out of thanks to sheer luck and/or stupidity, and the Johnson family regaining control, according to him, compelled him to finally get rid of them), much to the relief of longtime viewers, with critics stating that it was an assurance that Johnson "was back to its roots". Stacker & Associates was allowed to retain one share in the company.
On January 1, 1992, Johnson announced that they acquired the satellite TV service PrimeStar. 1994 saw PrimeStar and WBC switch to widescreen, and HD the following year (broadcasts in analog would be stretched, so that widescreen TVs would re-stretch the image). The switch to widescreen coincided with the premiere of Detective Jenny, WBC's first high-profile original series since 1980. In 1996, Johnson formed a new division, Johnson Environment. Initially focused solely on green energy projects, it became the parent company of Waste Management upon its buyout by Johnson in 2017. In January 1997, Johnson Technologies started selling its first PC, the Johnson Mandatum. Johnson Technologies proved to be a viable competitor alongside Microsoft and Apple.
Throughout the 90s, Johnson productions experienced a massive increase in production values, writing, acting quality, and popularity. But it all came to a head in 1997, when a movie adaptation of the SNES game EarthBound was released, as a sequel to the 1991 film adaptation of Mother. The film shattered box office records and, at the time, was the second highest-grossing film of all time, and was followed up by the sequels Revenge of the Sontarans (2002), Mother 3 (2008), and EarthBound 2: Invasion (2011), as well as a TV series that ran from 1997 to 2015, all of which have been hits; an anime reboot began airing in November 2018. The following year, WBC premiered Monster World, a TV series combining Japanese anime and suitmation. The series, a crossover between the infamous anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, the works of HP Lovecraft (mainly the Cthulhu Mythos), and the long-running Godzilla franchise, and combining hand-drawn animation with practical effects such as model sets, suits, pyrotechnics, stop motion, go motion, and compositing animated characters onto physical setpieces, was a massive hit, introducing Evangelion to a wide audience and putting Godzilla into the American mainstream, running until 2004, yet still having movies and television specials. The television series was revived in the fall of 2015 to much fanfare, and continues to this day, with no end in sight and with movies coming out annually, starting with the revival movie in June 2015, and followed by Shin Godzilla in 2016, The Ultra Kaiju in 2017, Godzilla: Civil War in 2018, Invadors: Wave 2 in July 2019, and the upcoming NERV v. Godzilla in November 2020 (it was going to be released in May 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced Johnson to push back the film's release date).
2000 was another banner year for the company, as it launched its first manned spacecraft, Antares, a six-man spacecraft loosely derived from Apollo that primarily serves the International Space Station, but has also carried out long-term orbital missions with a crew module, and several lunar flights. Johnson Aerospace also developed three launch vehicle, these being Neptune-1 (a rocket using a solid-fueled first stage that later inspired the canceled Ares-I rocket) Jarvis (a heavy-lift family available in a wide range of configurations to fit any mission profile), and Quasar (a super-heavy rocket available in several configurations), a resupply craft called Verrezzano, and two space shutles named Eridanus and Esperia (these shuttles are a third of the size of the NASA Space Shuttle, and have less payload capacity, but they are much safer due to using a more conventional launch escape system and being launched on the Quasar 220, which lacks any external foam or solid rocket boosters; in addition, both shuttles have a more clearly-defined role of space station resupply and crew rotation), with plans for a lunar lander called Arcturus and a space station called Gaia (Gaia was later canceled and replaced by Starlab). The first overall launch for Johnson Aerospace was a Quasar 220 carrying PrimeStar-1, the first Johnson-made satellite for the service after Tempo 1 and Tempo 2 were deactivated and retrieved by Esperia to be preserved at the Tech Museum of Innovation. That year also saw Johnson acquire Archie Comics.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, WBC immediately canceled all programming indefinitely shortly after the first plane hit, as Tom Stephenson believed the crash to be an act of terrorism, a belief that was proven correct. WBC did not resume normal programming for four days, as all operations had been moved to the War Room, an armored underground bunker used by WBC News during major emergencies, featuring numerous features that allow Stephenson to effectively demonstrate to the audience what is happening. Afterwards, major revisions to its shows and movies were made, such as an ad-hoc change to Monster World (which was in the midst of its famous German Civil War arc) to bring the action back to the outskirts of Tokyo, as well as an episode depicting German rebels hijacking a fully-loaded American KC-135 and crashing it into TV Tower followed by Shinji and Asuka brutally massacring a village in rebel territory being pulled (the episode itself, though, was complete, and would later be released on home video in 2005 as a “lost episode”, complete with an introduction by Sheldon Johnson, Jr., airing on television in 2007). Other changes included the cancellation of multiple Jarvis launches contracted by the Department of Defense (these payloads were later launched by the Delta IV) over security concerns, the Transcontinental Zephyr was briefly truncated to Syracuse due to the closure of Grand Central Terminal, as the train runs nearly non-stop between Chicago and New York (the Miami-bound Orange Star was outright suspended) and large, pneumatic barriers capable of stopping large trucks carrying explosives being erected at all road entrances to Johnson HQ, essentially turning it into a fortress. Before the attack, Johnson Real Estate acquired the lease to the World Trade Center site for 99 years, and the site was reconstructed from a five-year period between 2003 and 2008. This included rebuilding the Twin Towers, in an initiative sponsored by future President Donald Trump, who the company has openly spoken out against.
On January 10, 2004, Johnson acquired the rising DVD-by-mail service Netflix for $1.9 billion. All PrimeStar receivers now came with 20% off Netflix subscriptions. In April 2005, Continental Rail announced Project: Zoom, a five-year project to upgrade the Northwest Corridor to handle 150 MPH high-speed trains. This included strengthening all trackage, expanding San Jose Diridon station with new platforms, increasing speeds on local trains (the max speed for local trains is currently 110 MPH), and adding equipment for in-cab signaling; the quad track sections dating back to the Northwest Corridor's construction play a key role in operations. The project was completed in 2010 with the inauguration of the Pacific Bullet service, using TGV-derived trains The project aimed to create a blended system, not eliminating any grade crossings (almost all crossings along the Northwest Corridor now have lineside electronic horns that activate for the Pacific Bullet; they are not present at crossings where the train is going slow enough for the horn to be heard well enough). Project: Zoom actually dates back to 1979, directly inspired by the British InterCity 125. The project was slated to begin in 1981, with a projected completion date of 1986, but Phil Stacker canceled it days before construction was to start, reasoning that it was "too expensive" (in a 2013 interview, though, he admitted that the real reason was to protect his interests in the airline industry; had he known how successful it was going to be, he said, he'd have let it go forward). The original project called for diesel-powered high speed trains, mainly Rohr Turboliners (CR still uses Turboliners and LRCs in express service on non-electrified routes). On August 12, Johnson bought Nextel Communications, which was absorbed into Sprint, along with Columbia Records, the RCA trademark and record label and most of General Electric, except for GE's stake in NBCUniversal, GE Capital, and GE Transportation, which were spun off. RCA started manufacturing new products for the first time since 1986. In addition, Johnson also acquired Rockstar Games, and the game company Volition, Inc.
On November 13, 2006, Johnson finalized a deal to buy the rising video-sharing website YouTube for $2.6 billion, beating out Google. At the time, it was considered one of the biggest buyouts in Internet history. On August 1, 2007, Johnson acquired IROC. It became a division of NASCAR in 2014. April 6, 2008 saw Johnson acquire 4Kids Entertainment, which was renamed 4K Entertainment in 2010 to emphasize the company moving towards newer, more accurate dubs. The 4Kids name was kept as a label for all pre-rebrand programming. The Studiopolis studio in Los Angeles was acquired in 2009, and a Vancouver branch was created in 2012.
Johnson Industries added another string to its bow with the acquisition of NASCAR on January 1, 2009. Initially, the company was allowed to operate autonomously, but poor decision-making by Brian France and Mike Helton saw Johnson slowly take control, first in 2010 by developing a new car, before taking complete control in 2014 when France and Helton were fired. NASCAR, under Johnson, has experienced a major turnaround. One of the major changes was the replacement of the unpopular Car of Tomorrow (or Gen-5 car) with a brand-new car known as the Strictly Stock Car (also known as the SSC or Gen-7 car; a transitional body simply known as the Gen-6 car was used in the 2013 season).
The Strictly Stock Car combines the best elements of the previous generations of cars, such as the safety features of the Car of Tomorrow, the speed of the fourth generation, and the brand identity of the first three generations. In reality, the SSC isn't much of a new car, rather that all models (the Chevrolet Camaro and Impala, Ford Mustang and Fusion, Dodge Charger, Challenger, and Dart, Toyota Camry, and Honda Accord and Civic) are just race-modified versions of showroom models, with modifications to the engine, chassis, body, and interior, but with no alterations to the overall appearance of the vehicle or its aerodynamics (the SSC sounds identical to the Gen-4 car). This resulted in the proliferation of small, single-car teams under NASCAR's Lend-Lease program, who would often show up at a race with nothing more than a car straight from the showroom and equipment leased from NASCAR, which expanded the maximum Sprint Cup field to 46 cars in response; some part-time teams, including Beard Motorsports, RAB Racing, and Swan Racing, continued using the transitional sixth-generation Car of Tomorrow body to cut costs, and in the 2018 season, StarCom Racing, which fields a full-time team, still used a 2013 Car of Tomorrow body on a Strictly Stock Car chassis, and Chris Buescher won a rain-shortened race at Pocono in a 2013 Car of Tomorrow in 2016, though it has been noted that these cars are aerodynamically inferior to the SSC, and often run at the back of the pack on non-restrictor-plate tracks. BMW and Nissan began fielding M3 and Sentra in 2016, alongside Buick, which last appeared in 1991, fielding the Regal, with 2017 seeing the entry of Cadillac with the CTS-V, and 2018 seeing Lincoln enter the Continental, replacing the Ford Fusion after it only managed to get one win (coming in 2016, being the aforementioned Chris Buescher win in a 2013 car) compared to the success being enjoyed by the Mustang. 2019 saw Chrysler enter the Maserati GranTurismo, according to an official Chrysler press release. Other manufacturers that entered NASCAR competition in 2019 include Jaguar (with the XE), Hyundai (with the Aslan), Kia (with the Optima), Aston Martin (with the Vanquish Volante), and Porsche (with the Boxster). 2020 saw the returns of Pontiac (with the Grand Prix and Firebird), Plymouth (with the Roadrunner), Oldsmobile (with the Cutlass), Studebaker (with the Commander), and Geyser (with the Hawk). In 2021, DeLorean will enter NASCAR competition with the DMC-12 and DMC-13, alongside Volkswagen (with the Jetta GLI) and Subaru (with the Legacy).
The SSC was introduced during Winter Testing at Daytona, but was just one of many changes for the 2014. Other changes included completely eliminating the Chase format in favor of returning to the 1972-2003 points system, and a major schedule realignment that reintroduced Rockingham and North Wilkesboro to the schedule (with Rockingham replacing the Spring Texas race and North Wilkesboro replacing the Spring Kansas race), added a race at Road America in January (reminiscent of the days when the first race of the season was at Riverside in January), and introduced a new aero package allowing pack racing at the 1.25 mile tracks such as Charlotte, Atlanta, and Texas (the biggest change being the banning of coil-binding). The result was close, exciting, edge-of-your-seat action that the sport had come be known for in the 1990s, and fans who had turned their backs on NASCAR came back in droves, with Johnson making it very clear they cared more about the fans than the money, due to the Johnson family being longtime NASCAR fans themselves. 2015 saw NASCAR hold the AAA Texas 500 at Texas World Speedway, as part of an agreement in which the race would be held there in odd-numbered years, and Texas Motor Speedway in even-numbered years, with the other track hosting an ARCA race; both tracks will be on the schedule in 2021. In 2016, major realignment took place, eliminating the June races for Michigan and Pocono and replacing them with Tokyo Speedweek at the newly-built Tokyo Superspeedway in Tama, Kantō, which includes the Tokyo Late Model Classic (a 60-lap event featuring the Gen-4 car and many retired drivers), the Indy Tokyo 300 (the first-ever race at a plate track in the IndyCar series, which IndyCar solved by limiting the cars to four gears rather than six, which succeeded in slowing the cars down greatly; despite fears that a massive multi-car wreck would break out at high speeds and kill multiple drivers and spectators, the largest wreck of the day, while still the worst wreck since the 2011 crash at Las Vegas that claimed Dan Wheldon's life, resulted in no injuries due to the enhanced safety of the DW12 chassis, especially in the wake of Justin Wilson's death), as well as races for ARCA, the Camping World Truck Series (which reverted to the Craftsman Truck Series name in 2019), and the PrimeStar Series (which reverted to the Busch Series in 2019), ending with the main Sprint Cup Series event, which was broadcast on WBC as the "first broadcast run by Johnson characters" (in reality, the characters' voice actors stood off-camera and broadcast the race in-character; Johnson characters had actually first "run" a race at the 2014 Coke Zero 400, though only the booth and one pit reporter position were manned by them, everything else manned by the normal broadcast team). New Hampshire and Martinsville also had their fall dates replaced by Walt Disney World Speedway and Iowa Speedway, respectively (in the former's case, a new track was built near US 192; the new facility is much bigger, holds more fans, has a dedicated parking lot, and is a 2 mile restrictor plate track inspired by the Coca-Cola Superspeedway in the game NASCAR Racing: 2002 Season). Tokyo also replaced the Fall Phoenix date, once again "run" by Johnson characters, and under the lights. For 2017, the Tokyo Late Model Classic was eliminated and replaced by a points-paying race at Twin Ring Motegi, with the Daytona Late Model Classic being introduced on the Thursday before the Coke Zero 400. 2019 saw further schedule changes, with the second Bristol race being replaced with a race at Lucas Oil Raceway, the addition of races at Brands Hatch Raceway and Nazareth Speedway, the second Dover race being replaced by a race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Complex, and the second Richmond race being replaced by a race at the Milwaukee Mile. 2020 was going to see the addition of Delaware Speedway, though it was postponed to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the Whelen Modified Tour brought back Metrolina Speedway.
To accomplish NASCAR's return to Rockingham and North Wilkesboro, Johnson bought, restored, and modernized both tracks, with the seating capacity increased, and, in the case of the latter, extended around the track a la Bristol. The Nationwide/PrimeStar/Busch and Camping World/Gander Outdoors/Craftsman Truck Series were also affected, with Cup drivers being outright banned from competition in the lower series, bringing an end to the Buschwhackers/Tailgaters, to the fanbase's collective relief (though the change was only implemented in 2017, though Cup drivers are still limited to five races per year). The Nationwide/PrimeStar/Busch Series CoT was replaced by the SSC in 2015, while the Camping World Trucks received the Strictly Stock Truck (SST) in 2016, which, like the SSC, are slightly modified showroom models with the truck beds covered to improve aerodynamics. The models for the SST are the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra, Nissan Titan, and GMC Sierra. The SSC started being run in the K&N Pro Series in 2016, and eventually found its way to ARCA in 2017, supplanting the steel-bodied (Gen-4) and composite-bodied (Gen-6) cars. The NASCAR Subway Canada Series started the SSC full-time in 2018 (utilizing the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Mustang, and Dodge Challenger), as did the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series (utilizing all-European models, including the BMW M3, Porsche 991, Volkswagen Passat, Renault Latitude, Jaguar XE, Skoda Superb, and MG 6), and is set to debut in NASCAR Toyota Mexico Series in 2019, being the last series still using a car with a Gen-6 bodystyle and Gen-5 chassis. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series introduced a new category for the SSC known as "Strictly Stock" (and added several of the larger tracks to the series such as Daytona, Atlanta, Rockingham, and Martinsville), and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, due to using unique cars, has remained unchanged, though two races were added at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which necessitated the use of restrictor-plates (essentially turning Charlotte into a miniature Daytona for the modified cars). The SSC template has also been adopted by many local and regional stock car leagues for its affordability. 2016 also saw NASCAR bring back the Convertible Division (sponsored by Arby's), the Elite Division (sponsored by AutoZone), and the Dash Series (sponsored by Goody's), in addition to starting the Howard Johnson's SUV Series. 2019 will see NASCAR introduce the Summer Shootout, composed of drivers from the three national series competing in SSCs via a fan vote. The first Summer Shootout, sponsored by Johnson-owned Circuit City, was raced at Pikes Peak Raceway.
In addition to the many changes to the racing, the television broadcasts were also affected. WBC itself began broadcasting select races with its own broadcast team, consisting of Tom Stephenson hosting from WBC Race Control (the WBC version of Fox's Hollywood Hotel), Brock Yates (until his 2016 death), Dr. Jerry Punch, Ralph Sheheen, Marty Snyder, Jamie Little, Bill Stephens, Mike Joy, Dick Berggren, and Bill Weber as pit reporters on pit road, and Ken Squier, Ned Jarrett, David Hobbs, and Buddy Baker in the broadcast booth (Baker was replaced by Wally Dallenbach Jr. after his death in July 2015). WBC's retinue for 2014 consisted of all restrictor-plate races (except the Daytona 500, which stayed on Fox), both Charlotte, Michigan, all road course races, and the Brickyard 400. In 2015, both Kansas races and the Southern 500 were added to WBC’s schedule, and in 2016, added the two Tokyo Superspeedway races, as well as select PrimeStar Series and Camping World Truck Series races; for these races, Squier and Eli Gold alternate PrimeStar Series races, while Paul Page and Bob Jenkins alternate Truck Series races. Beginning in 2020, David Hobbs was made a permanent member of the WBC broadcasting booth, having been a reserve broadcaster from 2014 to 2019. The network's coverage has received critical acclaim, with one review noting how "CBS-like" the broadcasts were, in reference to NASCAR on CBS. Also affected were the diecasts; beginning in 2015, Johnson-owned Racing Champions, Mattel, Lionel, and Spin Master signed a long-term contract to produce diecasts, with Hot Wheels making its first diecasts on a regular basis since 2005.
Johnson's ownership of NASCAR has not been without incident. With three laps to go in the 2014 Coke Zero 400, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were battling for the lead in a rematch of that year's Daytona 500 (which Stewart had won in his fifteenth attempt, a win that is often credited with jumpstarting NASCAR's resurgence in popularity, coupled with Danica Patrick winning three races at Las Vegas, Rockingham, and Sonoma), when Kyle Busch, running mid-pack, got loose, starting a massive crash that saw Kasey Kahne fly into the catchfence rear-end first. Bizarrely, the fuel cell ruptured, causing an explosion that could be heard up to four miles away, and sending flaming debris into the grandstands and tearing Kahne's #5 Chevrolet Camaro to shreds. Kahne himself was miraculously unharmed, considering he was thrown from his car when his seat detached from the chassis, but eight fans were killed by flaming debris and 72 injured. The season continued despite this tragedy (with Tony Stewart winning his fourth championship), and Kyle Busch was immediately absolved of any wrongdoing, though Chevrolet came under scrutiny for the fuel cell design used on the Camaro (the Impala did not have this issue). As a result, any team using Camaros had to temporarily use Impalas until the fuel cell could be redesigned, with Camaros returning to competition in the Bank of America 500 that October. A similar incident at the 2015 Coke Zero 400 saw Austin Dillon also fly into the catchfence, though in this instance, only a few fans were injured and Dillon's Impala was less damaged, though still totaled.
The Tim Johnson Era and Johnson Renaissance (2009-present)
Current Johnson CEO Tim Johnson took the helm of the company at the age of 14 on September 1, 2009, at his father's request (due to him pursuing a political career), as the youngest corporate CEO in history. Immediately, change started coming to the entire company, in an era also known as the Johnson Renaissance after 2012, extending the Third Golden Age.
Tim was referred to as a "21st-century Walt Disney", mainly due to his creativity, shrewdness, and perfectionism. If something isn't to his liking, he makes it known. Tim mainly focuses on the creative and operational side of the company, leaving Johnson Financing to handle the financial side so his plans can go forward. Tim is also the youngest corporate CEO in human history, which sparked widespread criticism that he was too young to run the company. They, however, ended up "eating their words".
On January 5, 2010, Johnson bought out Redbox Automated Retail LLC, making the company another subsidiary of Johnson. Redbox kiosks still feature the company's logo (Johnson didn't want to change the logo) and signature red color and are located at convenience stores, fast food restaurants, grocery stores, mass retailers, and pharmacies. Redbox machines are leased by almost every major retailer in North America. It was Johnson's first acquisition under Tim. Later, on March 4, Johnson announced its acquisition of the Monster Jam league. On October 5, 2010, Johnson bought Pontiac. Along with Plymouth and Oldsmobile, Pontiac was brought back to NASCAR in 2020, with Stewart-Haas Racing as Pontiac's banner team. January 4, 2011 saw Johnson acquire Mercury, which also entered NASCAR in 2020, with Wood Brothers Racing as its banner team.
In 2012, a massive addition was made the company. During a live stream on New Year's Day, Johnson introduced the Johnson Aligned Universe (Johnsonverse), a new, unified body-of-work mainly featuring anime series (two elements of the JAU, which are the Johnson remake of the Godzilla franchise unifying all three eras into one coherent timeline, and an anime series called Sodor High School, which is, in a nutshell, a humanized version of Thomas & Friends, were pre-existing and incorporated into the JAU). Among the series were a Vocaloid anime, as well as Johnson-ized versions of Sgt. Frog, Lucky Star, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Azumanga Daioh (subbed), all of which intertwine with each other to create one big universe. Later additions included Attack on Titan, Nichijou, K-On!, and CLANNAD. The Johnson-ized anime were either remade from the ground up (as was the case with Sgt. Frog, which was even renamed WBC's Sgt. Frog to distance it from the original anime), redubbed (Lucky Star was completely redubbed to eliminate all Japanese honorifics as well as fix the "issue" of Patricia Martin's voice, and episodes were lengthened by removing the "Lucky Channel" segment, as well as producing over 60 brand-new episodes), or given minor edits (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya received minor edits to tie it in with the rest of the JAU, but was mainly left intact).
Azumanga Daioh was aired with subtitles and the original audio, due to the amount of disdain for the ADV dub. This was in addition to Kiyohiko Azuma writing new stories, which when put together, create 80 additional episodes beyond the original 26. This was at the behest of Tim Johnson, who even managed to get the original Japanese voice cast back together for the new episodes.
The first piece of JAU material was a theatrical movie, Vocaloid & Godzilla, released in June 2012. The movie stars the current "Johnson Golden Four" themselves: Tim Johnson himself as Len, as well as his twin sister, Chloe Johnson, as Rin, his girlfriend (later wife) Belle Armstrong as Meiko, and Chloe's best friend (later wife) Jenny Smith as Luka. Other actors include Kristin Schaal as Miku, Seth Green as Kaito, Olivia Olson as Neru, Kelly Hu as Teto, Tara Strong as Haku, and Tim Curry as main antagonist Dr. Shinji Mustafa. As the title suggests, the movie brings together the Vocaloid and Godzilla franchises. Though Miku appears in the movie, and was the one who brought the Vocaloids to prominence, she is a secondary character, with the Kagamine twins taking center stage, along with Godzilla himself. Many, many Vocaloid characters make cameo appearances as high schoolers, and there are also references to the many Vocaloid songs. On the Godzilla front, the movie can be considered a Destroy All Monsters-type feature, as in addition to Godzilla, the movie also features many of his allies and enemies, including Anguirus, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Gigan, Megalon, Mothra, Battra, MOGUERA, Kiryu, MechaGodzilla, Mecha-King Ghidorah, Zilla, and Krystalak, as well as two new monsters who are, respectively, a clone of Godzilla, and an "evil" Godzilla controlled by Dr. Mustafa. The film was a massive hit, ushering in a new era for Johnson Industries.
A sequel to the film, Vocaloid & Godzilla 2: Mustafa Strikes Back, was released the same year in November. The film was considered better than the first, and featured the death of Luka, as well as the beginning of a romantic relationship between Len and Meiko. Between the two films, a TV series had premiered on Labor Day.
The third Vocaloid & Godzilla film, titled The Last Stand, was released in June 2013, and was also a big hit. Earlier in April 2013, several of the other SAU series had premiered on WBC (these were WBC's Sgt. Frog, Lucky Star, Haruhi Suzumiya, and Azumanga Daioh).
During a live stream on July 1, 2013, Johnson Industries made an announcement that took the world by surprise. At 12:00 noon PDT, the company formally announced its acquisition of the Walt Disney Company. Everyone, from the internet to the general public and even world leaders, from Barack Obama to Raul Castro, were shocked, and needless to say, the world remained shellshocked for several days, as Disney had long been thought invincible.
The company became a subsidiary of Johnson Industries, bringing with it ESPN, Pixar, Marvel (which meant Johnson Comics characters came back under the Johnson fold), Lucasfilm, Touchstone Pictures, The Muppets Studio (with Johnson licensing Kermit the Frog to Sesame Workshop for use on Sesame Street starting in its 45th season in 2014), and of course, Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Most parts of Disney were allowed to retain their autonomy, and release media under the Disney banner, except that the Walt Disney Pictures name was restored in the opening logo starting with Frozen, and the 1985-2006 logo was revived for traditionally-animated films, as Tim wanted to "recapture the magical feel of the films while also giving a gift to fans who grew up in the 80s, the 90s, and the 2000s", though the 2006 logo was kept for CGI and live-action films (the first film to use the revived 1985 logo was Hiawatha, released on September 17, 2015, though the 2006 logo was seen in trailers and all other advertising, as Tim wanted to make its use a "surprise comeback"), with the logo also being revived for its television division, Walt Disney Television (the logo had already been kept for Walt Disney Television Animation, with the "Walt Disney" name restored in late 2013 as well), the custom logo used for Pixar movies between 1995 and 2007 being revived for the same purpose using the orchestration from the film Cars, and the practice of plastering over old logos ending as well.
In addition, then-Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy was terminated from the company sixty days into the acquisition and Tim took control of the studio (he spoke out against Kennedy in a 2014 interview, calling her a "failure" and "unfit to lead a film studio"). The Disney-ABC Television Distribution arm was renamed back to Buena Vista Television, due to ABC being spun off into an independent company, using a combination of a modernized "comets" logo inspired by the logo used from 1995 to 2007 and the wordmark of the old Buena Vista Pictures Distribution label with the Disney-ABC rendition of its fanfare introduced in 2007. The Walt Disney Company was rebranded back to Walt Disney Productions (its name between 1923 and 1986) in December 2013 due to corporate restructuring, using the 1948-1984 Walt Disney logo with the word "Productions" below it in a Lubalin Graph-Book font. Finally, the Disney Vault was retired.
The sole exception was the theme parks and cruise ships, which Tim Johnson took personal control of. Immediately, he set out making sweeping changes to the parks, mainly focusing on Disneyland, in an initiative known as "Save Disney's Parks". Having a large amount of respect for Walt Disney and harboring contempt for Michael Eisner and Paul Pressler, he rolled back many Eisner-era business practices, such as focus on merchandise. The focus went back to attractions over all else, with a mission statement to "bring back the magic" and "restore Walt's legacy".
The biggest changes came to Walt Disney World and Disneyland Park, but all other parks around the world similarly received major changes. Beijing Disney Resort, under construction at the time of the acquisition, was outright canceled and sold back to the government; Johnson stated in a press release "we cannot ignore North China's continued human rights abuses, as well as the government's refusal to put a stop to knockoffs", referencing a 2014 Chinese knockoff of Detective Jenny known as Tújí duì Méi (突擊隊梅), or Commando Mei, a propaganda series demonizing women's rights as terrorism; Johnson's attempts to take the series' creators to court were allegedly derailed when the North Chinese government threatened to deny CSL ships access to its ports, revealing that the series was commissioned by the North Chinese government to suppress women's rights (Johnson also announced that it would stop releasing any of its films, television series, or video games in North China in any platform, as well as selling any imports from North China, until a "regime change" happens, with any future studios acquired by the company doing the same). As a result of this, plus a general disdain for communism on Johnson's part, Beijing Disney Resort was unceremoniously canceled, the construction and development budget instead diverted to projects at existing parks. Johnson has also announced it will be completely rebuilding Disneyland Paris Park into a new, non-Magic Kingdom park known as Disney's Fantasy Adventure while a new Disneyland is built in the United Kingdom, known as Disneyland London, and has also announced Disneylands in Sydney and Rio de Janeiro, which were set to open in 2021 and 2022, respectively, though it's unknown if either date will stick due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the already-built assets for Beijing Disneyland have been announced for a park in South China known as Shanghai Disneyland, which will open in 2022 as well.
On August 22, 2013, Johnson Studios announced that they had struck a partnership with infamous filmmaker Tommy Wiseau to re-release the cult film The Room in 3D. The film was re-released on September 29, 2014. Johnson also co-produced another Netflix series, The Neighbors, with Wiseau's production company, Wiseau-Films, which was released on June 29, 2015.
2013 also saw Continental Rail take full control of the British rail network, resurrecting the British Railways name. Overnight, DMUs, EMUs, and some high-speed trains were taken out of service. When the British public awoke on June 1, 2013 (some overnight trains departed late at night on May 31, such as fast goods and sleeper trains), they were greeted with trains looking very much like 1960s passenger trains, complete with steam locomotives, thousands of which were thought to be scrapped. All of the retired DMUs and EMUs were converted into the Mark 5 coaching stock (which, cosmetically, are identical to the Mark 1 stock), or were cosmetically altered to resemble older classes of multiple units. British goods trains also "went back in time", with the return of wagonload freight primarily in 2-axle wagons. Some feared that railway progress was "regressing", but the new system proved to be very, very successful, thanks in no small part to the fact that steam locomotives power 60% of all passenger trains, reducing environmental impact and capturing the public's imagination; those who had grown up with steam could now share it with their children and grandchildren in an environment other than a heritage railway or the odd railtour. The wagonload freight system also proved successful, now that the benefits of trains vs trucks were known, allowing BR to run door-to-door pick-up goods services along the majority of its network; it also helped that the 2-axle wagons are cheaper to maintain than the larger stock thanks to their size. Using lessons learned from the North American system, steam locomotive maintenance is now quick, painless, and cheap. Older diesel classes were also brought back into service. Though much of the 1970s-2000s-era multiple unit stock was retired and converted into unpowered coaching stock, the InterCity 125 trains remained in service, repainted in their original 1976 paint schemes and with reproductions of their original Paxman Valenta engines. Also retained were the Driving Van Trailers for use on express commuter trains, and more DVTs and Driving Brake Standard Opens (DBSOs) were built for push-pull trains to make up for the fact many stations no longer had facilities to turn locomotives; while such facilities have been rebuilt at some stations, others on commuter lines continue using either multiple units or push-pull sets.
All passenger trains are now color-coded: long-distance and crack express services are maroon, regional and local services are crimson and cream, commuter trains are Rail Blue, and express commuter trains are in the InterCity "Swallow" livery.
In addition to passenger services being widely restored, most of the lines closed under the Beeching Axe were reopened (by any means necessary, it should be said, as the new BR had to resort to underhanded tactics to have developments on the closed lines relocated), most notably the Great Central Mainline, Oxford-Cambridge route, numerous joint railways (such as the Somerset & Dorset), and many branchlines. Not all British railway lines were affected, though. Although the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways came under BR control (mainly as a passenger carrier and with more frequent services), all other heritage railways were allowed to remain independent (though many were reconnected to the national network, and regular goods services are run on them). The Sudrian rail network also retained its independence, as Tim Johnson "had been raised on the Thomas the Tank Engine brand" (incidentally, WBC had acquired the Thomas franchise in 1996 (along with HiT Entertainment, which was renamed back to Henson International Television in 2000), and set about making two distinct series in 2011 to go with the existing 1984 Thomas & Friends series: Thomas the Tank Engine, aimed at a general audience and styled around the earlier seasons, and The Railway Series, aimed at older fans and railway enthusiasts and featuring much more dark and mature content, including regular mentions of people being killed in the on-screen crashes and liberal use of pyrotechnics; both series use models).
Continental Rail has also taken to acquiring tourist lines in the United States starting in 2012. Thus far, the railroad has acquired the Valley Railroad in Connecticut (renaming it the Connecticut Valley Railroad and sending the Becky Thatcher riverboat to Walt Disney World), California Western Railroad (AKA Skunk Train), Virginia and Truckee Railroad, Roaring Camp Railroads (Continental Rail had rebuilt the South Pacific Coast line from Felton to Los Gatos between 2002-2008), and the Sandy River and Rangely Lakes Railroad (rebuilding the entire network). The railroad also rebuilt the former Milwaukee Road St. Paul's Pass rail line from Avery to Drexel, Idaho, complete with electrification to operate the railroad's EP-4 Little Joe.
Another major Continental Rail-related event took place in 2015, when then-President Barack Obama announced that, effective immediately, Amtrak would be folded into Continental Rail. The latter ended up inheriting a myriad of routes and aging equipment. Almost all of the Genesis locomotives were transferred to Mexican passenger services, retired AEM-7 and HHP-8 locomotives were transferred to the Northwest Corridor, NPCUs were re-engined and put back into service as F40PHs with Continental Rail colors and numbers, any other F40s still on Amtrak property were reactivated and put back into service, Superliners were retained for intermediate and boat train services, Amfleets and Horizons became staples for Mexican services, and Heritage Fleet cars still on Amtrak property were repainted into either Continental Rail colors, or historic colors. As Amtrak routes tended to duplicate Continental Rail routes, many Amtrak routes were either re-routed (the California Zephyr returned to its historical routing over Altamont Pass and through the Feather River Canyon to avoid duplicating the Transcontinental Zephyr), eliminated (the Pacific Surfliner, and Cascades were eliminated as Continental Rail's Northwest Regional running from Tijuana to Vancouver rendered them redundant; the Capitol Corridor was on the chopping block, before it was decided to instead extend the train to Reno and have it serve as a local feeder for the Transcontinental Zephyr, which only stops at Sacramento and Oakland between Reno and San Jose), reassigned (the Coast Starlight was turned into the Coast Daylight, now running from Los Angeles to San Francisco; the Coast Starlight completely duplicated the route of the Western Star with lower service levels and frequencies and terminating at Los Angeles instead of San Diego), restored (the Desert Wind, Pioneer, and North Coast Hiawatha were among the notable names to return), or renamed (the Southwest Chief was renamed back to the Super Chief). Trains such as the California Zephyr, Super Chief, and City of New Orleans were fully re-equipped with equipment in historic lettering/paint; as an added touch, locomotives swaps for the CZ take place at Salt Lake City and Denver, pulled by Western Pacific-painted F-units from Oakland to Salt Lake City, D&RGW-painted F-units from Salt Lake City to Denver, and CB&Q E-units the rest of the way to Chicago.
On June 1, 2015, Johnson Industries acquired Cartoon Network from Turner after Tim and Chloe got into a shouting match with the then-president and CEO Christina Miller (see the Cartoon Network page), who was then fired. Immediately, Teen Titans Go! was canceled (and all knowledge of the show's existence disavowed due to its connection with a major crime ring). Sweeping changes came to the network, which are all detailed on the Cartoon Network page. Twenty days later, Johnson acquired Tumblr and GoAnimate (renamed Vyond, as the GoAnimate name was "tarnished"), with their goal being to "clean both of them up of obnoxious users" (but refused to do anything about the infamous "Grounded" community, as Tim himself is a fan of the genre).
In December 2015, Tim Johnson made his directorial debut with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first Star Wars saga film since 2005. The film received acclaim from both critics and audiences, who hailed it as a return to form after the mixed-to-negative reception of the prequels. That month also saw the acquisition of CEC Entertainment Inc., the owners of Chuck E. Cheese's. Sweeping revisions came to the company, including the return of ShowBiz Pizza Place and the Rock-afire Explosion, a broadened age appeal, and severe changes to company business practices, including better pizza and reorganization of Department 18. ShowBiz locations were also opened in Kantō, utilizing the main cast of K-On! on center stage (with the side stages unchanged). Finally, CEC was renamed back to ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc.
The next year, the State of California delegated passenger services on the San Francisco Pensinsula to Continental Rail, bringing an end to Caltrain and restoring the Peninsula Commute name. All Caltrain equipment was inherited by Continental Rail, who repainted all equipment (some cars still bear Caltrain colors, though), and upgraded all of the P2 horns to P3s (cab cars) and P5s (locomotives). To help alleviate crowding on trains, starting in June 2016, Continental Rail began running rush-hour trains in sections, usually with the normal five-car bilevel set as the first section, and an up to four-car set made up of ex-Amtrak Horizon cars (some of the Horizon cars in this pool still bear Amtrak's Phase IVb colors). Electrification will still be carried out, and Caltrain's F40s will be reassigned to other parts of the CR network, but the EMU orders were canceled, and trains on the Peninsula will instead be loco-hauled using AEM-7 and ACS-64 locomotives, and refurbished Nippon Sharyo gallery cars, though steam and diesels will still be prevalent on the Peninsula.
In addition, Tim announced that Johnson Studios and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would collaborate on a 4K restoration of Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” exactly as it was seen in 1967, when all three films were first released in the US. Timothy Hill supervised the restoration, as he saw the films in theaters when they were released and he considers The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly his all-time favorite film and the biggest influence on his career. Dirt, tear and scratches were digitally removed frame-by-frame. The films were rereleased throughout 2017, with A Fistful of Dollars on January 18, For a Few Dollars More on May 10, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on December 29, all three films being rereleased exactly 50 years after their original American releases. The rereleased versions were acclaimed by critics and audiences for their restoration work, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in particular correcting all the various issues that plagued its prior rereleases, including the reinstatement of the original 1967 soundtrack, the softening of the yellow filter that was added in the 2014 restoration (so that it would look closer to Leone's vision without overdoing the yellow), as well as the reinstatement of various frames and shots that were missing from its home video releases. The restored trilogy was a success at the box office, with reports of theaters being crowded, and the films were released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray on April 30, 2018, which were all equally successful, containing the original and newly-remastered Italian audio mixes (the Italian-exclusive scenes, text, and credits, as well as the original pseudonyms for Fistful are always seen if either is chosen due to seamless branching), the 1967 English track, a newly-mastered 5.1 English track, a restored version of the added prologue from the first TV airing of A Fistful of Dollars in 1975, a documentary detailing the making of the films narrated by Hill, a documentary on the restoration narrated by Tim, and interviews with the surviving cast and crew of the films, as well as the scenes cut from the US and/or Italian releases of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
On December 1 of that year, during a press conference, Tim announced that the company acquired Capcom, stating that "the company has gone downhill ever since they forgot that certain franchises such as Mega Man were what made them iconic in the first place". The company greenlit Mega Man 11, which released in the fall of 2018, and the long-awaited and demanded Mega Man Legends 3 to release in the fall of 2019, alongside a myriad of Mega Man games in the main, X, Legends, and Battle Network series, and a new spinoff series focusing on Roll known as Mega Roll. Later, on December 24, Johnson acquired Comcept (the developers of Mighty No. 9). They announced plans to do a new version of the game under the subtitle Even Mightier for release in December 2017, as well as a crossover special between the Mighty and Mega Man franchises called Mighty Mega Man around that time. Even Mightier was released to critical acclaim, leading to a series on Cartoon Network that began airing in 2018 and a sequel, Mighty No. 10 was released in June 2019. Red Ash: The Indelible Legend was released in early 2020 to critical acclaim as well.
On May 4, 2017, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, Johnson and 20th Century Fox released the Star Wars: Ultimate Edition box set, which contained all seven films, the Holiday Special, the two Clone Wars series and the 2008 movie, and Rogue One. The Original Trilogy had three discs for each film: the original, using a 35mm print, the 1997 Special Edition and the 2017 Ultimate Edition. A New Hope also used seamless branching to let you use the 1977 or 1981 crawls, in addition to the original opening crawls and subtitles in other languages like the other films, and came with the so-called "Lost Cut". The Prequel Trilogy and Holiday Special also had two discs each: the original, and the 2017 Ultimate Edition: a heavily edited version of the film, removing everything that the fans hated, including midichlorians, and Anakin building C-3PO. Jar Jar Binks' character was transformed too, having his personality changed from a "traitor clown to a snarky, streetsmart survivalist voiced by Danny DeVito with a normal voice, and having a more compelling character arc, including the reason he was banished from Otah Gunga", according to Tim in a press release. Controversially, the podrace was practically left unchanged aside from replacing the CGI with models and puppets, as Tim thought the race was "important to the plot and a great glimpse at sporting events in the Star Wars galaxy". The Holiday Special was drastically changed too, being altered into "a masterpiece excluding moments like a singing Leia, softcore Wookiee porn, blackface drag queen cooking, avant-garde alien dance, drunk aliens, stock footage from A New Hope, Jefferson Starship, and more, but we didn't get rid of Bea Arthur, though". Almost all CGI was also removed in favor of practical effects (i.e. stop-motion battle droids and General Grievous, models for the space battles, podrace scene, and various other non-CG effects). The box set was critically acclaimed by fans, and was rereleased on May 4, 2020 as a much larger box set with the other films, more TV series, and even more bonus features. July 2, 2017 saw Johnson acquire Screenwave Media, making it an official part of YouTube; Cinemassacre alumni Kyle Justin and Brendan Castner (a.k.a. Bootsy Spankins) were hired to assist internet personality James Rolfe behind the scenes on the Angry Video Game Nerd web series. Kieran Fallon was fired in December 2019 as he had continually harassed people on Reddit for disagreeing with his opinions.
On October 1, 2017, Tim Johnson debuted a highly-ambitious project. A 125-episode sci-fi epic divided into five 25-episode chapters (each episode being 45 minutes each) known as Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Space War, the series serves as a direct sequel to the 2015 Hyperdimension Neptunia anime. The series is a rather blatant rip-off of Star Wars, using the logo, opening crawl, ships, weapons, and the Death Star; however, this is the entire joke: that the Star Wars movies are repeating themselves with different characters, in a different universe, just in different ways. Starting in Episode 33, the cast of RWBY was added, with the Imperials intervening in the Battle of Beacon and starting a three-episode arc known as the "Remnant Civil War" arc. The series utilizes a rather novel approach of putting animated characters on scale model sets, with various objects being manipulated either by pushing them over with a blast of air, hydraulics, or stop motion (if a character has to pick up or manipulate a live-action object, a close-up of a live-action hand is shown doing so, and in the next shot, the object will be animated; occassionally, an animated character is shown holding up an object using a live hand; these hands belong to Johnson employees, though Tim, Chloe, and Belle's hands have all been seen at various points). In fact, everything is either animated or a practical effect, such as stop motion, go motion, suitmation, puppetry, live pyrotechnics, remote-controlled vehicles, and matte paintings; even the missiles are real, usually being small white smoke flares; the only CG effects are lasers and the occasional nebula. The series airs on Cartoon Network on Saturdays at 11:00 PM during Toonami's Midnight Run block. November 6 saw Johnson announce a purchase of 20th Century Fox, including the Fox movie and television studios, FX Networks, stakes in National Geographics Partners, Fox Networks Group, Indian satellite TV group Star India, UK-based satellite TV group Sky plc, and other key assets. The remaining assets were spun off into a company owned by Rupert Murdoch's family, simply called Fox. The buyout further cemented Tim Johnson's status as the "Business King", despite criticism over antitrust concerns.
On November 10, 2017, Redbox offered a new service called Redbox On Demand. Like Redbox Instant, it is a streaming service, but based on a different model. It does not require any membership, and the list will contain new releases as well as several titles that it is claimed will never be available on services like Netflix.
On December 1, Johnson announced a surprise acquisition of Walmart. Control of Walmart was given to Jenny Smith, who immediately set out to improve it, such as new store concepts and a new logo inspired by the 1992-2008 logo, though with a lowercase version of the then-current wordmark, a star using the gold color of the old "spark" symbol, and a brighter shade of blue, as Jenny saw the then-current logo as "uninspired" and a "wasted opportunity". The Sam's Club stores followed suit with a new logo inspired by the 1993-2006 logo, using the same font as the new Walmart logo on a brighter blue diamond with a thin green outline, as well as a new concept for the stores.
On January 13, 2018, Johnson acquired the rights to the XFL. The first season was held in 2020; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season was canceled, though XFL announced that it would still hold the 2021 season. March 29 saw Johnson acquire The Jim Henson Company. Fraggle Rock was revived on HBO Kids in 2019 to critical acclaim, and the Jim Henson Pictures label was resurrected in 2019. The Muppets Studio, which had been a part of Disney, was absorbed into The Jim Henson Company, uniting the two companies for the first time since 2004. The Henson family was kept in the company, however. HiT Entertainment was folded into the company as well, and was renamed back to Henson International Television as a result.
On May 13, 2018, Johnson announced that they had acquired Nintendo and WWE. For WWE, Tim took personal control, and began the "Second Attitude Era" with the critically-acclaimed storyline "WWE Civil War", in which the Raw, SmackDown, and NXT brands were divided between the Johnson and McMahon families. The conflict was sparked when Tim interrupted Vince McMahon to announce the Johnson family has bought out WWE, and he himself had personally re-hired Hulk Hogan, who it turned out had never made racist comments and was framed for doing so because McMahon found him boring. The arc ended with the Johnsons victorious and McMahon killed when he tried to absorb the power of The Undertaker, only for it to overwhelm and disintegrate him (achieved using a realistic-looking dummy); Nintendo was allowed to remain mostly autonomous, though Johnson revoked Universal's license, thus killing Super Nintendo World; Johnson intends to take the plans and blueprints to build Super Nintendo World in Disney's CineVenture (formerly Disney Hollywood Studios), and also stopped cracking down on fan projects, using Sega as an example; the homebrew New Super Mario Land was officially released as a SNES cartridge (and the first officially-licensed SNES game since 2006) on August 5, 2020, while Mother 4 was approved by Nintendo and will officially be released in 2022, though there are no plans to produce a film adaptation of the game.
In addition, the old Nintendo headquarters in Kyoto (both the half already owned by Nintendo and the other half that Johnson acquired in 2004, saving it from demolition) opened up as a Nintendo museum and gift shop (selling high-quality merchandise such as highly-detailed and articulated action figures of Nintendo characters, replicas of their old hanafuda playing cards, and newly-produced copies of games and consoles produced throughout the company's history) on September 23, 2019, the 130th anniversary of the company, with a Sega wing being added in January 2020, and production on the upcoming animated Super Mario Bros. movie adaptation moved from Illumination to Johnson Studios, though the film will still be CGI. The film will also star Jason Alexander and Joe Pecsi as Mario and Luigi, with Charles Martinet having hinted at a cameo in the film as well. Also, in 2019, Nintendo released remastered versions of the entire Mother series of games as Mother: The 30th Anniversary Collection. They also announced their acquisition of ARCA, which became a subsidiary of NASCAR.
On June 14, 2018, Johnson Studios announced it bought the rights to, and would restore and complete, The Thief and the Cobbler. Richard Williams oversaw the project and had complete control, with no deadlines or budgets. Johnson also stated that, once the movie is completed, it would receive a wide theatrical release. After Williams’ death on August 16, 2019, Tim announced he would oversee the remaining post-production work. The film was released on December 25, 2019 to critical acclaim. More good news for animation buffs came on August 6, 2018, when Tim Johnson announced he and Chloe had found the location of the stolen hard drives for Foodfight! and physically fought the thieves (who were ex-Pixar animators trying to snuff out competition) for them. The thieves were taken into custody, and Johnson announced it will use the files with more relevant celebrities in an all-star cast, with foreign dubs all having their local mascots and celebrities from their countries, to create a special edition of Foodfight!, this time as an R-rated film, that was touted as the "Anti-Star Wars". The film was re-released on December 24, 2019 at the TCL Chinese Theatre, and three days later internationally, to critical acclaim. On October 1, Johnson announced that it acquired and would complete the unfinished 1979 CGI film The Works in conjunction with Pixar Animation Studios and the New York Institute of Technology. It was to be released in theaters on July 1, 2020, before it was released on Netflix due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was the first Netflix original film made by Pixar, as well as its first without the involvement of Walt Disney Pictures.
On October 25, 2018, Johnson Games announced that they would do a second SwordQuest competition in July 2019, with remakes of Earthworld, Waterworld, Fireworld, and the canceled Airworld on the Nintendo Switch, with exact replicas of the chalice, the talisman, the Philosopher's Stone, the crown, and the sword, all made by the Franklin Mint. The move was met with acclaim from gamers, and a third was originally going to be held in July 2020 before it was postponed to November by the COVID-19 pandemic; this competition was going to be pushed to February 2021, before it was decided to hold the contest using social distancing and other COVID-19 guidelines.
On February 15, 2019, Johnson Foods announced their buyout of the Stacker's Bistro chain, and began a five-year re-expansion plan for the chain. Later, on February 22, Johnson announced that they have secured funding for Don Bluth’s planned Dragon’s Lair movie, which will be distributed by Johnson Studios and released on December 25, 2020. March 14, 2019 saw Johnson's purchase of 21st Century Fox close, scattering its various assets across the Johnson Studios and Johnson Television subsidiaries. 20th Century Fox was renamed 20th Century Studios on January 25, 2020, presumably to avoid confusion with Fox Corporation, which owns the remaining assets (notably the Fox Network and Fox News). Other Fox assets were also renamed as well, and Fox Television Animation was folded into Johnson Television Animation. Despite this, Johnson announced that none of the Fox logos on any older properties would be plastered over.
July 31, 2019 saw Johnson acquire Sega Sammy Holdings. Unlike Nintendo, Tim took control of the company as he felt that "it continually made more and more mistakes until it no longer even resembled the company David Rosen founded". In particular, the element Tim felt that needed the most attention was Sonic Team, as he felt that the company had not made a game he had personally liked since Sonic Generations, which was released in 2011, going so far as to call the company "Ineptitude, Inc." (among his criticisms were gameplay and physics, which Tim considered to be "inferior to a game released all the way back in 1991", writing, which Tim blamed on Sonic Team "offering way too much of their quote-unquote input, on a couple of Happy Tree Friends writers, no less", and characterizations, with Tim singling out Amy and Shadow as examples, the former being "reduced to a Sonic stalker" and the latter being referred to as "a walking edgelord") and announced a "resurrection plan" for the Sonic franchise, including a video game tie-in for the then-upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie adaptation, which was released exactly one year after the acquisition, which was critically acclaimed for its graphics, voice acting (which had Ben Schwartz reprising his role as Sonic and other soundalikes such as Rob Paulsen as Dr. Robotnik), and its gameplay, which was famously described as "the true Sonic 3D experience we all sorely needed for years". In addition, famously found in the game files was a model of Sonic as he appeared in the film's original trailer released in April 2019. According to Tim, he intentionally put it in because he wanted "a surprise for those who like to dig in the files", as he hated that design, calling it "the result of a circus freak making whoopee with a squid, one of the human-cat hybrids from the Cats film, and a mutant, then giving the baby some of the most illegal steroids imaginable, though at least that thing didn't skip leg day, though"; this model is also used in place of the standard model if the game detects it's a pirated copy. Tim has also announced that Sonic Adventure 3 would be released in November 2021 as part of the 30th anniversary of the franchise (which, according to Tim, "would feature a lot of surprises, all to show our eternal gratitiude to all of our fans"), alongside a Sonic Mania sequel, which would consist entirely of original levels and would be done by Evening Star Studio, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games, and HyperKinetic, a redo of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 known as Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Awesome Edition that would fix all the flaws of both episodes and would not be episodic, a redo of the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game (better known as Sonic '06) known as Sonic the Hedgehog: Soleanna Edition, an open-world Sonic game, a Sonic Forces redo in which it would fix all the criticisms of the original game (this was cited as the reason Tim bought Sega in the first place, as he was disappointed in the result once he played the game, believing that Sonic Team "has officially lost their mojo") under the name Sonic Forces DX: Director's Cut (as a nod to Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut), redos of the two Sonic Storybook Series games (Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic and the Black Knight) and new games in said series, a Team Sonic Racing sequel that promises to deliver more characters than 2012's Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, a DLC for the original game known as Team Sonic Racing Plus that promises to add more teams and tracks, including missing characters like Cream, a revival of Sonic Runners, new games focusing on side characters such as Tails, Knuckles, and Amy, and new games in the Ristar, Samba de Amigo, Puyo Puyo (or Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine in the mainland US), and Nights into Dreams franchises. Takashi Iizuka was demoted back to game designer, as Tim considered him "a great game designer, but borderline awful leading a game studio". The long-awaited mobile port of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles was released on June 22, 2020, as Tim got approval from both Brad Buxer and the estate of Michael Jackson to use the music cues they composed for the game (including all the previously-unheard cues composed by Jackson), though several features were added, with inspiration from the ROM hack Sonic 3 Complete. Another option allows players to use music from the November 3, 1993 prototype of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (later used in the 1997 PC compilation Sonic & Knuckles Collection) or their replacement cues from Sonic & Knuckles. Two-player levels can be played in single-player using a level select, as well as in multiplayer.
Finally, characters from Sonic adaptations such as Sally Acorn will be permanently added to the cast, alongside long-lost characters like Ray, Mighty, Fang, Bean, and Bark. Cream will also be readded into the cast, as Tim called her removal "the result of execs trying to please that part of the fanbase that is still on the long-dead Cream hate bandwagon". In February 2020, a Sonic 5K event like the one held in Brazil was held in the United States in tandem with Paramount Pictures, complete with setups of the Master System, Genesis (with a 32X and a Model 1 Sega CD attached to it), Game Gear, Saturn, and Dreamcast (among the games were the first two Sonic games on 8-bit and 16-bit, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Knuckles Chaotix, Sonic CD, Sonic 3D Blast: Director's Cut, Sonic Chaos, Sonic Triple Trouble, Tails Adventures, Sonic R, the Saturn port of 3D Blast, and the first two Sonic Adventure games). The Sonic the Hedgehog movie continued production, with a bonus disc containing the pre-redesign version as a bonus for preorders; the only changes Tim requested were the removal of two scenes which would have shown Sonic flossing, as Tim felt that it would "date the movie" (the first instance was replaced with the dance from the trailer, and the second instance cut to a reaction shot of Tom and Maddie), and the removal of any mentions of Zillow.
In addition, Johnson has announced plans to officially revive the canceled Sonic X-treme, hiring the members of fan project AXSX (which had been created on the Sonic Retro forums in 2013 to create a fan-build of the game), alongside Chris Senn, John Duggan, Roger Hector, and Peter Morawiec, who had been developers on the original game (there will also be several early prototypes and phases of that game featured as unlockables), and reviving the Sega Techincal Institute. Sticks the Badger from Sonic Boom, which aired on Cartoon Network from 2014 to 2017, will be introduced to the main canon, with the same design and voice actress (Nika Futterman), though her personality will be changed as Tim felt that "the concept of a wacky, nature-loving badger who distrusts technology is awesome, but it seems the writers forgot that she isn't supposed to be more of an outright annoyance than a lot of fans accuse Chris Thorndyke of being". Other franchises that Sega will revive include Alex Kidd, Altered Beast, Bonanza Bros., Comix Zone, Ecco the Dolphin, Golden Axe, Kid Chameleon, Shinobi, etc. The acquisition was announced via a press conference which was preceded by a video showing Sonic and Mario congratulating Tim on the deal, with Sonic joking that he and Mario are now stepbrothers. Ryan Drummond and Charles Martinet reprised their respective roles for the clip, which was accompanied by completely new animation.
2020 saw the company affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, as Johnson announced the temporary closures of all Johnson Stores locations, and all Johnson Foods-owned restaurants being limited to drive-thru or delivery. All theme parks were temporarily closed (though many guests to Downtown Disney in Anaheim after it reopened noticed Tim and Chloe running trains on the Disneyland Railroad, seemingly for fun and to ensure everything is still up to snuff; among the things witnessed were cars off of the Holiday II trainset being switched onto the passing track at Main Street station, as if the twins were treating the attraction as a model railroad, something that couldn't be done during normal operating hours), construction of Disneyland Sydney and Disneyland Rio were put on indefinite hold, several ships belonging to their subsidiaries were quarantined, all production at Johnson Studios was halted, the NASCAR and Monster Jam seasons were put on hold, the XFL's comeback season was canceled, and Continental Rail services were severely curtailed, to the point that many branchlines were reduced to Budd RDCs, railbuses, or even maintenance speeders for passenger services, with some people even constructing their own makeshift railbikes to get to and from the small towns on these branchlines. The first sign of normality appeared on May 17, when the NASCAR season resumed without fans in attendance. That year saw Johnson acquire Myrtle Beach Speedway, which will be added to the Truck Series schedule in 2021, with plans to eventually incorporate it into the Busch Series and Panasonic Cup Series schedules as well. In addition, Johnson also acquired the rights to the 2008 film Delgo. It will be redone as a traditionally-animated film, with almost the entire script being rewritten, and will be released in 2023. The company also donated to many small businesses that were looted during the George Floyd protests throughout the summer as well, and notably refused to rebrand any of its products featuring minorities or cancel any series depicting police officers in a positive light such as Cops. Tim also personally blacklisted any celebrity supporting the riots as well, and responded in an interview that he saw the celebrities' responses as "one of pure wokeness, and you should know how much I hate that word, which has lost all meaning".
When the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began, it was announced that Disneyland would be the first mass-vaccination site in Southern California. Johnson initially considered having the site be within Disneyland Park proper, specifically Tokyo Plaza, with guests taking the Disneyland Railroad from Main Street (with the spiel turned off and social distancing protocols in effect that would preclude the use of the Retlaw 1 set), get the shot, and then take the train back to Main Street. This was rejected for posing too many risks of spread, so the site was instead moved to the Toy Story parking lot.
Units, Subsidiaries and Acquired Companies
Units and Subsidiaries
Johnson defines units as wholly-owned company subsidiaries. Several have their own subsidiaries that they themselves have formed or acquired.
- Continental Rail (1870)
- Yosemite Valley Railroad (1946)
- Virginia & Truckee Railroad (1950)
- Eastern Pacific Railroad (1952)
- IndustRail (1958)
- Port Ogden & Northern (1961)
- Columbia & Hood River Railway (1962)
- Cattaraugus & Lake Erie (1969)
- Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific (1980)
- Northwestern Pacific Railroad (1996)
- California Western Railroad (2003)
- Roaring Camp Railroads (2011)
- Connecticut Valley Railroad (2012)
- British Rail (2013)
- New York MTA (Long Island Railroad, Metro-North, New York City Subway) (2014)
- Metra (2014)
- Amtrak (2015)
- Caltrain (2016)
- San Jose Times (1869)
- Continental Shipping Lines (1876)
- Carnival Corporation & plc (2013)
- AIDA Cruises
- Carnival Cruise Lines
- Costa Cruises
- Cunard Line
- Holland American Line
- P&O Cruises
- P&O Cruises Australia
- Princess Cruises
- Seabourn Cruise Line
- Disney Cruise Lines
- Carnival Corporation & plc (2013)
- Johnson Marketing (1885)
- Johnson Mint (1890)
- Johnson Records (1900)
- Columbia Records (2005)
- RCA Records (2005)
- Walt Disney Records (2013)
- Hollywood Records (2013)
- 20th Century Music (2019; formerly Fox Music)
- Johnson Publishing (1908)
- Johnson Studios (1912)
- Johnson Optical and Sound (1915)
- Johnson Dubbing Studios (1925)
- Audiomaster 3000 (2003; folded into Disney Character Voices International in 2014)
- New Art Dub (2003; folded into Audiomaster 3000 in 2004)
- 4K Entertainment (2008; formerly 4Kids Entertainment until 2010)
- 4K Studiopolis (2009; formerly Studiopolis until 2009 and then 4Kids Studiopolis from 2009-2010)
- 4K Vancouver (2012)
- Disney Character Voices International (2013)
- Industrial Light & Magic (2013)
- Skywalker Sound (2013)
- Marza Animation Planet (2019)
- Johnson Dubbing Studios (1925)
- Johnson Cartoon Studios (1920)
- Big Idea Entertainment (2003)
- Johnson Studios UK (1937)
- Gullane (Thomas) Limited (2010; not to be confused with the prior 1987-2002 incarnation)
- Johnson Television (1950)
- Johnson International Television (1953)
- Johnson Television UK (1955)
- The BBC (1977)
- Johnson Television Canada (1957)
- Johnson Television Mexico (1958)
- Johnson Television Australia (1960)
- Nine Network (1976)
- Reg Grundy Organisation (1995)
- Johnson Television Europe (1962)
- Johnson Television Asia (1966)
- Johnson Television South America (1971)
- Johnson Television Africa (1974)
- MTM International (1992)
- Johnson Television UK (1955)
- Johnson Television Animation (1955)
- Rankin/Bass Productions (1987)
- Filmation (1987)
- Hanna-Barbera Productions (1991)
- CinarDHX (1998)
- Cinar (1998)
- DHX Media (2008)
- Boulder Media (2004)
- Walt Disney Television Animation (2013)
- 20th Television Animation (2019; formerly Fox Television Animation)
- TMS Entertainment (2019)
- ufotable (2019)
- Johnson Television Distribution (1976)
- King World Productions (2000)
- Buena Vista Television Distribution (2013; formerly Disney-ABC Domestic Television)
- 20th Television Distribution (2019; formerly 20th Television)
- Johnson Domestic Television Distribution (1978)
- MTM Television Distribution (1992)
- Johnson Domestic Cable Television (1981)
- Goodson-Griffin Enterprises (1986)
- Mark Goodson Productions
- Merv Griffin Enterprises
- Orion Television (1991)
- MTM Enterprises (1992)
- Spelling Entertainment (1993)
- Big Ticket Television (1994)
- Worldvision Enterprises (1994)
- Lyrick Studios (2001; folded into Walt Disney Productions in 2013)
- 2waytraffic (2006)
- Valleycrest Productions, Ltd. (2006)
- Walt Disney Television (2013)
- 20th Television (2019; formerly 20th Century Fox Television)
- Touchstone Television (2019; formerly Fox 21 Television Studios)
- Johnson International Television (1953)
- Johnson Studios Italy (1957)
- Johnson Studios Tokyo (1960)
- Johnson Studios Korea (1963)
- Next Entertainment World (2014)
- WBC Networks (1968)
- Western Broadcasting Company (1968)
- WBC Sports Network (1976)
- Comedy Central (1991)
- Home Box Office (1991)
- The Nashville Network (1991)
- Freeform (1991; formerly The CBN Satellite Network from 1977-1983, The CBN Cable Network from 1983-1988, The CBN Family Channel from 1988-1990, The Family Channel from 1990-1998, WBC Family Channel from 1998-2000, and WBC Family from 2000-2016)
- Cartoon Network (1992; currently under full Johnson control since 2015)
- Music Television (1994)
- A&E Networks (1995)
- A&E (1995)
- Game Show Network (1996)
- WBC News Network (1998)
- G4 (2005)
- Sprout (2007)
- The Hub (2010; formerly Discovery Kids, currently under full Johnson control since 2014)
- ESPN (2013)
- Speed Network (2013)
- The NASCAR Network (2019)
- Disney Channel (2013)
- Disney XD (2013)
- FX Networks (2019)
- FX (2019)
- FXX (2019)
- National Geographic Partners (2019; 73% stake)
- WBC International Networks (2019; formerly Fox Networks Group)
- Game Show Central (2020)
- Johnson Studios Australia (1970)
- Johnson Studios France (1971)
- Johnson Home Video (1972)
- Orion Home Video (1991)
- MTM Home Video (1992)
- Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (2013)
- 20th Century Studios Home Entertainment (2019; formerly 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
- Orion Pictures (1991)
- Orion Classics (1991)
- The Rank Organisation (1997)
- Johnson Studios Stamford (2001)
- Netflix (2004)
- Redbox (2010)
- Walt Disney Productions (2013)
- Walt Disney Pictures (2013)
- Walt Disney Animation Studios (2013)
- Disneytoon Studios (2013; folded into Walt Disney Animation Studios in December 2013)
- Lucasfilm Ltd. (2013)
- Touchstone Pictures (2013; folded into 20th Century Studios in 2020)
- Pixar Animation Studios (2013)
- Marvel Studios (2013)
- Buena Vista International (2013)
- Maker Studios (2014)
- Blue Sky Studios (2019)
- The Jim Henson Company (2018)
- Jim Henson Television (2018)
- Henson International Television (2018; had been acquired in 1996 and folded into Johnson in 2010, formerly HiT Entertainment until 2018)
- Jim Henson Pictures (2020)
- 20th Century Studios (2019; formerly Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)
- Searchlight Pictures (2019; formerly Fox Searchlight Pictures)
- Star Gold Studios (2019; formerly Fox Star Studios)
- 2000 Pictures (2019; formerly Fox 2000 Pictures)
- 20th Century Studios Australia (2019; formerly Fox Studios Australia)
- Zero Day Studio (2019; formerly Fox Digital Studio and Zero Day Fox)
- 20th Century Animation (2019; formerly 20th Century Fox Animation)
- Walt Disney Animation Studios Vancouver (2019; formerly the Vancouver branch of Moving Pictures Company)
- Johnson Optical and Sound (1915)
- Johnson Theatres (1918)
- San Jose Theatre (1918)
- Garrick Theater (1952)
- Carthay Circle Theatre (1967)
- Woods Theatre (1989)
- Classic Cinemas (1998)
- Indian Hills Theater (2002)
- Uptown Theatre (2008)
- El Capitan Theatre (2013)
- Wehrenberg Theatres (2016; 50%)
- Johnson Radio (1926)
- Johnson Clothing (1930)
- Johnson Theatricals (1934)
- Disney Theatrical Group (2013)
- Johnson Fuels (1940)
- Union Oil Company of California (1953)
- 76 (2003)
- Johnson Alternative Fuels (1960)
- Sunoco (2020)
- Union Oil Company of California (1953)
- Johnson Real Estate (1943)
- World Trade Center (2001; developer of new complex)
- Johnson Toys (1945)
- Parker-Bradley (1992)
- Parker Brothers
- Milton Bradley
- Hasbro (1992)
- Lego (1997)
- Tiger Electronics (1998)
- Racing Champions (2002)
- Palisades Toys (2005)
- Parker-Bradley (1992)
- Johnson Financing (1949)
- TranSouth (1995)
- First Union (1996)
- PaineWebber (1999)
- Ameriquest (1999)
- Nationwide Insurance (1999)
- The J.G. Wentworth Company (2004)
- Lehman Brothers Holdings (2008)
- Johnson Technologies (1954)
- Kodak (1999)
- RCA (2005)
- Johnson Comics (1957)
- Harvey Comics (1962)
- Archie Comics (2000)
- King Features Syndicate (2005)
- Marvel Comics (2013)
- Paws, Inc. (2019)
- Johnson Foods (1961)
- McDonald's Corporation (1961)
- Frito-Lay (1964)
- PepsiCo (1965)
- Howard Johnson's Restaurants and Frozen Foods (1967)
- Red Coach Grill (1967)
- Ground Round (1969)
- Kentucky Fried Chicken (1969)
- Conagra Brands (1977; formerly ConAgra Foods until 2017)
- Dairy Queen (1980)
- Arby's (1980)
- Ayds Appetite Suppressant (1980; known as HoJo's Appetite Suppressant from 1982 to 2017)
- The Kellogg Company (1980)
- Subway (1982)
- Dunkin' (1982; formerly Dunkin' Donuts until 2019)
- Taco Bell (1991)
- Mars, Inc. (1994)
- Juan Pollo Restaurants (1997)
- Long John Silver's (1999)
- Pumper Nic (1999)
- The Quaker Oats Company (2001)
- Wienerschnitzel (2003)
- Kraft Heinz (2009; formerly Kraft Foods Inc. until 2015)
- Pinnacle Foods (2011)
- Hot Dog on a Stick (2014)
- ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc. (2014; formerly CEC Entertainment, Inc.)
- Stacker's Bistro (2019)
- Johnson Motor Company (1964)
- Geyser (1964)
- Studebaker (1964)
- Daewoo (1994)
- Oldsmobile (2004)
- Chrysler, LLC (2007)
- Plymouth (acquired in 2001)
- Saturn (2009)
- Pontiac (2010)
- Saab (2010)
- Hummer (2010)
- Mercury (2011)
- Lancia (2015)
- Holden (2020)
- Continental Hotels (1966)
- Holiday Inn (1966)
- Howard Johnson's (1967)
- AmeriHost Inn (2003)
- Days Inn (2003)
- Knights Inn (2003)
- Ramada Inn (2003)
- Super 8 (2003)
- Travelodge (2003)
- Villager (2003)
- Wingate Inn (2003)
- Fairfield Resorts (2003)
- Johnson Electric (1970)
- General Electric (2005)
- Johnson Parks (1975)
- Harveyland USA (1975)
- Harveyland Canada (1980)
- Harveyland Tokyo (1985)
- Harveyland Paris (1994)
- Harveyland Sydney (1998)
- Harveyland Mexico (2004)
- McDonaldland USA (1976)
- McDonaldland Canada (1978)
- McDonaldland Paris (1984)
- McDonaldland Tokyo (1989)
- McDonaldland Sydney (1995)
- McDonaldland Mexico (2000)
- World of Tokyo (2005)
- Walt Disney Parks & Resorts (2013)
- Disney California Adventure (2013)
- Disneyland Park (2013)
- Walt Disney World (2013)
- Disneyland Paris/Disney's Fantasy Kingdom (2013, reopened 2017)
- Hong Kong Disneyland (2013)
- Tokyo Disneyland (2013)
- Disneyland London (2019)
- Disneyland Sydney (TBA due to pandemic)
- Disneyland Rio (TBA due to pandemic)
- 20th Century World (TBA due to pandemic)
- Harveyland USA (1975)
- Johnson Games (1982)
- Rare (1991)
- Westwood Studios (1998)
- Maxis (1998)
- 3D Realms (1999)
- Sierra Entertainment (2001)
- Papyrus Racing Games (2003)
- Take-Two Interactive (2005)
- Rockstar Games (2005)
- Rockstar North
- Rockstar Toronto
- Rockstar New England
- Rockstar Leeds
- Rockstar London
- Rockstar Lincoln
- Rockstar San Diego
- Rockstar Toronto
- Rockstar International
- Rockstar Dundee (2020; formerly Ruffian Games Limited)
- 2K (2005)
- Volition (2005)
- Rockstar Games (2005)
- Pandemic (2007)
- PopCap Games (2011)
- Disney Interactive Studios (2013)
- LucasArts (2013)
- Capcom (2016)
- Comcept (2016)
- Sega Sammy Holdings (2019)
- Sega Corporation (2019; merged from Sega Games and Sega Interactive Co., Ltd in 2020)
- Sammy Corporation (2019)
- Sonic Team (2019)
- Sega AM1 (2019)
- Sega AM2 (2019)
- Atlus (2019)
- Sega Technical Institute (2019; not to be confused with the 1991-1996 incarnation)
- Johnson Bell (1983)
- Sprint Corporation (2001)
- Nextel (2005)
- Johnson Aerospace (1987)
- ContinentalNet (1998)
- PrimeStar (1992; formerly under Johnson Studios)
- Sky plc (2019)
- Star India (2019)
- PrimeStar (1992; formerly under Johnson Studios)
- Johnson Online (1992)
- America Online (1997)
- eBay (1998)
- CompuServe (1998)
- Prolific Publishing, Inc. (2003)
- Yahoo! (2004)
- Mondo Media (2004)
- MySpace (2004)
- YouTube (2006)
- Screenwave Media (2017)
- Wikia (2006)
- TV Tropes (2014)
- Tumblr (2015)
- Vyond (2015; formerly Go!Animate until 2013 and GoAnimate until 2018)
- TikTok (2020)
- Johnson Stores (1992)
- Blockbuster Video (1992)
- Just for Feet (1994)
- Sears (1998)
- Western Auto (1998)
- Toys R Us (1999)
- Circuit City (2001)
- Walmart (2017)
- Sam's Club (2017)
- Johnson Environment (1996)
- Waste Management (2017)
- Johnson Malls (2000)
- Johnson Sports (2009)
- National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (2009)
- International Race of Champions (2007; folded into NASCAR in 2014)
- Auto Racing Club of America (ARCA) (2018)
- Monster Jam (2010)
- XFL (2018)
- World Wrestling Entertainment (2018)
- National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (2009)
- International Speedway Corporation (2009)
- Riverside International Raceway (1971)
- Ontario Motor Speedway (1980)
- Ascot Park (1990)
- Chicago Motor Speedway (2002)
- Nazareth Speedway (2003)
- Delaware Speedway (2009)
- Daytona International Speedway (2009)
- Talladega Superspeedway (2009)
- Homestead Miami Speedway (2009)
- Auto Club Speedway (2009)
- Darlington Raceway (2009)
- Kansas Speedway (2009)
- Chicagoland Speedway (2009)
- Michigan International Speedway (2009)
- Phoenix Raceway (2009)
- Martinsville Speedway (2009)
- Richmond Raceway (2009)
- Route 66 Raceway (2009)
- North Wilkesboro Speedway (2012)
- Rockingham Speedway (2012)
- Walt Disney World Speedway (2014)
- Tokyo Superspeedway (2015)
- Occoneechee Speedway (2016)
- Texas World Speedway (2016)
- Metrolina Speedway (2018)
- Watkins Glen International (2019)
- Myrtle Beach Speedway (2020)
These companies were acquired by Johnson, but maintain a larger degree of autonomy compared to Johnson's wholly-owned units, though the parent company can and will intervene if corporate feels they are doing something that doesn't align with its mandates.
- Colgate-Palmolive-Peet (1936)
- Time Magazine (1980)
- USA Today (2006)
- Nintendo (2018)