Walt Disney

Shareholders of Walt Disney (DIS) have been laughing all the way to the bank for the last year, outperforming the broad market over that stretch by more than double as Mickey Mouse and friends generated gains of more than 20.7% since last summer. Disney's huge collection of valuable assets gives it advantages that can't be replicated by rivals.

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Even though Mickey, Donald and Goofy are the first names that spring to mind when most people say the Disney name, those classic characters represent a small chunk of Disney's overall empire today. Disney earned around half of its profits through television networks such as ABC, A&E and the Disney Channel. ESPN, though, is the star of the show: It is the most valuable network in the world, capturing a bigger piece of your cable bill than any other network out there. Smart acquisitions such as Pixar and Marvel give Disney an even bigger collection of IP -- and more important, talent -- that should help produce blockbusters for years to come.

Meanwhile, Disney's theme parks are starting to enjoy the other side of the cyclical downdraft that hindered them during the Great Recession. Because Disney is highly integrated, it's able to take popular characters from a film and move them into TV, theme parks and merchandise, multiplying the value of its efforts and trimming costs. There's a lot to like about Disney's business in 2014.

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