"In the business world, we may be competitors, but when we're working in our local communities, we are very collaborative," said Joan McCarthy, head of Disney's L.A. community relations department.
In 2007, Disney donated $1 million for the hospital's Roy and Patricia Disney Cancer Center, which opened last year.
Disney spokeswoman Lily Bedrossian said the studio has donated to all four local hospitals, and in 2009, the company gave more than $5 million in cash and in-kind donations to charities across L.A. Other beneficiaries include Burbank and Glendale school districts, Woodbury University, Glendale Healthy Kids and the Foothill Autism Alliance.
McCarthy acknowledged that charities routinely ask if a certain mouse or other Disney character can make an appearance at their events. The company obliges when it can.
"We're very careful about where we send our characters," McCarthy said. "We're sure that wherever they go it is a special occasion and community. We don't want to overuse them."
Even so, McCarthy said characters can be counted on at the Burbank Fire Services Day each year.
Last month, DreamWorks Animation, which has campuses in Glendale and Redwood City, launched a give-a-day, get-a-day program — the name is lifted from the plot of "Shrek Forever After" — in which workers are paid for a full day of volunteerism at a local charity.
"We very much wanted to put our money where our mouth was," said Dan Satterthwaite, director of human resources at DreamWorks. "We want to give people encouragement to get out there and give of their own skills, minds and hearts."