Pixar and Marvel was its first step. Disney's purchase of Pixar gives it access to dozens of popular characters that it can do whatever it wants with--make spin-off films, theme park rides, product lines . . . The possibilities of wealth to be had in such high profile characters are almost endless. Similarly, Marvel's 4,000+ character bank opens up Disney's empire into a whole new dimension.
But don't be disheartened that Disney isn't creating tons of their own characters. After all, as many seem to forget, Walt based his features on fairytales, classic literature, legends, and the like, and those stories turned out great.
So my question is, why wouldn't Disney want to acquire more characters? Sure, it'd probably be better if they created their own characters from the ground up, like Pixar does, but they don't necessarily have to. Bolt was an original story and that was wonderful, but so was Tangled, which, as you know, is based on the fairytale of Rapunzel. Disney's theme parks are filled with Indiana Jones and Star Wars, and people love it. You don't need original content for a good story. In fact, the majority of people are more likely to see and connect with a film based around a character they're already familiar with than a completely foreign one.
I think, as with everything it seems, a good balance is key. Some original content, some based on established franchises and existing characters. And that is what Disney seems to be doing now. Its Pixar branch is creating original content, its Marvel branch is breathing new life into characters we already know, and its animation division just released the well-known Winnie-the-Pooh and is developing Mort, a film based on a Terry Pratchett novel, while also working on King of the Elves and The Snow Queen, both of which are loosely based on existing stories, but will act as if they were original since those stories are rather obscure.
And it's good that Disney wants to stretch its horizons. After all, it is an entertainment company, so it wants to get its hand on anything entertaining. Even if they buy up something like Shrek (which would never happen), they could always just stick it on a shelf indefinitely so that no other studio could have access to something so great. Disney is, first and foremost, in the business of making money. I hate to admit it, since they should be in the business of telling good stories, but it's true.
However, good stories make money. At least that's how it should work. So is it bad that Disney wants to acquire more characters? No, since it will keep the slate of Disney films (as well as the theme parks) interesting and new--a good story can come from anywhere. (And, as you may know, Disney has a rather fat wallet, so it can afford a character from anywhere.) Is it bad that Disney plans to keep creating original content, too? Of course not; original content is where we get some of the most beloved characters we know and love.
Is it bloody obvious that Disney longs to get more characters under its banner?
Yes. Yes it is.