Announcing third quarter results, the Walt Disney Company reported strong growth driven by the runaway success of Toy Story 3 and previously deferred revenue from ESPN.

Revenue across the divisions increased 16% year-on-year from $8.6bn to $10bn while the nine-month period returned an 8% gain that saw revenues climb from $26.3bn to $28.3bn.

Net income surged 40% from $954m or 51 cents a share during the third quarter of 2009 to $1.33bn or 67 cents a share.

Studio Entertainment revenues for the quarter increased 30% to $1.6bn and segment operating income increased by $135m to $123m. Worldwide theatrical results reflected the strong performances of Toy Story 3, Alice In Wonderland and Iron Man 2.

Operating income at the Cable Networks division increased $561m to $1.7bn for the quarter due to an increase at ESPN and to a lesser extent, the worldwide Disney Channel.

Disney said the increase at ESPN “was primarily due to earlier recognition of previously deferred revenues related to annual programming commitments.”

ESPN recognised a net $344m of previously deferred revenue, compared to a net deferral of $37m in the prior-year quarter. Higher affiliate and advertising revenue during the World Cup played a key role in this, as did the launch of a new network in the UK.

“Our performance underscores the value of sticking to a smart strategy even in tough times, of investing in the right people, and of focusing relentlessly on quality and innovation to drive growth in shareholder value,” Walt Disney Company president and CEO Bob Iger said.