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Disney Legend Marty Sklar passes away at age 83

July 27, 2017, 8:16 PM · The Walt Disney Company announced tonight that Disney Legend and longtime Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar passed away at his Hollywood Hills home tonight. He was 83.

Sklar (Oh, to heck with journalism convention — no one ever called him by his last name)... Marty was the only Disney employee to attend the opening of every Disney theme park, from Disneyland in 1955 to Shanghai Disneyland last year. A UCLA journalism student hired by Walt to write the Main Street newspaper for Disneyland, Marty worked his way into Walt's inner circle, becoming his speechwriter and eventually the head of Walt Disney Imagineering.

At WDI, Marty became the keeper of Walt's legacy within the company, authoring "Mickey's Ten Commandments" for theme park attraction design and mentoring countless creative talents both inside and outside The Walt Disney Company. (He recently sent my son a congratulatory note for his work as a student filmmaker.) Marty was a co-founder and long-time supporter of the Ryman Arts program for aspiring visual artists in the Los Angeles area, a program created in honor of fellow Disney Legend Herb Ryman, whose conceptual drawings guided the development of many Disney theme parks and attractions.

Smart, sharp, witty, and ever loyal to Disney, Marty was an annual guest on Bob Rogers' "Legends" panel at the IAAPA Attractions Expo, sharing his well-earned experience and insight with theme park professionals from around the world. We've been privileged to cover several of these panels over the years:

"Mentor, leader and father figure, Marty's influence throughout this industry is broader and deeper than anyone will ever know," Bob Rogers said today in an email to me. "He was the true Sorcerer's Apprentice, not just curating and teaching Walt's principles, but expanding and refreshing them, forever demonstrating how these timeless truths remained connected, insightful and powerful in a constantly changing world. And he was one of the nicest, kindest people I ever met."

Throughout his professional life, Marty preached the importance of serving guests with engaging story and experiences, urging designers to find ways to touch people's hearts and emotions through their work. Reading his books and listening to his presentations should be required work for anyone considering a career in themed entertainment design. (You can find samples of his wisdom in all the articles linked above and below.)

Marty officially retired from the Walt Disney Company as Executive Vice President of WDI in 2009, receiving the honor of a window on Main Street's City Hall at Disneyland. But Marty remained active at company and fan events. He was at the D23 Expo in Anaheim this month, and I last spoke with him in person at the WDI Imaginations competition for aspiring Imagineers, in Glendale in January.

Marty is survived by his wife of 60 years, Leah; son Howard and his wife, Katriina Koski-Sklar; grandchildren Gabriel and Hannah; daughter Leslie; and grandchildren Rachel and Jacob. The family has required that anyone wishing to pay respects not send flowers but instead make a donation in Marty’s name to Ryman Arts.

More past articles about Marty:

Replies (21)

July 27, 2017 at 8:30 PM · Terribly sad news. Marty "A coaster is just a coaster - but great stories last forever" Sklar was one of the best. He will be greatly missed.
July 27, 2017 at 9:16 PM · Great man. I got to meet him and spend a little time talking with him about 18 months ago. Such a great talent and a nice man too.
July 27, 2017 at 9:47 PM · I feel honored to have known Marty and will miss his guidance.
July 27, 2017 at 11:19 PM · Mr. Sklar showed us how it was done. His talents will be sorely missed.
July 27, 2017 at 11:25 PM · Extremely sad news. Marty Sklar was truly one of the legends of WDI, and his work remains some of the best in the industry. While I never got to meet him, I'm glad I got a chance to see him in a panel at D23. He will be missed by many.
July 27, 2017 at 11:27 PM · Very sad to hear. Very honored and humbled to have been able to work with him in a small way once a few years back. Such a great influence to so many in the themed entertainment industry.

Just saw that we also lost June Foray the day before at 99 years old. One of the greatest voices and influences in animation.

July 28, 2017 at 12:36 AM · Incredibly sad news.
What an incredible legacy to leave us fans.
July 28, 2017 at 1:57 AM · So sad. Love and strength to his family.
July 28, 2017 at 2:52 AM · Tragic news. We have lost a giant. Prayers and best wishes for the family.
July 28, 2017 at 3:22 AM · His light may have gone out, but his spark will inspire for generations to come. Having recently read both Marty's books, I feel as if I knew him, even though we never met. He was there at the beginning and had as much to do with the legend and legacy of Disney parks as any, even Walt. My Condolences to his family.
July 28, 2017 at 4:38 AM · A true titan of Disney. Although I never met him, somebody with such trust and stature that you absorbed every word he said.
July 28, 2017 at 7:53 AM · I deeply respected Marty and looked up to him as a master of leadership. He will be greatly missed.
July 28, 2017 at 8:30 AM · Sad face emoji...

July 28, 2017 at 10:51 AM · Damn, a real loss of a legend, not many like him left.
July 28, 2017 at 10:51 AM · Damn, a real loss of a legend, not many like him left.
July 28, 2017 at 11:09 AM · I met him at the Disneyland 50th anniversary. One of the biggest thrills of what was already an incredible trip. Whomever hasn't read his book should do so. Amazing. Very sad loss.
JC Planas
July 28, 2017 at 11:55 AM · So sad to lose one of the greats. Praying for his family and loved ones!
July 28, 2017 at 1:45 PM · So so sad. We have lost a legend. Prayers to his family and friends. He will be missed. :(
July 28, 2017 at 5:33 PM · :-(
July 29, 2017 at 3:02 PM · A class act that can't be replaced. Sympathies to his family.
July 30, 2017 at 8:05 AM · Today's executives could learn a lot from studying old timers like Marty Sklar. Marty understood theme parks are not all about sales, marketing & intellectual property.

Theme parks are about connecting with people on an emotional level. It's about how about how they make us feel. When great attractions are taken away from us, when parks are not maintained, when guests feel hustled/manipulated/nickel&dimed, it poisons the well and leaves guests not wanting to return.

R.I.P. Marty. Wish Disney had more like you.

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