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:
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