Roy Disney's death, today at 79, silences passionate advocate for animation arts
Roy E. Disney really did help save Disney.
At a crucial moment in the history of the Walt Disney Company, Walt's nephew stepped forward to demand a change in leadership, one that ultimately led to a new management team and promising new creative initiatives.
Roy Disney died today in Newport Beach, at the age 79, after a battle with stomach cancer.
A passionate friend of Disney's animation division, Roy served the company as a director and internal advocate. He left active work within the company in the mid-1970s, to be brought back into the fold when Michael Eisner arrived as CEO in the early 1980s. Focusing on the animation division, his push for resources paid off as the company turned out a string of hits in the late 80s and early 1990s.
Eventually, his relationship with Eisner soured, and after Disney management didn't list him for renomination to the company's board, Roy in 2003 joined the PR war against the Eisner administration.
In the early years of this decade, online fans and critics were railing against the Eisner administration, following cutbacks in show quality, attraction development and staffing at the Disney theme parks. Two fatal accidents at Disneyland, the first to be the fault of the company, also brought severe criticism.
Still, many Disney fans continued to lap up whatever the company served, and a bubble-inflated economy fattened Disney's bottom-line. But with Walt's nephew now joining the critics, some institutional investors began to question the company's leadership. Eventually, Eisner left the company, handing leadership to Robert Iger, Eisner's designated successor.
Roy fought the Iger appointment, but later returned to the company. Despite Roy's initial opposition to the Iger appointment, I think Roy deserves credit for helping force the series of events that led to it. Eisner's departure cleared much of the internal acrimony that was sapping the company's progress. And under Iger's leadership, the Walt Disney Company repaired its fractured relationship with Pixar and brought Pixar's John Lasseter into Disney's leadership, which revived Roy's beloved animation division.
Roy also advocated Disney's recent return to nature films, and served as a long-time supporter of Walt's beloved Cal Arts. Without Roy's actions in 2003-5, I believe that the Eisner administration would have held on longer, with more damage to the company's reputation, internal talent development and long-term creative direction, as a result.
On a selfish note, though I never had the pleasure of meeting Roy individually, he was a good friend to Theme Park Insider, including it among the nine websites linked from the original "Save Disney" website. That helped raise TPI's profile among theme park critics at the time, connecting us with several friends are as passionate about promoting high quality and great value in the industry as we are.
Truly sad news.
Terrible. This is very sad. I was hoping to sign on to TPI to read some good news.
Its very sad!
Sad news....Walt died December 15, 1966. What a strange coincidence they passed on almost the same dates.
Although I had my differences with his approach and actions, there is no denying his intentions were to maintain his interpretation of the product standards his family's bloodline. Rightly or wrongly was sincere in his beliefs. The importance of his impact on the company's image was confirmed when Michael Eisner's successor, Robert Iger, recruited him back into the fold.
RIP Roy and the Disney name. You carried on your brother's dreams. We'll miss you.
Never knew he was a fan of TPI! Thats kinda cool!
"He put his heart and soul into preserving Disney's legendary past, while helping to move the art of animation into the modern age by embracing new technology," John Lasseter
Tragic news for Disney fans everywhere. I have nothing further to add except my sincere condolences.
Very sad news. His influence will be missed in so many ways. I hope someone can step up to the plate and continue to demand the "Disney" perfection.
Roy is one of the last to carry the spirit of Walt inside him, and to stand up to rapacious individuals who wanted to loot the company and destroy Walt's magnificent legacy. A toast to Roy Disney, a man who was more than worthy of carrying Walt's last name!
Boy oh Roy!
I was lucky enough to meet Roy not once, but twice during my time as a Disney cast member. The first time was not long after I had started working with the company. I was working at Muppet Vision 3*D. It was a hectic day. Princess Diana was in the park, and CMs were rushing around frantically to accommodate the crowds brought in by a hope to catch sight of the elusive royalty. CMS were not as thrilled at the potential of having Diana visit their attractions as they were by the other special VIP touring the park that day - OUR royalty - Roy Disney. Sure enough, while I was working in the pre-show area of the attraction, rumor had it that Roy had arrived to see our show. It was typical for really VIP guests or recognizable celebrities to be brought in through the back door and then to enter the theater through Sweetum's entrance. Usually they then were escorted to seats in the front row. I decided to see if I could catch a glimpse of him. It wasn't unusual for Muppet staff to enter the theater through the preshow doors once they'd closed to bump through the attraction or to pass info onto the theater CM, so that was my cover story. Expecting Roy to already be in his seat in the front row, I entered the middle doors...and ran right into the middle of his party! Oops! He must have decided to sit further back, and he and his group were waiting for more guests to take seats before he settled into a row. I excused myself as I parted his group in half and basically continued plowing on through as if I had places to go and things to do. I said hello. He said hello back. I continued to the other side of the theater and continued my cover story by whispering something to the theater CM (probably "Holy Cow! I just said hello to Roy Disney and he said hello back! I hope they don't fire me!") before continuing through the exit doors and back into the building to get back to my rightful position in the pre-show!
I'm truly saddened to learn of Roy's passing.
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