Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dead at Age 78

Dave Smith, the founder of Walt Disney Archives, died earlier today at the age of 78.

The Walt Disney Company honored Dave with this –

Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith passed away in Burbank, California, on February 15, 2019. He was 78. Dave dedicated his four-decade career at The Walt Disney Company to preserving Disney’s precious treasures from film, television, theme parks, and beyond. Named a Disney Legend in 2007, Dave was beloved by fans around the world for his wide knowledge of the Company’s rich history, which he shared in books and through his popular magazine column “Ask Dave.”

“I’m deeply saddened to learn of Dave Smith’s passing,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “He was the unsung hero of Disney’s history who, as our first archivist, spent 40 years rescuing countless documents and artifacts from obscurity, investing endless hours restoring and preserving these priceless pieces of our legacy, and putting them in context to tell our story. Dave was a true Disney Legend, and we are indebted to him for building such an enduring, tangible connection to our past that continues to inspire our future.”

Dave was hired in 1970 by Walt’s brother—and The Walt Disney Company co-founder—Roy O. Disney, and his first responsibility was cataloguing every item inside Walt’s office suite, which had been left untouched after Walt’s passing four years prior. Thanks to Dave’s meticulously detailed notes and records, the Archives was able to restore the suite in 2015, and today Disney employees are able to visit and draw inspiration from this remarkable space. During his time as Disney’s Chief Archivist, Dave grew the Archives from a simple one-person department to a model among corpo­rate archives. He was regarded by fans and historians as the final authority on matters of Disney history, and was an active member of the Society of California Archivists. He served from 1980 to 2001 as Executive Director of the Manuscript Society, an international association of collectors, dealers, librarians, archivists, and others interested in manuscript material.

Born and raised in Pasadena, California, the child of librarians and educators, Dave earned a B.A. in history and a Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University of California at Berkeley. Before coming to Disney, he gained library and archives experience working in the Manuscript Department of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, interning at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and serving on the staff of the Research Library at U.C.L.A. 

Dave wrote extensively about Disney history, with regular columns in Disney fan publications and websites, as well as authoring, co-authoring, and editing numerous articles and books on Disney history, including the official Disney encyclopedia Disney A to Z, Disney: The First 100 Years, The Quotable Walt Disney, Disney Trivia from the Vault, and The Ultimate Disney Trivia Books 1, 2, 3, and 4.

In October 2007, Dave was honored with the prestigious Disney Legend Award. A resident of Burbank, California, Dave retired in 2010 after his 40th anniversary with The Walt Disney Company and continued working for the next nine years as a consultant for the Company, with the title of Chief Archivist Emeritus.

Our condolences and thoughts go out to his family and friends at this time.

Dave Smith was a true Disney Legend. I’ve met him once and he was the real deal. I loved his books and his ‘Ask Dave’ contributions in The D23 Magazine twenty-three. Dave will be missed.

Disney Legend Francis Xavier “X” Atencio Passes Away at Age 98

Disney Legend Xavier “X” Atencio, a former Imagineer and Disney animator, passed away on September 10 at the age of 98. X was responsible for helping bring to life a number of beloved Disney parks attractions including Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, as well as such animated classics as Pinocchio and Fantasia.

Born on September 4, 1919, in Walsenburg, Colorado, X—whose friends shortened his name from Francis Xavier to simply “X”—moved to Los Angeles in 1937 to attend the Chouinard Art Institute. X thought a job at Disney was out of his reach, but the then-18-year-old artist’s instructors prodded him to submit his portfolio. In 1938, when he got the good news from Disney, X ran from the original Hyperion Avenue studio to his aunt’s house shouting, “I got a job at Disney! I got a job at Disney!”

X first saw his work on screen at the 1940 premiere of Pinocchio, and as he watched, he was incredibly moved by seeing the audience’s reaction. That year, he was promoted to assistant animator for Fantasia but left temporarily to join the Army Air Corps in the war effort.

Upon his return in 1945, he picked up where he left off, returning to the studio and working for the next eight years on animated short subjects. His first on-screen credit was for Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom in 1953, an Oscar®-winning film that took audiences through the history of music. Other films X contributed to during this time included Noahs Ark (1959) and A Symposium on Popular Songs (1962), both Academy Award® nominees, as well as Jack and Old Mac (1956). He worked on the “I’m No Fool” series for the original MickeyMouse Club, and in the 1960s, X provided memorable stop-motion sequences for Disney feature films TheParent Trap (1961), Babes in Toyland (1961), and Mary Poppins (1964).

At the request of Walt Disney, X transferred to WED Enterprises (later Walt Disney Imagineering) in 1965 to work on the Primeval World diorama for Disneyland. At first, X was unsure of the move to WED: “I went over there reluctantly because I didn’t know what I was getting into, and nobody there knew what I was supposed to do either,” he recalled. “About a month later I got a phone call from Walt. He told me ‘I want you to do the script for the Pirates of the Caribbean.’” From that point on, X cemented his legacy at WED, playing a key role in the development of music and dialogue for the attraction, including co-writing the iconic song, “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).” For the Haunted Mansion, he wrote the attraction’s dialogue and co-wrote the song “Grim Grinning Ghosts.” For Walt Disney World, he contributed to If You Had Wings and Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom, as well as Spaceship Earth, World of Motion, and the Mexico pavilion at Epcot. Throughout his career, X always said that his reward, as it was in the days of Pinocchio, “is still the audience’s reactions.”

“X was an enormous talent who helped define so many of our best experiences around the world,” said Bob Weis, president of Walt Disney Imagineering. “Some may not know that when he wrote the lyrics for ‘Yo Ho’ he had never actually written a song before. He simply proposed the idea of a tune for Pirates of the Caribbean, and Walt told him to go and do it. That was how X worked—with an enthusiastic, collaborative attitude, along with a great sense of humor. His brilliant work continues to inspire Imagineers and bring joy to millions of guests every year.”

X retired from Disney in 1984, but continued working as a consultant to Walt Disney Imagineering for many years, and was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1996. He is survived by his wife, Maureen; his children Tori McCullough, Judianne, and Joe; his stepchildren Brian Sheedy, Kevin Sheedy, and Eileen Haubeil; sons-in-law Mike McCullough and Chris Haubeil; daughters-in-law Kathy Atencio, Trish Sheedy, and Beth Sheedy; and eight grandchildren.

From D23

Legendary Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar Dies at Age 83

Legendary Disney Imagineer Martin A. “Marty” Sklar passed away in his Hollywood Hills home on Thursday. He was 83. During an illustrious career spanning 54 years, Marty worked closely with Walt Disney and was instrumental in creating, enhancing and expanding Disney’s creative vision. Named a Disney Legend in 2001, he is best remembered and revered by fans around the world for his work bringing Disney’s theme parks to life.

“Everything about Marty was legendary – his achievements, his spirit, his career,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “He embodied the very best of Disney, from his bold originality to his joyful optimism and relentless drive for excellence. He was also a powerful connection to Walt himself. No one was more passionate about Disney than Marty and we’ll miss his enthusiasm, his grace, and his indomitable spirit.”

Born in New Brunswick, N.J., on February 6, 1934, Marty was a student at UCLA and editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper when he was recruited to create The Disneyland News for Walt’s new theme park in 1955. After graduating in 1956, he joined Disney full-time, and would go on to serve as Walt’s right-hand man—scripting speeches, marketing materials, and a film showcasing Walt’s vision for Walt Disney World and Epcot. During this period, he also joined WED Enterprises, the forerunner of Walt Disney Imagineering, and he would later become the creative leader of Imagineering, leading the development of Disney theme parks and attractions for the next three decades. He retired as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador on July 17, 2009, Disneyland’s 54th birthday. Disney marked the occasion by paying tribute to Marty with the highest Parks and Resorts recognition, dedicating a window in his name on Disneyland’s City Hall.

“Marty was the ultimate Disney Imagineer and Cast Member. From his days working as an intern with Walt to just two weeks ago engaging with fans at D23 Expo, Marty left an indelible mark on Disney Parks around the globe and on all of the guests who make memories every day with us,” said Bob Chapek, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “He was one of the few people that was fortunate to attend the opening of every single Disney park in the world, from Anaheim in 1955 to Shanghai just last year. We will dearly miss Marty’s passion, skill and imaginative spark that inspired generations of Cast, Crew and Imagineers.”

Bob Weis was one of those Imagineers. “Marty was one of Walt’s most trusted advisors and helped turn his most ambitious dreams into reality. For us, it’s hard to imagine a world without Marty, because Marty is synonymous with Imagineering,” said Weis, President, Walt Disney Imagineering. “His influence can be seen around the world, in every Disney park, and in the creative and imaginative work of almost every professional in the themed entertainment industry.”

Marty’s impact and achievements were recognized with a number of prestigious awards and accolades, including the Lifetime Achievement award from TEA (Themed Entertainment Association), induction into the Hall of Fame of IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions), and the prestigious Professional Achievement Award from UCLA.

He also authored several books about his experiences and adventures at Disney: Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms (2013), and One Little Spark!: Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to Imagineering (2015).

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.

Marty and Leah were two of the founders of the Ryman Program for Young Artists, a project of Ryman Arts, a nonprofit foundation whose purpose is to teach and mentor “traditional” drawing and painting skills to talented young artists in Southern California. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Marty’s name to Ryman Arts at www.rymanarts.org.

Jack Kirby to Be Named “Disney Legend” at D23 Expo

A month ahead of what would have been his 100th birthday, Disney and Marvel Entertainment will celebrate the career of Jack Kirby, with the announcement that he will be named a Disney Legend during July’s D23 Expo 2017 in Anaheim, California.

The recognition is an odd one; Kirby will be one of two initial Marvel honorees for the Disney award — Stan Lee being the other; both men will receive the award during the July 14 event, led by Disney CEO Bob Iger, with other honorees recognized being Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Oprah Winfrey, Julie Taylor and Garry Marshall, as well as Disney artists Manuel Gonzales and Clyde “Gerry” Geronimi — but, although he is doubtlessly a comic book legend, being responsible for the creation of much of the Marvel line, and a fair number of characters and concepts for other publishers, including DC, he’s not exactly a Disney legend.

In fact, beyond the fact that Kirby’s work for Marvel now belongs to Disney following the latter’s purchase of the comic company in 2009, Kirby’s connection to Disney amounts to little more than a comic strip adaptation of the studio’s 1979 sci-fi movie The Black Hole created for newspapers at the time of the movie’s release, facilitated by his regular collaborator Mike Royer, who at the time worked directly for Disney. His Marvel work — indeed, his entire comic book career ahead of his death in 1994 — predated any Disney connection by a number of decades.

The Disney recognition comes at a strange time for Kirby’s creative legacy within Marvel’s comic book line, as well; currently, many of the characters he created or co-created have been replaced with altered or updated versions, with some of the most iconic — the original Hulk, Iron Man and X-Men‘s Professor Xavier and Cyclops — left for dead as the result of recent storylines. His signature series at the company, Fantastic Four— the series that launched the Marvel universe as it exists today — hasn’t been published since 2015, and the character many fans most closely associate with him, Captain America, has been transformed into a fascist for the purposes of Marvel’s tentpole 2017 storyline.

It’s possible that Kirby, himself a restless innovator who preferred to come up with new ideas rather than rehash old glories, would approve of these changes. If nothing else, it should be noted that the relationship between the Kirby estate and Marvel is healthier now than it has been in some years, following the 2014 settlement of a long-running lawsuit over ownership of many Marvel characters Kirby had created or co-created for the company.

With Kirby’s 100th birthday approaching on Aug. 28, the Disney Legend award could be seen as a well-deserved tribute to the man who was instrumental in building the company that now rules the box office with movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Doctor Strange. (Neither based on Kirby characters, notably; this November’s Thor: Ragnarok sees a return to his contribution, however.) For others, though, the question of how deserved it is underscores the complicated relationship Marvel, and by extension, corporate parent Disney, have shared with Kirby.

From The Hollywood Reporter

Disney Legend Dean Jones Dead at Age 84

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Dean Jones, the classic Disney star who goofed his way through such family-friendly movies as The Love Bug and That Darned Cat!, has died. He was 84.

He died Tuesday of Parkinson’s disease in Los Angeles, publicist Richard Hoffman said in a press release.

Inducted into the Disney Legends Hall of Fame in 1995, Jones appeared in 46 films, five Broadway shows and numerous TV series and specials over his career. His film grosses exceeded $960 million and six of his ten films for Walt Disney are on Variety‘s all-time hit list, Hoffman said.

His films for Disney especially were childhood milestones for millions of baby-boomers entranced by their first movies. Besides The Love Bug and That Darned Cat!, his films included The Million Dollar Duck, Snowball Express, Under The Yum-Yum TreeBlackbeard’s Ghost, and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, plus another family classic, Beethoven, for Universal.

On TV, the actor with the permanently boyish face starred in Ensign O’Toole and Herbie,The Love Bug among scores of others.

Born Dean Carroll Jones on Jan. 25, 1931, in Decatur, Ala., Jones served in the Navy during the Korean War and attended Asbury University in Kentucky. He started his career as the host of a local Alabama radio show, Dean Jones Sings, and as a producer of stage shows.

He made his Broadway debut in There Was A Little Girl with Jane Fonda in 1960. Later, under contract at MGM, Jones made his film debut in Somebody Up There Likes Me and Jailhouse Rockwith Elvis Presley.

A committed Christian,Jones later founded the Christian Rescue Committee (now Christian Rescue Fund), which helped rescue Jews, Christians and others persecuted for their faith. Jones’ other charitable activities included international child-care and world hunger.

Jones is survived by his wife of 42 years, writer Lory Basham Jones; three children, Caroline Jones, Deanna Demaree and Michael Pastick; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be scheduled for a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Christian Rescue Fund c/o Jubilee Campaign USA, in Fairfax, VA., Hoffman said.

Bob Iger Issues Statement on Passing of Disney Legend Frank Gifford

Frank Gifford ABC

Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, has issued the following statement on his passing:

“Frank Gifford was an exceptional man who will be missed by everyone who had the joy of seeing his talent on the field, the pleasure of watching his broadcasts, or the honor of knowing him. His many achievements were defined by a quiet dignity and a personal grace that is seldom seen in any arena; he truly embodied the very best of us. Frank’s contributions to ABCSports and our company are immeasurable. We are honored to call him a Disney Legend and I am very fortunate to have called him a dear friend and colleague. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”

Gifford was with the New York Giants 1952-60, 1962- 64, missing one year because of an injury. He won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1956 and left the Giants with all-time records for touchdowns, 78, and yards gained in pass receiving. He became a part-time broadcaster for CBS in 1957, went full-time in 1965, and moved to ABC in 1971. He was on ABC’s MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL and Wide World of Sports. Gifford received the Emmy Award for sports commentary in 1971 and the Christopher Award in 1974. He was elected to the COLLEGE FOOTBALL Hall of Fame in 1975, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. The NFL Alumni group gave him its Achievement Award in 1985. Gifford served as chairman of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New York. The society in 1984 established a $100,000 grant for research in his name. Gifford wrote four books, of which the best known are “Gifford on Courage” and “The Whole Ten Yards.”

Disney Legend Blaine Gibson Dies at 97

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Disney Imagineer Blaine Gibson, who sculpted everything from pirates to presidents, has died, according to the Walt Disney Family Museum, he was 97.

Gibson started his career with Disney as an in-betweener and assistant animator working on such classics as “Fantasia,” “Bambi” and “Peter Pan.” While working at the Disney Studios, he took evening classes in sculpture at Pasadena City College.

The story goes that one day Walt Disney saw some of his sculptures and assigned him to the Disneyland project. Eventually he became the head of then WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) Sculpture Department, where he sculpted figures like Abraham Lincoln for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and dozens of pirates for Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.

Other Disneyland attractions he worked on included the Haunted Mansion and the Enchanted Tiki Room.

“Blaine Gibson was one of the most important storytellers among all the great talents on Walt Disney’s team of Imagineers,” said Marty Sklar, former vice-chairman of Walt Disney Imagineering. “He showed all of us how to make our Disney park show characters so realistic you never had to guess the role of any three-dimensional figure in our attractions.”

After his retirement in 1983, he continued to consult and sculpt for Disney, including continuing his tradition of sculpting U.S. presidents – of which he sculpted every one for Walt Disney World’s Hall of Presidents up to and including George W. Bush in 2001.

Gibson was also commissioned to sculpt the “Partners” statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in the Central Hub of Disneyland.

Other famous personages he sculpted included Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain and Will Rogers for the American Adventure Pavilion at EPCOT.

From the Orange County Register