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.

Guest Speakers for 2016 Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet Announced

The 2016 PNW Mouse Meet Guest Speakers have been Announced! The speakers include:

Bob Gurr

Bob Gurr

Disney Legend and former Imagineer Bob Gurr has always been a man on the move. And for nearly 40 years, he’s helped move many a happy Disney theme park guests aboard vehicles and ride conveyances of his own design. As he has often quipped, “If it moves on wheels at Disneyland, I probably designed it.” And he certainly has, developing more than 100 designs for attractions ranging from Autopia to the Matterhorn Bobsleds to the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Monorails, and more.

Born in Los Angeles, young Bob was fascinated with tools, mechanical devices and cars. He often crawled through a hole in the fence of nearby Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale to sneak into the cockpits of transport airplanes, while at school he decorated his test papers with sketches of automobiles.

Later, he attended Art Center College of Design, then in Los Angeles, on a General Motors scholarship, where he studied industrial design. Upon graduation in 1952, he was hired by the Ford Motor Company, but soon purchased a rubber stamp marked “R.H. Gurr Industrial Design” and went into business for himself.

Soon after, WED (Walter Elias Disney) Enterprises, today known as Walt Disney Imagineering, hired Bob to consult on design of the mini cars for Autopia. Walt Disney was so impressed with Bob’s knowledge and skill that he invited him to join his Imagineering family, which then was solely dedicated to the design and construction of Disneyland.

Over the next nearly four decades, Bob worked transportation magic developing the Disneyland Monorail Trains, the memorable Flying Saucers attraction in Tomorrowland, as well as the antique cars and double-decker buses of Main Street, Ford Motor Company’s Magic Skyway, which premiered at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, and more. Bob also designed the mechanical workings of Disney’s first Audio-Animatronics figure – Abraham Lincoln featured in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

In 1981, Bob retired early from Imagineering in order to launch GurrDesign, Inc., and three years later, joined creative forces with two former Imagineers to form Sequoia Creative, Inc. The firm, which specialized in “leisure-time spectaculars” and “fantastical beasts,” developed King Kong and Conan’s serpent featured at Universal Studios, Hollywood. 

Among his other mechanical feats, Bob was instrumental in creating the mysterious UFO that soared over the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. He also consulted on the T-Rex animated figure featured in Steven Spielberg’s motion picture Jurassic Park.

In 1999, he was honored with the Themed Entertainment Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award (THEA). And The Walt Disney Company honored him in 2004 as a Disney Legend, again honored in 2008 with a Disneyland Window on Main Street. Bob Gurr practices a favorite life philosophy as quoted in the words of Malcolm Forbes: “While alive, live!”

Marty Sklar

Marty Sklar

Marty Sklar began his Disney career at Disneyland in June, 1955 — one month before Disneyland opened.  He was hired to create The Disneyland News, a tabloid newspaper sold on Main Street for 10 cents during Disneyland’s first summer.  Two weeks after he started — at age 21 — Marty had to present the newspaper concept to Walt Disney.  Fortunately, Walt liked it — and Marty says that’s why his career at Disney lasted 54 years.

• After completing his last year at UCLA, where he served as Editor of The Daily Bruin, Marty returned to Disneyland’s publicity and public relations group in 1956, and worked for the Walt Disney Company continuously until his retirement on Disneyland’s 54th birthday, July 17, 2009.  On that day, Disney paid tribute to Marty with the ultimate Parks & Resorts honor: dedicating a window in his name on Disneyland’s City Hall. 

• He moved to WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) in 1961 to work on shows for the New York World’s Fair 1964-65.  For 10 years, until Walt Disney’s death in December, 1966, Marty wrote personal material for Walt, including his messages in the Annual Report and a 25-minute film that expressed Walt’s vision for Walt Disney World and Epcot.

• Starting in 1974, for 30 years, Marty was the creative leader of Imagineering as Vice President, President and Vice Chairman & Principal Creative Executive before retiring as Exec. Vice President, Imagineering Ambassador.

• He is the only Disney cast member to participate in the opening of all 11 Disney Parks around the world, and was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2001.  He has also received the Lifetime Achievement award from TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) and has been inducted into the Hall of Fame of IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions).  In 2007, Marty received the prestigious Professional Achievement Award from UCLA.  Starting in 2008, he served a two year term on the Board of Directors of the UCLA Alumni Association.

• Marty’s community service includes two terms as an elected member of the Anaheim City School District Board of Education.  Twenty-six years ago, the Sklars were among six founders of Ryman Arts, a non-profit foundation providing teaching and mentoring for talented young high school artists. The    free weekend program has served over 6,000 students in Southern California.

Following his retirement from Disney, Marty formed Marty Sklar Creative ”to answer all the requests I receive for concept development, speaking engagements, writing and advice about leadership”. Disney Editions has published two of Marty’s books: “Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms” in 2013; and “One Little Spark! – The Road to Imagineering” in 2015.

Stacia Martin

Stacia Martin

When asked to describe her job, Stacia Martin is likely to smile and reply, “How much time do you have?”

Stacia, who in 2016 celebrates her 38th year with The Walt Disney Company, is based out of Disneyland in California, but spends much of her time on special projects for diverse Disney groups including Walt Disney World, Walt Disney Imagineering, Disney Consumer Products, Walt Disney Records, Disney Destinations, Disney Cruise Line, The Walt Disney Archives, the Disney Legends program, D23, Disney Interactive, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Disney Entertainment Productions and the ABC Cable Networks Group.

An early predilection for art led Stacia to focus her professional goals at age seven during a third grade “career day.” Self-trained “with refinements” (Illustration Studies at California State University), Stacia began her Disney job a week and a day after her high school graduation.

At first, it was not strictly art or the tricky “quick sketch” skills that occupied her time; as an avid Disney fan and collector, Stacia first found her niche in the original Disneyana Shop on Main Street in Disneyland. There, and later when opening The Disney Gallery in New Orleans Square, she enjoyed spending time with Park Guests whose specialized questions were well met by her knowledge of Disney lore. Today Stacia continues to share this history as a writer, creating and presenting illustrated lectures, and with appearances in Disney video documentaries.

Alongside art assignments, Stacia has enjoyed an array of duties: being an “Audio Art Director” for Walt Disney Imagineering’s New Fantasyland attractions at Disneyland, an “Audio Archeologist” for the innovative Disneyland Forever digital system, and spearheading the restoration of one of her favorite films, Walt Disney’s 1967 musical The Happiest Millionaire.

Since 1985, Stacia has traveled extensively for Disney. In 2001 she opened the preview center for Hong Kong Disneyland, and exotic locales such as Australia, Indonesia, Scotland and Singapore have shared her calendar with trips throughout the USA.

Recent assignments have continued in their variety: illustrating books, designing collectibles, creating specialty art, and enjoying a multimedia presence across radio, television and podcasts. Favorite writing projects include The Sounds of Disneyland, the elegant book accompanying Walt Disney Records’ 50th Anniversary CD box set A Musical History of Disneyland, and Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair, included in a 5 CD celebration one of the most innovative periods in Disney history. Stacia was also tapped to write the historic liner notes for The Walt Disney Legacy Collection’s 2015 CD release honoring the 60th anniversary of Disneyland.

Stacia says that some of her favorite moments are the simplest ones… particularly the time spent drawing for children. “To watch a child’s face light up when three circles suddenly become Mickey Mouse before their eyes, and then to show them that this is something they can learn to do, too–their reactions, to me, are the true definition of Disney’s magic.”

She is particularly proud to have been named to the inaugural “classes” of both Walt Disney Legacy and Disney “Archives Angels” award recipients. “Being able to carry on the legacy of Walt Disney and his original staff…to create images for people that will mean as much to them as their predecessors have to me…it’s not a job, it’s a privilege.”

Marty Sklar Book Signing at Disney Springs Next Week

One Little Spark

Disney Legend and Walt Disney Imagineering Ambassador Marty Sklar is scheduled to appear at Disney Springs next week for a book signing.

Guests will be able to meet Marty at the Art of Disney store in the Marketplace on November 18th between 10 AM and 11:30 AM for a signing of his new book, “One Little Spark!”

Featuring an introduction by Richard M. Sherman and Glen Keane, the book details Mickey’s Ten Commandments – as developed by Marty throughout his time at WDI.

Walt Disney Family Museum – Walt Disney: A Giant at the World’s Fair

1964 NY World's Fair

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr join Disney park pioneer Frank Stanek for a talk about Walt’s creation of four groundbreaking attractions for the exposition. Kathryn Ayres, curator for the exhibit on the 75th anniversary of the 1939–40 Golden Gate International Exposition provides special commentary, and  Disney Legends Alice Davis, Rolly Crump, and Richard Sherman make video appearances.

Presentation: Lucasfilm/ILM Premier Theater at 11am
Signing: Museum Lower Lobby at 2pm

Tickets:
$25 members | $30 general | $18 youth (17 and under)

Celebrate Theme Park Favorites of Yesteryear at D23 Destination D: Attraction Rewind

destination-d-attraction-rewind-announcement-iris

Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward—opening up new doors and doing new things—because we’re curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” It’s in that spirit that guests this fall will have the opportunity to visit—or revisit—some of the most beloved Disney attractions of yesteryear. D23 Destination D: Attraction Rewind presented by H2O Plus will take place November 22 and 23 at Walt Disney World Resort.

View Ticketing Options for D23 Destination D: Attraction Rewind presented by H2O Plus 

D23: The Official Disney Fan Club will bring Disney archivists, Imagineers, Legends, and luminaries together to celebrate fan favorites such as Adventure Thru Inner Space, If You Had Wings, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with rarely seen concept art and images; vintage video clips; and hours of revealing stories. In addition, there will be a full day of presentations dedicated to the 1964–65 New York World’s Fair, which debuted beloved attractions like it’s a small world and Carousel of Progress.

There will be a full day of presentations dedicated to the Fair, including:

Disney Goes to the World’s Fair: A look at how Disney became a part of the landmark event
Lost on the Way to the Fair: Pavilion concepts for the World’s Fair that never came to be
Other Highlights of D23 Destination D: Attraction Rewind presented by H2O Plus will include:

Retro Rewind References: Nods to favorites of the past in current Disney Parks attractions
That Was Entertainment: Revisiting beloved theme park parades, shows, and spectacles

See Disney Legends and Luminaries

Presenters and panelists include Disney Legends Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, and Alice Davis; Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline; Disney and World’s Fair historians Bill Cotter, Stacia Martin, and Michael Kelley—and more to be announced.

Bob Gurr      Alice Davis

View an Destination D-Exclusive Walt Disney Archives Display

During the weekend, guests will be able to explore a special exhibit designed by the Walt Disney Archives in honor of the event.

Party the Night Away With Pleasure Island: Rewind

The weekend will end with an exciting evening event—Pleasure Island: Rewind. This celebration of the Downtown Disney nightlife district will include areas dedicated to the Adventurers Club, Comedy Warehouse, Mannequins, and 8 Trax. And of course there will be a “New Year’s Eve” celebration to cap the night.

Shop at WDI’s Mickey’s of Glendale Pop-Up Shop

Plus, for the first time, Mickey’s of Glendale, the famed Walt Disney Imagineering store, will set up a pop-up shop at the event for attendees, featuring a selection of exclusive Imagineering merchandise as well as limited-edition pins, T-shirts, and collectibles themed to the event. The shop will also carry a special line from H2O Plus, whose products are featured at Disney Resort Hotels.

The weekend event will take place in the convention center at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Tickets, available Wednesday, April 16, are $190 each and available exclusively to D23 Gold and Silver Members for a limited time. Any remaining tickets will be made available to D23 Free Members on May 28 for $250 per ticket. All guests will receive a special gift in honor of Disney’s contributions to the 50th anniversary of the 1964–65 World’s Fair in New York City. A limited number of “Top of the World” tickets will be available featuring reserved seating, early shopping on November 21, an exclusive dinner reception, special collectibles, gifts from H2O Plus and Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, and more. Additional schedule announcements will be made in the coming months.