This year we lost several people who made an impact on the Walt Disney Company in one way or another. Below are a few people that passed away in 2017 and a look at their Disney legacies.
International Film Distribution head Harry Archinal was hired by Disney is 1954 as a clerk in the foreign department of the Buena Vista Distribution Company. He rose through the ranks and eventually became President of Buena Vista international in 1972 which he remained until 1988. He was named a Disney Legend in 2009.
“Harry was an amazing ambassador for Disney’s international distribution arm for many years, and he earned a reputation for being honest and fair in negotiating license agreements around the world,” said Jeff Miller, President, Operations for The Walt Disney Studios. “He was an amazing mentor to me and many other future executives in international distribution, and he was a great representative for the Disney name and the quality associated with it. He had an invaluable rolodex of international contacts. Harry was a great boss and class act, and we will miss him very much.”
X’s first work for Disney was Pinocchio and he went on to leave a mark in animation including stop-motion sequences for The Parent Trap, Babes in Toyland, and Mary Poppins. But his iconic work came after he was transferred to work on the parks. Writing the scripts to Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion as well as the lyrics to the iconic songs cemented his role in Disney history, but he would continue to work on the parks until he retired in 1984. He was named a Disney Legend in 1996.
“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.”
The first lady of animation had a nearly 80 year career that spanned the entire animation gamet. She also spearheaded the creation of the Annie Awards to recognize achievement in animation. Her Disney worked spanned from Cinderella’s Lucifer to Mulan’s Grandmother Fa. Her legacy also includes Witch Hazel, Magica De Spell, and Ma Beagle amongst many others.
Emmy-winning actor Robert Guillaume had several roles in ABC series including Soap, Benson, and Sports Night. He also appeared in First Kid and Spy Hard. That being said, his most iconic Disney role was that of Rafiki in The Lion King.
Famed insult comic Don Rickles has a legendary and long-lasting showbiz history. While he portrayed William in Walt Disney World’s The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management), his best known Disney work is voicing Mr. Potato Head in the first three Toy Story films.
John Lasseter said, “Don Rickles was a comic genius, and here at Pixar we were honored to also call him a friend. The wit, personality, and incredible timing he brought to Mr. Potato Head lit up the character and made him an essential part of the Toy Story ensemble. Even though Mr. Potato Head’s facial features fell off in every Toy Story movie, his heart never left him – that was because of Don. We will miss him tremendously.
Hired to create The Disneyland News in 1955, Marty Sklar would become Walt’s right-hand man writing speeches, marketing materials, and joining what would become Walt Disney Imagineering. He would later become the creative head of the group until he retired as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador on Disneyland’s birthday in 2009, having played a role in every Disney theme park built to this day. He was named a Disney Legend in 2001.
“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.”