Disney Legend Marty Sklar had the unique experience of both working alongside Walt Disney and leading Walt Disney Imagineering, guiding the dreamers and doers who make Disney Parks a reality for millions of Guests around the world. When he passed away in 2017, he was working on a third book in his series recounting his philosophies and stories from his magical life. The final volume, Travels with Figment: On the Road in Search of Disney Dreams, arrives just in time for the holidays on November 5th.
Marty’s death was unexpected and the book was incomplete when he passed. The torch was carried on by his daughter Leslie and Disney Editions Editorial Director Wendy Lefkon, who each provide introductions, in addition to Bob Weis, current President of Walt Disney Imagineering. While their names don’t appear on the cover, many other Disney luminaries lend their voice to this story as the general tone of the book is about Marty’s time spent nurturing and growing multiple generations of Imagineers, with short essays from many of them. The book feels like it’s exactly what he wanted it to be, but some of these additions were written posthumously.
The title, “Travels with Figment,” is a fitting one considering that the book is really about Marty’s time traveling to all of the different Disney destinations around the world to spread new magic everywhere. He estimates that he took a total of two-hundred-and-fifty of them throughout his career. The first chapter is about his time traveling with Walt Disney, or at least aboard Walt’s personal Gulfstream One. Another chapter deals with traveling for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and another is a compilation of ten shorter travel memories for WDI, which also recounts the stories behind several of his infamous pins on his hat.
If you love Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris, you’ll be thrilled by stories of Jack Lindquist almost dying in the 43 square miles of marshland on an early visit to the Florida Project, a fun celebrity encounter while stranded on a tarmac in Paris, and the loss of a significant piece of artwork by Robert McCall when Horizons closed at Epcot. Speaking of which, there’s a lot of anecdotes about the building of Epcot, including a chapter highlighting Ray Bradbury’s contributions.
But at its core, Travels with Figment is really about the lessons Marty Sklar learned and how his collaborative approach to leadership paid off. You’ll meet many other current and former Imagineers throughout the pages and one of the themes is that having a career outside of WDI usually pays greater dividends than being a “Lifer.” You can feel Marty’s love for the people of WDI in every page.
Due to the traveling nature of the stories, Travels with Figment: On the Road in Search of Disney Dreams would make a perfect reading companion for your next Disney destination vacation. It’s a quick read and you’ll have no problem finishing it on an average length flight. Completing the book does come with a twinge of sadness over the loss of a brilliant creative leader, but it really instills hope for the future of WDI through all of the anecdotes from the creators he left behind.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.