Disney Legend and Imaginner Marty Sklar passed away in his Hollywood Hills home on Thursday. He was 83. His last public appearance was just a few weeks ago at the D23 Expo.
“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.”
According to his Disney Legend biography Marty attended the University of California at Los Angeles where he served as editor of the Daily Bruin campus newspaper. In July 1955, the student editor was recruited to create an 1890-themed tabloid newspaper, The Disneyland News, which sold on Main Street during the Park’s debut year. After completing his education, Marty returned to Disneyland publicity and marketing. There, he established Vacationland magazine.
He joined WDI in 1961 as part of a team assigned by Walt to develop industry-sponsored shows and pavilions for General Electric, Ford, Pepsi-Cola and UNICEF, and the State of Illinois at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Ever since, Marty served as a key representative working with American industry in developing and sponsoring attractions for Disney parks and resorts around the globe.
During his early years at Disney, Marty not only learned Walt’s philosophy firsthand, but metabolized and translated it into materials he wrote for the master showman which were used in publications, television appearances, and special films. Among them was a 20-minute movie devoted to communicating Walt’s vision of EPCOT, his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, originally intended to help resolve the urban challenges found in American cities.
Marty first became an Imagineering officer in 1974 when appointed vice president, concepts and planning, a role in which he guided creative development of Epcot Center at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. In 1979, he was named vice president of creative development, followed by executive vice president in 1982. He served as president and vice chairman from 1987 to 1996.
As vice chairman, Marty provided leadership for the Imagineering creative staff, delivering breakthrough entertainment concepts for Disney parks and resorts including Disneyland Paris, the Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Imagineering is also responsible for all Disney resort hotels and the Disney Cruise Line ships, and has created concepts for restaurants, children’s museums and hospitals, traveling shows, and exhibitions.
In 2001, the Company honored Marty with a special award for 45 years of service and leadership. After the 50th anniversary of Disneyland in 2005, he transitioned into a new role as Imagineering’s international ambassador. He is the only person to have attended the grand openings of all Disney parks.
He retired from Disney on July 17, 2009, after 53 years with the Company.
“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.”
“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 Bob 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.