Disney Legend Dave Smith, Walt Disney Archives Founder, Passes Away at 78

Dave Smith, the founder of the Walt Disney Archives and former head archivist, passed away today at the age of 78. Known as an authority on Disney history, Smith first came to work for the Walt Disney Company in 1970 as he was hired by Roy O. Disney to help preserve and catalog the companies history, leading what would become the Walt Disney Archives. Smith also wrote extensively about Disney, including authoring the popular Disney A to Z encyclopedia, which published its fifth edition in 2016. During Smith’s time at the Walt Disney Archives, the staff grew from just Smith to include 24 people and the archives now offer tours to D23 members and other visitors. In 2007, Smith became a Disney Legend and, in 2010, he retired from the company, although he still appeared at various events.

What they’re saying:

  • Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company: “I’m deeply saddened to learn of Dave Smith’s passing. 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.”
  • Leonard Maltin, film critic and historian: Dave Smith was the ultimate Disney historian who invented his own position at the studio as archivist. He was enthusiastic about his work and generous with his vast knowledge. I always knew I could call on him and he never let me down. What a loss.”

Dave Smith with Laughing Place Co-Founder Doobie Moseley