Friday, December 18, 2009

In Memoriam: Roy E. Disney

This week the Disney world lost Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney and the only son of Roy O. Disney. He was a shy man who mostly kept away from the public eye while he kept an iron grasp on the inner workings of the Walt Disney Company. Born into one of the most legendary families in the world, Roy grew up visiting the Disney studios and screening featurettes and cartoons before other people did. The animators would use him as a “test subject” to see if, as a young boy, he found the animations funny. At night, many newspapers that wrote about Disney’s passing mentioned how Walt would always tell him amazing bed time stories, never shying away from the creativity all of the Disneys seemed to have in their blood.

As an adult he oversaw many of the executive aspects of the Walt Disney Company and willingly put his shyness aside when he saw company ideals and beliefs at risk of being compromised. During the mid-to late 80’s, Roy didn’t hesitate to fire the head honchos of the time, namely Ron Miller, who was then replaced by Michael Eisner. Eisner would fall out of Roy’s good graces later on in his career after Roy felt Eisner was thinking only of money and sacrificing the quality of the Disney parks and product. See, despite being involved in the financial aspects of Disney, Roy was all about the creativity. He was much more like his Uncle Walt, who dealt with the creative aspects, than his father Roy, who was all about the business side.

"I really credit Roy Disney completely with the renaissance of Disney animation, beginning with 'Little Mermaid' and all the way through that great amazing series of classic Disney films," said John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.

One could argue that without Roy, Disney animation would have never survived the 80’s. The so-called “Disney Renaissance,” which began with The Little Mermaid and ended with The Lion King, can be credited to Roy’s drive to keep with the ideals of his uncle. We’re sure the Disney theme parks will be honoring Roy, who bore a striking resemblance to his uncle, in some way. There is a statue of Walt at the Magic Kingdom and you can see other tributes to the man that started it all in Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Like his uncle, Roy Disney died due to cancer. He was 79 years old, and died the day after the anniversary of Walt Disney’s death, on December 16th, 2009. Roy E. Disney will be missed, but his contribution to the salvation of the animated feature will never be forgotten.


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