Disney design legend Marty Sklar dies aged 83

Marty Sklar – the legendary Disney Imagineer and IAAPA Hall of Famer who played a part in the creation of almost every Disney theme park – has died aged 83.

A 54-year career in which he started out in 1955 as a writer of The Disneyland News for the then newly-opened Disneyland, Sklar went on to work closely with Walt Disney and was referred to as the “keeper of the keys” by his peers – someone who understood the Disney way because he “learned it at Walt’s knee”.

Joining Disney full time in 1956, Sklar would act as Walt Disney’s right hand man, scripting speeches, marketing materials, and creating a film showcasing the vision for both Walt Disney World and Epcot. In this time he also joined WED Enterprises – the precursor to Walt Disney Imagineering which he would go on to lead for the next three decades.

Working closely with Disney helped instil in him a sense of the “Disney DNA”, which he circulated to his Imagineers through the doctrine of “Mickey’s Ten Commandments.”

“It was vital to instil self-belief and imagination in the team,” said Sklar, speaking to CLAD sister title Attractions Management in 2015.

“I always said there are two ways to look at a blank piece of paper – it’s either the most frightening thing in the world or the greatest opportunity. You need to get people to see it as a chance to let their imaginations run wild and create a new thing.

“You have to figure out where you’re going and motivate people to help you get there. As a creative leader, I was focused on getting people to follow the foundation that we had set up and getting them to buy into and understand it. If you have a team of talented creative people, once they understand where you’re going, they really respond. That’s when the magic happens.”

In July 2009 on the 54th on the anniversary of Disneyland, Sklar retired from Disney as executive vice president and Imagineering ambassador, an occasion which was marked by the dedication of a window in his name on Disneyland’s City Hall – the highest honour in Disney’s parks and resorts division.

“Everything about Marty was legendary – his achievements, his spirit, his career,” said Disney chair Bob Iger. “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.”

Recognised with the industry’s top awards and accolades, Sklar is a member of the IAAPA Hall of Fame and was named a Disney Legend in 2001. He has also been awarded the Themed Entertainment Association’s (TEA) Lifetime Achievement Award and earned the prestigious Professional Achievement Award from UCLA.

Sklar remained active after his retirement, regularly attending events such as the IAAPA expo, and making a public appearance as recently as the D23 Disney fan expo earlier this month.

During his extensive career, Sklar very impressively played a part in the opening of every Disney park up until Shanghai – the first project he would watch from the sidelines.

Marty and his wife of 60 years 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.

Marty Sklar  Disney  theme parks  visitor attractions  Disney Imagineering  Disneyland  Walt Disney 
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FEATURE: Interview – Marty Sklar

Marty Sklar – the legendary Disney Imagineer and IAAPA Hall of Famer who played a part in the creation of almost every Disney theme park – has died aged 83. A 54-year career in which he started out in 1955 as a writer of The Disneyland News for the then newly-opened Disneyland, Sklar went on to work closely with Walt Disney and was referred to as the “keeper of the
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Marty Sklar's legendary Disney career spanned more than five decades / Disney
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