Marty Sklar, arguably one of the most influential people to work at the Disney Company aside from Walt Disney himself, died this weekend. He was 83.
Marty Sklar in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland on July 11, 2005 (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Sklar started at Disney just a month before Disneyland opened in 1955 and would work his way up to becoming one of the most tireless and dedicated storytellers at the company. Sometimes described as Walt's "right hand man," Sklar started by writing speeches for Disney and eventually became President of Imagineering, the creative wing of the multifaceted entertainment company.
Along with Walt, Sklar helped produce the ambitious 1966 film that was shown to investors and government officials to get them interested in EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. The original vision of EPCOT as a living laboratory would be neutered, but the theme park is still a point of inspiration for futurists and retro-futurists alike.
"Walt Disney had one foot in the past, because he loved nostalgia, and one foot in the future, because he loved new technology," Sklar told Esquire in 2015.
The original EPCOT film can be viewed on YouTube.
Sklar helped oversee the development of virtually every modern Disney park from the construction of Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris to expansion parks in the United States like Disney-MGM Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida, as well as Disney's California Adventure park in Anaheim.
"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," Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said in a statement.
"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," Chapek said. "We will dearly miss Marty's passion, skill and imaginative spark that inspired generations of Cast, Crew and Imagineers."
From the Disney Parks blog:
Born in New Brunswick, N.J., on February 6, 1934, Marty was a student at UCLA and editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper when he was recruited to create The Disneyland News for Walt's new theme park in 1955. After graduating in 1956, he joined Disney full-time and would go on to serve as Walt's right-hand man — scripting speeches, marketing materials and a film showcasing Walt's vision for Walt Disney World and Epcot.
During this period, he also joined WED Enterprises, the forerunner of Walt Disney Imagineering, and he would later become the creative leader of Imagineering, leading the development of Disney theme parks and attractions for the next three decades.
He retired as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador on July 17, 2009, Disneyland's 54th birthday. Disney marked the occasion by paying tribute to Marty with the highest Parks and Resorts recognition, dedicating a window in his name on Disneyland's City Hall.
RIP Marty Sklar. Thanks for your optimistic visions of tomorrow, something that seems harder and harder to conjure in the upside down world of 2017.