Legendary Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar Has Passed Away

Legendary Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar Has Passed Away
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Legendary Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar passed away suddenly on Thursday, just two weeks removed from his last public appearance at the D23 Expo 2017.

From Thomas Smith on the Disney Parks Blog:

Legendary Disney Imagineer Martin A. “Marty” Sklar passed away in his Hollywood Hills home on Thursday. He was 83. During an illustrious career spanning 54 years, Marty worked closely with Walt Disney and was instrumental in creating, enhancing and expanding Disney’s creative vision. Named a Disney Legend in 2001, he is best remembered and revered by fans around the world for his work bringing Disney’s theme parks to life.

“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.”

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.

“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.”

Bob Weis was one of those 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 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.

We were lucky enough to capture Marty’s final public appearance at the Expo on video, and you can enjoy hearing about his career at Walt Disney Imagineering during that presentation below.

Personally, words can not describe what Marty’s work has meant to myself and everyone here at WDWNT, especially since so many of us were shaped and molded by our experiences at EPCOT Center, a project Sklar played a pivotal role in. We can never possibly repay Marty for all of the memories and joy he brought us on countless visits to the Disney theme parks over the last 60 plus years. He will be missed greater than words can describe.

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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]

12 Comments

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  • Wow, I loved what Marty contributed to the Disney company as a whole. I enjoyed watching Marty on various videos and it is very sad to hear this news. Condolences to everyone who he touched.

  • I will always remember EPCOT Center as Marty’s EPCOT. He could not make Walt’s dream a reality for EPCOT but he made his and it was the most creative and innovative park every built and we’ll never see something like that again. I am so glad I’ve had the chance to listen to him talk. His stories are truly priceless to those of us in this community. The next time I’m in EPCOT it will be bitter sweet, both because of the loss of the identity of the park but mostly because the spirit of this park is now gone too. My love of Disney parks is due to EPCOT, I wouldn’t be the life long fan I am today if it wasn’t for Marty making that park what it was.

    I blame Bob Chapek. All kidding aside, EPCOT could have kept Marty’s Vision alive but they chose to go a different route and that’s a shame. It’d be like changing Disneyland’s vision and losing it’s heart and soul because, well, money. I guess that has kinda already started. We grew up on story telling and innovation and it is why the Disney Parks brand is strong for the life long fans it made. I don’t know how future generations will continue to grow and love the parks as adults with out the heart and soul they once had. It was imagineers like Marty that made it happen, he will be truly missed.

    • That second paragraph was completely dumb, untrue and unnecessary!

      Stop bashing Bob Chapek, people! ????

  • Sad to think that in Marty’s last public appearance for the company, an audience actually booed him because of a petty reaction to the PotC changes. It’s like booing Santa Claus.

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