Roy E. Disney: 1930 – 2009

Roy Disney died Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 79. It was one day–and 43 years–after his famous uncle, Walt Disney, passed away in 1966.
I was fortunate to meet Roy Disney, many years ago, at the Disneyland park in California. A friend was a publicist there at the time, Lorraine Santoli, and she knew I was a Disney animation nut. So when Roy hosted a little press deal with a few surviving members of Disney’s “Nine Old Men”–the master animators who had been with the studio since the ’30s–I managed to sneak into the mix.
That’s Roy with Ward Kimball, above, snapped at the event in 1986. Where else but at Disneyland would they put a name tag on Roy Disney? The guy never looked more like uncle Walt than he did on that day, especially with those sunglasses sitting on top of his head like mouse ears.
Major shareholder Roy had just forced a palace coup at Disney, pulling a boardroom power play and installing Michael Eisner and Frank Wells in charge of the Mouse house. Once the dust settled, he was keen to restore the animation division to its former glory and made sure guys like Kimball finally got the recognition they deserved.
Roy told me something that day I’ve never forgotten–that seeing Pinocchio was the biggest disappointment of his life. Back in 1939 and ’40, when he was working on his second animated feature, Walt would come over to his brother’s house and basically spin the tale being laid out on studio storyboards as a bed time story for his wide-eyed young nephew.
Trouble was, Walt was such a terrific story teller that the film–as astounding as it was when it came out in 1941–just could not live up to those bed time stories.

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