A Remembrance of Roy E. Disney

The life and accomplishments of Walt Disney's nephew, Roy Disney.
March 15, 2010
I know I'm about four months late with this news, but I had to inform the people of Retrojunk about the brilliant man that is Roy E. Disney and how he passed away on December 16, 2009.

Roy Edward Disney was born in January 10, 1930. His father was Roy Oliver Disney, one of the co-founders of the Disney Studios. Now many of you have probably never heard of Roy O., but you have probably heard of his famous younger brother, Walt Disney. Now Roy O. Disney was the financial half of the company, Walt being the creative half. Because of this, Roy E. grew up near the old Hyperion Studios, where they created some of the earliest Mickey Mouse shorts and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

Walt Disney and Roy O. Disney

Roy E. had no interests in being in the Disney business, and he aimed to be an engineer but because he failed Calculus, this dream was shattered. So Roy became a television producer instead. Working on various shows, he eventually became an apprentice and started filming for the True-Life Adventures for Walt Disney. Roy E. would often go on trips to different locations and film various things, then make a story out of them. His relationship with his uncle was that of a worker and his boss, when he did something bad, Walt would get irritated but when he suggested something good, Walt would be pleased. While Roy was filming for the True-Life Adventures, Walt Disney was working on Disneyland, the show and the theme park.

A young Roy poses with his uncle Walt

On December 15, 1966, Roy's dear uncle passed away and many were confused as to who would take over the company now. His father, Roy O. Disney came out of retirement and became the new CEO of the Walt Disney Company. Wanting a familiar face on the board of directors, he made his son a chairman. Together, they finished Disney World, now renamed Walt Disney World in honor of Walt Disney. When Roy O. Disney died, he was succeeded by Ron Miller, Walt Disney's son-in-law, who had married into the company.

You see, Ron Miller had no knowledge of business, he was a football player, an athlete. Many had perceived him as a jock who got to high positions because he was dating Diane Disney, Walt's daughter. Because Ron Miller had no prior knowledge of business, he was susceptible to corporate takeovers and raids. Slowly during the 70s and 80s, Disney movies were failing, becoming less popular. Production values were low and many scenes were retraced from former movies. This was when Roy E. Disney came into prominence. He resigned as an executive, saying the company had lost its creativity. He then proceeded to oust Ron Miller, replacing him with Frank Wells, an old college friend and Michael Eisner. Together they made up the duo that Walt and Roy O. made, Frank being the creative person and Michael being the financial one.

Michael Eisner and Frank Wells

During a party celebrating the new CEO and president, Roy joking said that he should be head of the Animation Studios, since he's grown up near the studio all his life and he knows all the animators. Frank and Michael took this seriously and gave him the job. And thus, movies such as The Little Mermaid were born. He revolutionized the industry, creating a Disney Renaissance, the movies of the 90s. He pitched many of the ideas and concepts for these new movies. Thanks to Roy E., Disney was full of creative geniuses again.

Roy E. Disney would often visit Disneyland and ask children whether or not they would enjoy themselves. Walt Disney himself often did this when he was alive. People would often come up to him, asking if he was Walt Disney's brother due to their resemblance.

In this picture, Roy E. poses with a statue of Minnie and his father Roy O. Disney.

Frank Wells died in 1994 and the company started deteriorating again. Michael Eisner based many of his decisions on facts and figures, trying to find a way to make a quick buck. Because of the success of Pixar and Dreamworks, Eisner declared that all Disney movies would be CGI now and that was how movies such as Chicken Little and Bolt came. Roy was distraught, he brought Michael Eisner in to bring the creativity back to Disney but now he's sucking it all out. Again, Roy resigned stating that Eisner had made the company into a "rapacious, soul-less conglomerate". Along with friend Stanley Gold, Roy E. Disney tried to kick Michael Eisner out but Eisner himself beat him to it. He resigned one year before his term as CEO expired. New CEO Bob Iger settled his differences with Roy E. Disney and Roy rejoined his uncle's company as a Director Emeritus.

Thanks to Roy, the purchase of Pixar was successful. The purchase of Pixar brought John Lasseter, one of the co-founders of Pixar to Disney. He became the Chief Creative Officer, the one in charge of all the Disney movies. John Lasseter was an animator, director and very creative person. Roy approved of him. Thanks to Lasseter, Roy's dreams were finally fulfilled and traditional animation was brought back with The Princess and the Frog. Many consider John Lasseter to be the next Walt Disney and as true as that may be, Roy was very much like his uncle as well.

John Lasseter, the man who brought the creativity back to Disney.

On December 16, 2009, Roy E. Disney passed away from stomach cancer. His death occurred one day after his uncle's in 1966. Many animators and Disney employees were saddened by this. There was no longer an actual Disney member working in the company but in his death came life. Thanks to his hard work, Disney finally became magical again. People like John Lasseter and Bob Iger keep Roy's legacy alive and animators such as Glen Keane and Andreas Deja remember fondly of him. Because of Roy E. Disney, many of our generation grew up with amazing Disney movies that not only entertained us, they taught us life lessons: to be optimistic, follow your dreams and always wish upon a star. Many of us have to thank Roy E. Disney, for continuing his father and uncle's legacy.

Thank you, Roy.
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