Marty Sklar, who played a leading role in the development of the Walt Disney company, has died aged 83.
The Jewish executive, who worked for the company for 53 years, joined joining in 1955 shortly before the opening of Disney’s first theme park in Anaheim, southern California.
He became Walt Disney’s right-hand man, working closely with him for the next decade until the company’s founder died in 1966.
Mr Sklar became head of Disney’s “Imagineer” division, responsible for the design and creation of Disney theme parks and rides.
He was involved in the development of all the company’s theme parks and resorts – an involvement which continued beyond his retirement. He played a role in the development of Disney’s Shanghai theme park which opened last year.
Robert Iger, Walt Disney Company chief executive, praised Mr Sklar in a statement, saying “everything about Marty was legendary — his achievements, his spirit, his career.
“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.”
In 2013 Mr Sklar published a book titled Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
As he told the Jewish Journal at the time, one of the reasons he wrote the book was to “debunk” some of the accusations made against Disney, “including the one that he was supposed to have been antisemitic. I never saw a shred of antisemitism in him.
“I’ll tell you a story. During the High Holy Days, Walt tried to call me, and when I came back, I called his office and said to Tommie Wilck, his secretary, ‘what did Walt tell you when you told him I was celebrating Yom Kippur?’
“She said that Walt told her, ‘well, that’s where he should be, with his family’.
“So it’s a bunch of bull, but you know, I can see where it came from.
“Walt was from the Midwest, he wasn’t used to being around Jews. And then he came out here, [where] most of the people in the entertainment business were Jews, so he was the guy out in the cornfield; he was different, and I think that’s where it came from. It never came from anything he said. Not ever.”
Mr Sklar died on Thursday at his home in the Hollywood Hills. He is survived by Leah, his wife of 60 years, as well as his two children and four grandchildren.