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Bill Cotter

Obit on Disney designer

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Sam McKim, who did some of the memorable artwork on the Disney exhibits, recently passed away from a heart attack. These obits mention his work at the Fair:

<a href="http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/states/california/peninsula/9145904.htm?1c" target="_blank">http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews.../9145904.htm?1c</a>

<a href="http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/040713/latu106_1.html" target="_blank">http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/040713/latu106_1.html</a>

Sam was a great guy, very quiet and unassuming. He was an interesting speaker at Disney conventions. Sad to know he's gone.

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Hello Everyone:

I just found out today that another person who was instrumental in the Disney-designed attractions at the NYWF passed away back on July 27, 2017.  His name was Marty Sklar, and he was 83 years old at his passing.  Below is the obituary from the New York Times:

Marty Sklar, Longtime Disney Aide and Executive, Dies at 83


Marty Sklar in front of an image of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., in 2005. Mr. Sklar worked for the Walt Disney Company for more than 50 years. Credit Jae C Hong/Associated Press


On the mid-July day in 1955 when Disneyland opened in Anaheim, Calif., confusion reigned. More people stormed its grounds than expected, rides broke down, food and beverage supplies ran short, and a plumbers’ strike limited the number of working water fountains.

Out in the park that afternoon, amid the disorder, was Marty Sklar, a 21-year-old college junior who was editing the theme park’s 10-cent newspaper. At one point Fess Parker, in full costume as Disney’s television and big-screen Davy Crockett, complete with coonskin cap, approached him on horseback.

Spotting Mr. Sklar’s name tag, Mr. Parker called out for help.

“Marty,” he said, “get me out of here before this horse hurts someone!”

Disneyland recovered well from the early chaos. And Mr. Sklar went on to spend more than a half-century at the Walt Disney Company, as a close aide to Walt Disney himself and eventually as the principal creative executive of the company’s Imagineering unit, made up of the innovators who blend their imaginations and their technical expertise in devising every element of the company’s theme parks.

“Marty was sort of the keeper of the flame of Walt’s philosophies so that everybody could learn from them,” Bob Gurr, an Imagineer for 27 years (his credits include the Matterhorn roller coasters), said in a telephone interview. “Marty was connected to literally everything the Disney company has done since Disneyland.

Mr. Sklar, who died on July 27 at his home in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, maintained his connection to the company after his retirement in 2009 (timed for the 54th anniversary of Disneyland’s opening). Last year, at Day 1 of Shanghai Disney in China, he became the only cast member, as the company calls its workers, to have attended the openings of all 12 Disney parks worldwide. And less than two weeks before he died, he was at D23, a Disney fan convention, reminiscing on a panel about Disneyland.

His death was announced by the Disney company, which did not give a cause. He was 83.

Mr. Sklar’s job editing The Disneyland News was a temporary one, but he returned to Disneyland after graduating from U.C.L.A. in 1956 to work in its publicity department. He soon became Mr. Disney’s chief ghostwriter for publicity materials, dedications, souvenir guides, speeches, slogans, presentations and short films, like the one that helped the company win approval to build Walt Disney World and Epcot in central Florida. He also collaborated with Walt and his brother, Roy, on Disney’s annual reports.

“It was pretty heady stuff for someone just closing in on his 30th birthday and only six or seven years out of college,” Mr. Sklar wrote in his autobiography, “Dream It! Do It: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms” (2013).

But even as Mr. Disney leaned on Mr. Sklar’s writing, he assigned him to work on the Ford Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, where the Disney company was designing exhibits and attractions. Mr. Sklar wrote Mr. Disney’s narration for the “Magic Skyway” at the Ford pavilion, with its animatronic dinosaurs and cave men, and was the main link to major corporate sponsors.

It was the start of Mr. Sklar’s second phase at the company. As an increasingly important member, and leader, of the Imagineers, he became even more identified with the legacy of Mr. Disney, who died in late 1966, well before the openings of Walt Disney World, in 1971, and Epcot, in 1982.

After Mr. Disney’s death of lung cancer at 65, Mr. Sklar was thrust back into writing when he was told that the company’s top executives had not prepared a public statement in advance, even though, as he wrote in his autobiography, “it was no secret Walt was dying.”

Mr. Sklar in 2016 receiving the Diane Disney Miller Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Credit Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for The Walt Disney Family Museum


Mr. Sklar resented having to write the statement that Roy Disney would sign, he said, but he understood that the lack of planning was a sign that Mr. Disney’s death had paralyzed the company’s leaders.

“The truth is they were all scared as hell,” Mr. Sklar wrote.

Martin Adrian Sklar was born in New Brunswick, N.J., on Feb. 6, 1934. His father, Leon, was a teacher, and his mother, the former Lilyn Fuchs, worked at Johnson & Johnson before the family moved to Long Beach, Calif., when Marty was 12.

.After high school, he had temporary jobs working at Douglas Aircraft, scooping ice cream at a hamburger drive-in and delivering packages for the Postal Service. But in May 1955, as his junior year at U.C.L.A. was ending, Mr. Sklar received a message to call E. Cardon Walker, the head of marketing and publicity at Disney.

At the time, Mr. Sklar was the new editor in chief of The Daily Bruin, the U.C.L.A. student newspaper. Mr. Walker asked him to interview for the job of creating and editing The Disneyland News. The theme park was opening soon, Mr. Walker told him. It needed him.

Mr. Walker hired him after a 20-minute interview. But Mr. Sklar still needed to assure Mr. Disney that he knew what he was doing.

“I was on the job two weeks and had to present the concept for the paper to Walt Disney,” he recalled in a podcast for the Disney Avenue website. “If Walt didn’t like it, I was out the door, and he’d get a pro to do it. But the good fortune was that Walt liked it. I was 21. It was scary. I’d never worked professionally.”

Mr. Sklar eventually distilled Mr. Disney’s lessons (and some from others) into “Mickey’s Ten Commandments,” a manifesto of theme park management. Among the commandments: Know your audience. Wear your guests’ shoes, figuratively speaking, to experience an attraction as they would. Tell one story at a time in any given attraction.

Bob Rogers, an expert in themed entertainment, once called Mr. Sklar “the sorcerer’s apprentice” — the role Mickey Mouse played in the Disney classic “Fantasia” (1940) — for channeling the Disney philosophies to three generations of designers.

Mr. Sklar is survived by his wife, the former Leah Gerber; his daughter Leslie Sklar; his son Howard; and four grandchildren.

Mr. Sklar was a devout Disney executive. He routinely wore a three-faced Mickey Mouse watch (which gave him the times in Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo) and a gold Mickey Mouse ring. And he never forgot all that Mr. Disney had taught him.

When the Disney company was developing a children’s area for the California Adventure Park, Mr. Sklar reminded the planners to include activities that parents and children could do together, as Mr. Disney would have mandated.

“I reminded everyone that the reason Disneyland existed at all was because Walt used to take his daughters Diane and Sharon to the Griffith Park merry-go-round,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 2002, “and Daddy had to sit on the park bench eating peanuts and popcorn while the kids rode alone.”


Here is a link to an interview that Mr. Sklar did that tells all about his involvement with the New York World's Fair and the work he did at all four of the Disney projects at the Fair:


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Thanks for posting, Bill. The interviews and writeups I have seen about Marty Sklar always gave me the impression of someone you would like to know personally.


The 2004 posting about Sam McKim just got my attention for the first time. I have the book "Maps of the Disney Parks" by Neary, Neary, and Hunt, but in browsing through, the names of the cartographers hadn't stuck with me.

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Yeah, I'm a BIG fan of this guy for years. WEDWay radio talked about him a lot.

My memories of Disney stuff in my youth, was partly from stuff he's done.

What a great guy.

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