HOLLYWOOD HILLS—Marty Sklar, the pioneering Imagineer who worked with Walt Disney to design and develop Disney theme parks, died in his Hollywood Hills home on Thursday, July 27. Disney spokesperson Suzi Brown confirmed his death in a statement. No further details were provided. He was 83.
“Marty was the ultimate Disney Imagineer and Cast Member,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “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.”
Sklar was involved in the development of every Disney Park, including the original Disneyland in Anaheim in 1955, Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, Disneyland Paris in 1992, and the Shanghai Disney Resort that debuted in 2016. He worked closely with Walt Disney and was regarded by employees as a link to the founder.
“Everything about Marty was legendary — his achievements, his spirit, his career,” Walt Disney Company CEO and chairman, Bob Iger, said in a statement. “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.”
Martin A. “Marty” Sklar was born in New Brunswick. New Jersey on February 6, 1934. He was a student at UCLA and the editor of The Daily Bruin when he was recruited to create The Disneyland News for the original Disney theme park in 1955. In 1956, he joined Disney full-time and became Walt Disney’s right-hand man, writing speeches and developing marketing materials for the launch of Walt Disney World and Epcot. He joined WED Enterprises in 1961, which was later renamed Walt Disney Imagineering in 1986. One of the first to hold the title of “Imagineer,” he helped to design the “Enchanted Tiki Room” and “It’s a Small World.”
In 1974, Sklar became the Vice President of Concepts and Planning, before being promoted to the positions of Executive Vice President and President of Imagineering. He led the development of theme parks and attractions around the world for over three decades.
In 2001, he was named a Disney Legend for his significant contributions. On July 17, 2009, Disneyland’s 54th birthday, he retired after 54 years of service. He was honored with a window on Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A. on his final day and remained as an Imagineering ambassador for three more years.
Sklar wrote at least two books about his time at Disney, including “Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms” and “One Little Spark!: Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to Imagineering.”
Sklar 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.