Legendary Disney imagineer Marty Sklar has passed away in his Hollywood Hills home, he was 83. Marty was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1934 and was a student at UCLA when he began the 1950s themed newspaper The Disneyland News. He began working at Disneyland full-time upon his graduation and his illustrious career with Disney spanned 54 years. In 1961 he moved from Disneyland to WED Enterprises (later renamed Walt Disney Imagineering) where he worked on numerous attractions for the 1964 World’s Fair. Most notably, he worked on the design for the iconic attractions “The Enchanted Tiki Room” and “It’s A Small World”. For the next ten years, Marty wrote marketing materials that were used in television, special films, and publications by Walt Disney himself. Former Disneyland International chairman Jim Cora said of Sklar, “He understands the Disney way because he learned it at Walt’s knee. He is the keeper of the keys, the conscience, the Jiminy Cricket for the organization.”
In 1974 Marty became Vice-President of concepts/planning, then vice-president of creative development, executive vice president and then president of Walt Disney Imagineering. It was in this role that he was able to make his lasting mark. He supervised the design of numerous Disney theme-parks, including Epcot Center (now Epcot), Tokyo Disneyland, Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios), Disneyland Paris, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney California Adventure, Tokyo Disney, the Walt Disney Studios Park, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Marty retired as Executive Vice-President and Imagineering Ambassador on July 17, 2009, Disneyland’s 54th birthday. Disney marked the occasion by presenting Sklar with the one of the company’s highest honors, a window on Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland.
When asked about the legacy left behind by Marty Sklar, Walt Disney Chairman of Parks and Resorts Bob Chapek said, “Marty was the ultimate Disney Imagineer and Cast Member. 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, he was one of the few people that was fortunate to attend the opening of every single Disney park in the world, from Anaheim in 1955 to Shanghai just last year. We will dearly miss Marty’s passion, skill and imaginative spark that inspired generations of Cast, Crew and Imagineers.”
Bob Weis was one of those Imagineers. “Marty was one of Walt’s most trusted advisors and helped turn his most ambitious dreams into reality. For us, it’s hard to imagine a world without Marty, because Marty is synonymous with Imagineering,” said Weis, President, Walt Disney Imagineering. “His influence can be seen around the world, in every Disney park, and in the creative and imaginative work of almost every professional in the themed entertainment industry.”
Marty Sklar’s impact on Disney and his achievements were rewarded with numerous awards and accolades. In 1995 he was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2001, Sklar was recognized as a Disney legend. In 2016 he was awarded the Diane Disney Miller Lifetime Achievement Award from the Walt Disney Family Museum. In addition, Sklar was inducted into the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Hall-of-Fame.
Marty 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.
Marty and Leah were two of the founders of the Ryman Program for Young Artists, a project of Ryman Arts, a nonprofit foundation whose purpose is to teach and mentor “traditional” drawing and painting skills to talented young artists in Southern California. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Marty’s name to Ryman Arts at www.rymanarts.org.