A VERY sad news today, as Disney Legend and Legendary WDI Imagineer Marty Sklar passed away at 83 on July 27. Disney and more tribute below is, before everything, to a man who dedicated his life to the dream of Walt and Disney theme parks. The “ultimate Imaginner” left us today and will be missed by all Disney fans.
Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on February 6, 1934, Marty Sklar was a student at University of California, Los Angeles and editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper in 1955 when he was recruited to create a 1950s-themed newspaper, The Disneyland News, a month before Disneyland opened. After graduating, he joined Disneyland full-time in 1956, where he held responsibility for most of the park’s publicity and marketing materials.
On the picture above, Marty Sklar is in the center, with glasses, and poses for a “team photo” with others members of Disneyland opening, in 1955.
In 1961, he moved to WED Enterprises, renamed in 1986 to Walt Disney Imagineering, where he worked on attractions for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Among the attractions he helped to design during this period were the Enchanted Tiki Room and It’s a Small World, the latter originally for the World’s Fair. For nearly 10 years, he wrote personal materials for Walt Disney for use in publications, television and special films. In 1974 he became vice president of concepts/planning, and guided the creative development of EPCOT Center (now known as Epcot) at Walt Disney World Resort.
Picture above: Marty Sklar on the Walt Disney World site – 1967
Picture below: Marty Sklar and close friend Herb Ryman with a Herb Ryman painting for Epcot.
As vice president of creative development, executive vice president and then president of Imagineering for nine years, Sklar supervised the design and construction of Tokyo Disneyland, the Disney-MGM Studios, Disneyland Paris, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney California Adventure Park, Tokyo DisneySea, the Walt Disney Studios Park and Hong Kong Disneyland. Former Disneyland International chairman Jim Cora later said of him, “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.”
1. Know your audience – Don’t bore people, talk down to them or lose them by assuming that they know what you know.
2. Wear your guest’s shoes – Insist that designers, staff and your board members experience your facility as visitors as often as possible.
3. Organize the flow of people and ideas – Use good story telling techniques, tell good stories not lectures, lay out your exhibit with a clear logic.
4. Create a weenie – Lead visitors from one area to another by creating visual magnets and giving visitors rewards for making the journey
5. Communicate with visual literacy – Make good use of all the non-verbal ways of communication – color, shape, form, texture.
6. Avoid overload – Resist the temptation to tell too much, to have too many objects, don’t force people to swallow more than they can digest, try to stimulate and provide guidance to those who want more.
7. Tell one story at a time – If you have a lot of information divide it into distinct, logical, organized stories, people can absorb and retain information more clearly if the path to the next concept is clear and logical.
8. Avoid contradiction – Clear institutional identity helps give you the competitive edge. Public needs to know who you are and what differentiates you from other institutions they may have seen.
9. For every ounce of treatment , provide a ton of fun – How do you woo people from all other temptations? Give people plenty of opportunity to enjoy themselves by emphasizing ways that let people participate in the experience and by making your environment rich and appealing to all senses.
10. Keep it up – Never underestimate the importance of cleanliness and routine maintenance, people expect to get a good show every time, people will comment more on broken and dirty stuff.
On February 16, 2006, Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, announced that Marty Sklar would resign from his current position at WDI and will become International Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering. The occupation entails travelling around to art and design and architecture colleges, universities and other institutions around the world, offering seminars and attracting new talent to the company, as well as being a presence at future attraction and park openings, representing the company. Sklar said in a joint statement, “I knew that as my 72nd birthday and my 50th Disney anniversary approached, I would look for new challenges, so when Jay Rasulo asked me to talk about the future, I was ‘all ears’ to a challenging proposal Jay made. It not only seems to be one of those ideas that is overdue, but it was clear to me that I am the perfect casting (perhaps the only candidate) capable of originating and organizing this assignment.”
On July 16, 2009, a retirement celebration party happened at Walt Disney Imagineering in honor of Marty Sklar. Former Imagineer Hani El-Masri now passed away in 2015 was living in Cairo and could not attend the party, but Marty Sklar asked Hani to design his “departure card” – as Hani when he was working at WDI was known to design fun cards to celebrate an imagineer retirement. Hani, who was a good friend of mine kindly sent me a picture of the fantastic and very funny card he designed for Marty, and you can see it below. During the retirement party at WDI, a giant print of Hani’s artwork was displayed in the patio and all Imagineers could write on the white space all around it kind messages to Marty Sklar.
So, after 54 years at the WDC and 48 at WDI Marty Sklar was leaving Imagineering, and to celebrate his retirement the invitation below was sent to WDI imagineers – including former WDI imagineers – to invite them to join the party at WDI Big D Patio.
Disney and more had an exclusive pictorial report on Marty’s retirement party and i repost the pictures below.
…And each of them received this now highly-collectible Martyland button you can see below.
Many talented and wonderful people were there! Among them: Alice Davis, Rolly Crump, Richard Sherman, Mickey Steinberg, Orlando Ferrante and his wife, Walt Peregoy, Julie Svendsen, Tony Baxter, Eric Jacobson, Eddie Sotto, Tom Morris, Bob Weis, Barbara Hastings (Marty’s assistant for many years), Dave Smith, Dave Snyder, Nelson Meacham, Frank Armitage and his wife Karen and Nicole Armitage his daughter, Valerie Edwards, Kim Irvine, Craig Russell, Bruce Vaughn, Robert and Lori Coltrin, Stan Dodd, Kathy Mangum, Chris Runco, Greg Wilzbach, Paul Comstock, Dick Cook, Steve Anderson, and many more.
And of course Marty Sklar, on the picture below. The lady on the right of Marty is WDI Imagineer Kim Irvine.
Among Marty’s friends Imagineers who were there on that very special day, Alice Davis…
…Imagineers Chris Runco, Bob Gurr and Tony Baxter
…Disney Legend Jack Lindquist
…Imagineers Rolly Crump and Chris Crump with Eddie Sotto
…Imagineer Tom Morris
…Imagineer Eddie Sotto with Legendary Disney animator Walt Peregoy
…and Richard Sherman, who played for Marty ” A Great big beautiful tomorrow”, and other songs “live”.
Marty Sklar, who became a Disney Legend in 2002 at a ceremony inside the Art of Animation building during Paris Walt Disney Studios Grand Opening was also honored that same week, date of Disneyland 54th Anniversary, with his very own window on Main Street at Disneyland, Anaheim.
On November 1, 2016, Marty Sklar also received the prestigious Diane Disney Miller Lifetime Achievement Award.
Marty Sklar also won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) in 1995, and has been inducted into the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Hall of Fame. When Marty Sklar retired after 54 years at Disney, the Walt Disney Company decided to create the Sklar Legacy Fund – an endowment to fund an entire class of students every year at Ryman Arts. Disney pledged that if Marty Sklar, President of Ryman Arts, could raise $100,000 for Ryman Arts, the WDC would contribute another $250,000 towards the endowment. Marty did it, and on the picture below he receives for Ryman Arts a $250.000 check from Disney!
More recently, Marty Sklar release a series of books about Imagineering and his life as an Imagineer, the picture below was shot during a signature of Marty “Dream it! Do it!” book during the 2015 D23 Expo. I just learned today that Marty was working on a new book, so we may have another book from Marty to be published in a near future!
Marty Sklar final appearance happened just a few days ago during the 2017 D23 Expo and yo can see below the video of Marty with Tony Baxter for the “Legend of Walt Disney Imagineering” panel.
And it’s with this video that ends D&M tribute to Marty Sklar, the “ultimate Imagineer” who will be remember forever. Disney and more send its deepest condolences to Marty’s wife, Leah, and their son and daughter.