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In Memoriam: Marty Sklar, Imagineer and Intimate of Walt Disney

Marty Sklar, a key figure in the history of themed entertainment and a founding father of Disney Imagineering, died on July 27 at his home in Hollywood Hills, California. He was 83. No cause of death was announced. He had attended the D23 conference, for fans of all things Disney, in mid-July.

At the time of his death, he was The Walt Disney Company's International Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering, a title that hinted at his long tenure with the company and his relationship with Walt Disney himself. A New Jersey native and graduate of UCLA, he was hired a month before the opening of Disneyland with the brief to create The Disneyland News, a newspaper. According to Variety, "Sklar became a right-hand man to Disney, writing speeches, developing marketing materials and other promotional elements to support the launch of Disney World and Epcot Center. He also joined WED Enterprises, a forerunning of Disney's famed Imagineering technical R&D and operations unit."

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. "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," said Bob Chapek, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "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."

Sklar's honors include be recognized as a Disney Legend, a lifetime achievement award from the Themed Entertainment Association, membership in the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Hall of Fame, and the Diane Disney Miller Lifetime Achievement Award from The Walt Disney Family Museum. His books include Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney's Magic Kingdoms (2013), and One Little Spark!: Mickey's Ten Commandments, and The Road to Imagineering (2015).

"Everything about Marty was legendary -- his achievements, his spirit, his career," said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company. "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."

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.

(2 August 2017)

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