Martin A. “Marty” Sklar, a key creative force in Disney Parks who worked closely with Walt Disney, died at his home in the Hollywood Hills on Thursday at age 83. Sklar was named a Disney Legend in 2001 in recognition of his 54-year career as an Imagineer, and continued to be involved with the studio’s legacy, recently appearing at the D23 Expo to meet fans.
“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.”
Born February 6, 1934 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Sklar attended UCLA and was editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper. He was recruited to create The Disneyland News for the brand-new theme park in 1955. When Sklar graduated in 1956, he became a full-time Disney employee.
Sklar became indispensable to Uncle Walt, turning his gift for storytelling toward speeches, marketing material, and a film presentation of the visionary’s plans for Walt Disney World and EPCOT. Sklar also joined WED Enterprises, which would later evolve as Walt Disney Imagineering, and later became creative head of the department. For three decades, Sklar lead the development of Disney parks and attractions around the world.
“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 retired as EVP and Imagineering Ambassador in 2009, which time his lifetime of contributions were recognized with a dedicated window on Disneyland’s City Hall. His achievements earned him the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Themed Entertainment Association, induction into the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions Hall of Fame, and the Professional Achievement Award from UCLA. Sklar also penned 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) from Disney Editions.
Sklar is survived by his wife of 60 years, Leah; son Howard and his wife, Katrina Koski-Sklar; grandchildren Gabriel and Hannah; daughter Leslie; and grandchildren Rachel and Jacob. He and his wife were two of the founders of the Ryman Program for Young Artists, a nonprofit project 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 Sklar’s name to Ryman Arts at www.rymanarts.org.