Marty Sklar, the Ultimate Imagineer, Dies at 83

Marty Sklar passed away at his home in Hollywood Hills today at age 83.  He was an Imagineer for 54 years and remained active in the Disney community after his retirement.  He has received many awards from the theme park industry:


  • The Buzz Price Award for Lifetime Achievement (Themed Entertainment Association, 1995).
  • Disney Legend (2001)
  • Window on Main Street in Disneyland (2001)
  • International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Hall of Fame Inductee (2008)
  • Diane Disney Miller Lifetime Achievment Award (The Walt Disney Family Museum, 2016)



Marty was hired to work at Disneyland part-time by Card Walker.  His first assignment was to write The Disneyland News.  He wrote speeches and marketing materials for Walt.  Many quotes we think of as being from Walt were actually written by Marty:


I hope that we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.


We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.


Later, Marty worked as vice president of creative development, executive vice president, president, and international ambassador of Imagineering.  The former Disneyland International chairman Jim Cora said of Marty, “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.”  He helped to create classic attractions like the Tiki Room, “it’s a Small World,” and Pirates of the Caribbean.  He had a hand in creating every Disney park, and was very proud to say he was the only Imagineer who had been at the opening of every park, from Anaheim to Shanghai.


Quote Walls


For years, he filled the walls of an Imagineering conference room with quotes – some fun, some serious.  As Marty described them, these quotes were meant to be “sage philosophy” or “seminal advice that seemed to become iconic through repetition.”  Here are a few of his excerpts which he included in his book Dream It! Do It!


  • Card Walker:  “October 1 has never been the problem; 1982 is the problem!”
  • George Lucas:  “Don’t avoid the cliché’s; they are clichés because they work!”
  • Michael Eisner:  “We are committed to acting as though we know what we are doing.”
  • Michael Eisner:  “Fantasyland is our company.”.
  • Gary Wilson:  “I’m in charge of hotels, and no one has reviewed this with me!”
    Frank Wells:  “That’s because it’s a ‘haunted hotel’ in the Disney-MGM Studio Park, Gary!”
  • Larry Murphy:  “Indecision is the key to flexibility.”
  • Larry Murphy:  “What about cannibalization?”
    Marty:  “We handle that in the Animal Kingdom, Larry!”
  • John Hench:  “[Guests] don’t go out of the parks whistling the lights or the architecture.”



Because of his mastery, Marty’s spirit and style will continue to influence how the Disney parks develop.  He wrote Mickey’s Ten Commandments, which are guidelines to building a great theme park.  In his book One Little Spark, Marty states that they apply to all kinds of disciplines.  For my day job, I’m a rocket scientist, and I keep a copy at my desk.  It reminds me of who my audience is as I write documents.  Those Ten Commandments have found their way onto desks all over the world in countless disciplines, especially at Imagineering.  They’ll continue shaping the industry for years to come.


When Walt passed away, Marty wrote the public statement for the Disney company.  I think some of the tribute Marty gave to Walt describes this Imagineering Legend, too.  Here’s my adaptation for Marty:


The death of Marty Sklar is a loss to all the people of the world. In everything he did, Marty had an intuitive way of reaching out and touching the hearts and minds of young and old alike.  His entertainment was an international language.  For more than fifty years people have looked to Marty Sklar, through the Disney Parks, for the finest quality in family entertainment.




At Marty’s retirement party in 2009, Richard Sherman performed a song as a tribute, set to the tune of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”


Verse I
Before the doors of Disneyland
Were opened to the world
Young Marty Sklar was asked
To have his writing skills unfurled
The Disneyland newspaper
Was first product of his skill
Then PR and Publicity
Young Marty filled the bill… He’s


Never fearing, Imagineering
For years he’s led Imagineers
With passion so ferocious
Through stress and strains
He’s held the reins
With leadership precocious
Never fearing Imagineering


Verse II
For Walt he wrote his speeches
And his annual reports
Then moved to WED to help create
Attractions and resorts
From Small World to Space Mountain
To eleven Disney parks
Our Marty steered Imagineers
With their creative sparks… (and his)




Verse III
He’s first to give out credit
To the great creative teams
His one persisting goal
Was to perpetuate Walt’s dreams
Succeed he did, and so we stand
As one to give three cheers
To Marty Sklar, the champion
Of all Imagineers… He’s…


Never fearing, Imagineering
For years he’s led Imagineers
With passion so ferocious
Through stress and strains
He’s held the reins
With leadership precocious
Never fearing Imagineering


To read more about Marty’s life, visit the Disney Parks Blog.

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