The Associated Press

‘Legendary' Disney Figure, Theme Parks Pioneer Martin Sklar Dies at 83

Marty Sklar was still a college student at UCLA when he was hired to create The Disneyland News for the original park

One of the most revered figures behind Disney's theme parks around the world has died.

Martin A. "Marty" Sklar had a role in the opening of every Disney park, starting with the original Disneyland in 1955. A Disney statement said he died Thursday at his Hollywood Hills home at age 83.

No details were released on his cause of death.

Sklar was still a college student at UCLA who wrote for the Daily Bruin newspaper. He was hired to create The Disneyland News for the original park, then became a full-time Disney employee the following year. He was born in New Jersey. 

For over five decades he was an "Imagineer," leading the development and expansion of the company's parks. He also scripted speeches for Walk Disney and marketing materials, a sign of the trust placed in him.

"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."

President of Walt Disney Imagineering Bob Weis described Sklar as someone who turned dreams into reality and left his mark on theme parks around the world.

"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. "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."

Sklar retired as principal creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering in 2006, but served as an ambassador for the group. When he retired, Disney celebrated his achievements by dedicating a window in his name at Disneyland City Hall.

Disney CEO Bob Iger says Sklar was "legendary" in the Disney community.

"Everything about Marty was legendary – his achievements, his spirit, his career," said Iger. "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.

In lieu of flowers, the family said donations could be made to Ryman Arts, a nonprofit organzation that teaches drawing and painting skills. Sklar and his wife were two founders of the Ryman Program for Young Artists.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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