Roy E. Disney, Dead at 79, Rejuvenated the Family Brand

Walt's influential nephew is credited with revitalizing Disney's animation division

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Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney, died of stomach cancer Wednesday at the age of 79. Disney spent 56 years at The Walt Disney Company and wielded immense behind-the-scenes influence. He's credited with urging the company to invest in Pixar Animation Studios and with ousting two chief executives. Here's how Disney is being remembered in the media today:

  • The Architect of the Modern Disney, writes Ernie Smith at Short Form Blog: "Roy Dis­ney... was respon­si­ble for the revi­tal­ized focus on ani­ma­tion seen in such mod­ern clas­sics as 'The Lion King,' 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'The Lit­tle Mer­maid,' and 'Aladdin.' On the down­side, the com­pany even­tu­ally pulled away from this focus as the hits stopped com­ing, but they real­ized the error of their ways."
  • A Major Player, writes Brookes Barnes in The New York Times: "Mr. Disney was primarily known for a willingness to question the company’s top managers, aggressively and publicly, when he felt they were mishandling the family empire. Some people in the company referred to him as its real-life Jiminy Cricket: a living conscience who was at times intensely disliked by management for speaking out."
  • Pushed for Pixar, write Dawn Chmielewski and James Bates in The Los Angeles Times: "Disney persuaded the [company] to invest about $10 million in a digital ink and paint system developed by Pixar, a seemingly minor decision that proved to be a turning point in the company's fortunes. It would lay the foundation of Disney's relationship with the firm that pioneered computer-generated animation. Within a few years, Disney turned out a remarkable string of animated hits. The films won critical acclaim and proved wildly lucrative as well, with money pouring into the company not only from the box office, but from the sales of T-shirts, toys and home videos."

  • An Authentic Individual, writes the Tribune Newspapers: "Despite wealth estimated at $600 million, Mr. Disney remained shy and outwardly unpretentious, according to people who knew him. His main indulgences were a castle in Ireland, a jet, sports cars and financing a passion for sailboat racing."
  • Seated and Unseated Michael Eisner, writes Jeff Bercovici at Daily Finance: "Disney was instrumental in forcing out CEO Ronald William Miller, Walt Disney's son-in-law, in 1984, and replacing him with Michael Eisner. But after a period of harmony in the 1990s -- during which time the studio produced such hits as The Lion King and The Little Mermaid -- the relationship between the two men soured. Disney felt that Eisner had neglected the company's theme-park business and failed to appreciate the value of Pixar, the computer-animation film studio. Disney decided to throw his invaluable name and billion-dollar stake in the company into a bid to unseat Eisner. The effort succeeded, and in 2005 Eisner resigned."
  • Left a Mark on Sailing, writes John Antczak at The Associated Press: "Disney was.... an avid ocean sailor who won the California-to-Hawaii Transpacific Yacht Race in record time a decade ago and backed programs to bring youth to the sport."
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