Disney and More’s blog is reporting that Disney legend Marty Sklar has announced his retirement to his fellow Imagineers. Marty began working for Disney while still a student at UCLA and is one of the few remaining castmembers who personally worked with Walt.

Disney Legend

The Disney Legend program was begun in 1987 to acknowledge and honor those castmembers and other individuals who have worked to make the Disney magic happen. The ceremony is held annually at the corporate headquarters in California and recipients are chosen by a selection committee who seek to honor those people responsible for making a significant impact on Disney.

The Award

The award given is a sculpture with three distinct components:

  1. The Spiral stands for imagination, the power of an idea.
  2. The Hand holds the gifts of skill, discipline and craftsmanship.
  3. The Wand and the Star represent magic: the spark that is ignited when imagination and skill combine to create a new dream.

Another honor that usually accompanies the award is a window on Main St. U.S.A. in the park. The name is usually associated with a past-time or hobby of that person, or a unique experience while working for the company and provide just another bit of streetmosphere for the guests.

Marty’s Legend Bio

Vice Chairman and Principal Creative Executive of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) Martin A. (“Marty”) Sklar has stood as a dedicated torchbearer of Walt Disney’s philosophy since first joining the Company a month before Disneyland opened in 1955. He has helped express and preserve Walt’s spirit of optimism, happiness, and hope for the future through attractions and special exhibitions in Disney theme parks around the world.

During his early years at Disney, Marty not only learned Walt’s philosophy firsthand, but metabolized and translated it into materials he wrote for the master showman, used in publications, television, and special films. Among them, a 20-minute movie devoted to communicating Walt’s vision of EPCOT, his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow originally intended to help resolve the urban challenges found in American cities.

For nearly 50 years, Walt’s inspiration has burned in Marty. He said, “Working with Walt Disney was the greatest ‘training by fire’ anyone could ever experience. Our training was by Walt, who was always there pitching in with new ideas and improving everyone else’s input. The fire was that we were constantly breaking new ground to create deadline projects never attempted before in this business. That, I’m proud to say has never stopped in my years at Disney.”

Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Marty attended University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he served as editor of the Daily Bruin campus newspaper. In July 1955, the student editor was recruited to create a tabloid 1890-themed newspaper, The Disneyland News, which sold on Main Street during the Park’s debut year. After completing his education, Marty returned to Disneyland publicity and marketing, establishing Vacationland magazine.

He joined WDI in 1961 as part of a team assigned by Walt to develop industry-sponsored shows and pavilions for General Electric, Ford, Pepsi-Cola/UNICEF and the State of Illinois at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Since then, Marty has served as key relations representative working with American industry in developing and sponsoring attractions for Disney parks and resorts around the globe.

Marty first became an Imagineering officer in 1974 when appointed Vice President, Concepts/Planning, a role in which he guided creative development of EPCOT at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. In 1979, he was named Vice President of Creative Development, followed by Executive Vice President in 1982. He served as President and Vice Chairman from 1987 to 1996, and since then in his current role.

Today, as Vice Chairman, Marty provides leadership for the Imagineering creative staff, which delivers breakthrough entertainment concepts for Disney parks and resorts, including Disneyland Paris, the Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland, slated to open in 2005. WDI is also responsible for all Disney resort hotels and the Disney Cruise Line ships and has created concepts for restaurants, children’s museums and hospitals, traveling shows, and exhibitions.

In 2001, the Company honored Marty Sklar with a special award for 45 years of service and leadership.

Wrapping it up

I never got to work with Marty directly during my time at Disney, but many friends and mentors of mine did. They would tell me stories about Marty from the years and all he had done during his time at the company.

The one I appreciate the most, whether it is true or just another Disney myth, was how he banned Michael Eisner from the Imagineer’s building due to the fact that Michael had a habit of talking spilling the beans on secret projects to the press which always created enormous headaches for Marty.

Good luck to you Marty and thanks for all the memories.