The Disney imagineer who dreamed up theme parks
Marty Sklar 1934–2017
In 1955, Marty Sklar took what he thought would be a temporary gig at the Walt Disney Co., designing a 10-cent newspaper for the soon-to-open Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, Calif. After two weeks on the job, the 21-yearold college student had to present his concept to Walt Disney himself. “If Walt didn’t like it, I was out the door,” he recalled. “Walt liked it.” Sklar would go on to serve 54 years at the company, first as Disney’s ghostwriter, then as creative leader of the Imagineering unit, designing theme parks around the world. Throughout, Sklar urged his team to keep innovating. “The future is a moving target,” he said. “You have to keep aiming at it.”
Born in New Brunswick, N.J., Sklar was running UCLA’s campus paper when Disney’s marketing chief hired him to create The Disneyland News, said The New York Times. He returned to the company after graduating in 1956 and wrote everything from speeches for Disney to souvenir guides to Mickey’s 10 Commandments, “a manifesto of theme park management.” Among the commandments: Know your audience. In the 1960s, Sklar branched into Imagineering, and helped design signature attractions at Disney parks, including It’s a Small World and Space Mountain.
Sklar retired in 2009, but remained “a frequent presence at Disney events,” said the Associated Press. He was on hand for Day 1 of Shanghai Disney in China last year—making him the only staffer to have attended the openings of all 12 Disney parks. “Disneyland is so much about reassuring people the world can be OK, that things can be orderly, that you can speak to a stranger,” Sklar said. “Things that we are losing or have lost in our daily lives.”