Martin A. Sklar
Vice Chairman and Principal Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering
When Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Vice Chairman Roy E. Disney named Marty Sklar a Disney Legend in December 2001, they were formalizing what everyone in The Walt Disney Company already recognized: that Marty has been one of the company's principal "icons" for many years.
As Roy Disney told the Los Angeles Times, "He's one of those very rare people who is not interested in getting credit for anything and loves to see other people get credit for what they do?(yet) he has creatively influenced everything we've ever done."
Martin A. (Marty) Sklar, vice chairman and principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), has worked for The Walt Disney Company continuously since 1956. From September 1987 to May 1996, when he was promoted to vice chairman, Sklar served as president of the Imagineering subsidiary, the Disney organization responsible for the creation, design, construction and expansion of the company's parks and resorts and a variety of new Disney creative initiatives. In May 1996, when the Disney Development Company (DDC) and WDI were combined into one organization, he was named to his present responsibilities.
Sklar became an officer of WED Enterprises (as Walt Disney Imagineering was then called) in 1974, when he was appointed vice president, Concepts/Planning, a role in which he guided the creative development of Epcot at The Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. In 1979 he became vice president of Creative Development; in 1982 he was appointed executive vice president, and in 1987 became Imagineering's president.
During Sklar's tenure as leader of the Imagineering Creative organization, The Walt Disney Company has master-planned, designed and constructed eight theme parks and resort amenities around the world. There were only two (Disneyland and the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom) when Sklar assumed overall creative responsibilities at Imagineering in 1974. The eleventh Disney park, Hong Kong Disneyland, is now under construction for opening in 2005/2006.
"The sun never sets on the operation of Disney parks and resorts we have created around the world," Sklar says with pride in the accomplishments of Imagineering's talented team.
As vice chairman, Sklar provides leadership and continuity for the Imagineering creative staff, which is charged with delivering breakthrough entertainment concepts for Disney's Parks and Resorts. Today, Imagineering is responsible for every project, from idea through field construction, that goes into the present ten Disney Theme Parks (Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure in California; the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida; Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea in Japan; and Disneyland Paris and the Walt Disney Studios in France).
Imagineering also is responsible for the creative development of ideas and concepts for many other Disney projects, including design and construction of the Disney Cruise Line ships, creation of Disney resort hotels (designed by world-famous architects), DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney in Walt Disney World, flagship stores for The Disney Store (see the 5th Avenue Store in New York City), and other "new business" initiatives.
Sklar originally joined the Disney organization for a brief stint a month before Disneyland opened in July 1955. At that time, he was a student at UCLA, recruited by former Disney Chief Executive Officer E. Cardon Walker, while Sklar was serving as editor of the Daily Bruin student newspaper. His assignment was to create a tabloid 1890 newspaper, The Disneyland News, which was sold for 10 cents on Main Street during the Park's first year. Returning to finish his senior year after Disneyland's first summer, he graduated from UCLA and took a position as assistant news editor of MAC (Media Agency Clients) Publications, a leading advertising trade journal.
In September 1956, Sklar returned to Disneyland, where he assumed responsibility for most of the park's publicity and marketing materials, including the establishment of the highly successful Vacationland magazine.
Joining WED Enterprises in 1961, he was part of the team assigned by Walt Disney 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.
During the late 1950s and 1960s, until Walt Disney's death in 1966, Sklar wrote personal materials for the "Showman of the World," for use in publications, television and special films. These included a 20-minute film devoted entirely to communicating Walt Disney's visionary concepts for the Epcot project.
In addition to his concepts, writing contributions and leadership of the creative development for Disney Park shows, Sklar has written and produced films, television shows and major presentations communicating Disney projects to the public, industry, government and professional organizations.
Sklar has also been a featured speaker at art, design and recreation-related conferences. "Our guests in the Disney parks -- and the audiences I speak to -- respond to what I call 'Mickey's Ten Commandments': the do's and don'ts of Disney creativity and communications as I understand and practice them after almost 50 years of 'training by fire'." Now considered a "bible" of the themed entertainment industry, "Mickey's Ten Commandments" range from the obvious ("Know your audience") to industry "insiders" buzz words ("Avoid overload - create turn-ons") and what Sklar calls "Imagineering-speak" ("Create a 'wienie' [visual magnet]").
Before moving to Los Angeles in 1986, Sklar was twice elected (1969 and 1973) to the Board of Education of the Anaheim City School District and served two terms as board president. He was also elected to two terms as president of the Orange County, Calif. School Boards Association; was an Anaheim City Commissioner (Parks and Recreation and Cultural Arts Commissions); was the founding chairman of the "Michael L. Roston Creative Writing Awards," an annual competition sponsored by the Anaheim Public Library; and was the 1977 recipient of the "Community Service Award for Anaheim" presented by Cypress College.
In September 1995, Sklar became only the second recipient of the "Lifetime Achievement Award" presented by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). Continuing to receive new honors from the industry he has served for nearly half a century, Sklar became the fourth person from The Walt Disney Company to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) at its annual convention in November 2002. The legendary Disney cast he joins includes only Walt Disney, Roy O. Disney and artist-illustrator Herbert D. Ryman.
Marty and his wife, Leah Sklar, are among the five founders (including the late Sharon Disney Lund) of the Ryman Program for Young Artists, named in honor of the quintessential Imagineering artist Herbert D. Ryman, who created the first visual depiction of Disneyland for Walt Disney. The Ryman Program is a project of the Ryman-Carroll Foundation, which Sklar serves as president. Its purpose is to teach "traditional" drawing and painting skills to talented young artists in Southern California. Now in its second decade, the program yearly serves nearly 200 high school artists with wide-ranging ethnic and cultural diversity, and has provided more than 1,500 full scholarships to Southern California students since its inception.
In a cover story and article for FunWorld magazine (May 2002) entitled "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," author Bob Rogers talks about Sklar's impact on the themed entertainment industry: "Along the way, he has generously nurtured and mentored at least two generations of themed entertainment leaders, both inside and outside Disney. His influence can be seen in every Disney Park, and in the careers and creative philosophies of almost every designer and showman in our industry."