Ron W. Miller
|Ron W. Miller|
|Born||Ronald William Miller
April 17, 1933
|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
|Board member of||The Walt Disney Company|
|Spouse(s)||Diane Disney Miller (m. 1954; d. 2013)|
Marriage and early career
Miller attended the University of Southern California, where he lettered in football playing left end for the 1951-1953 seasons. While Miller was at USC, he was introduced to Walt Disney's 20-year-old daughter, Diane, on a blind date. After dating for a while, and with the approval of her parents, they married in a small church ceremony in Santa Barbara on May 9, 1954. Their first child, Christopher, was born seven months later in December 1954.
Just five months after their wedding, Ron was drafted into the U.S. Army. During their first six years of marriage, Ron and Diane had four children. After his army service, Ron played a season as tight end with the Los Angeles Rams professional football team.
"My father-in-law saw me play in two football games when I was with the Los Angeles Rams. In one of them, I caught a pass and Dick 'Night Train' Lane let me have it from the rear. His forearm came across my nose and knocked me unconscious. I woke up in about the third quarter. At the end of the season, Walt came up to me and said, 'You know, I don't want to be the father to your children. You're going to die out there. How about coming to work with me?' I did and it was a wise decision on my part. I'm really very proud of having been a professional athlete. I think it teaches you to be competitive, to accept challenges and to see things through. I realize the image some people have of jocks, but I think that certainly has changed over the years," Miller told entertainment reporter Dale Pollock in August 1984.
However, the fact that Miller never finished school and played football became fodder for his critics to label him a "dumb jock" who lucked into marrying into an entertainment empire.
Early history at Disney
Miller initially worked at Walt Disney productions for a few months in 1954 as a liaison between WED Enterprises and Disneyland before he was drafted into the army later that year. When he came home from the army, he played professional football, however later he was prompted by Walt to return to work for him.
Walt sponsored his son-in-law and got him into the Screen Director's Guild and Ron worked as a second assistant on Old Yeller (1957). He soon rose up the ranks to a variety of producer positions and also directed some of Walt's lead-ins for the popular weekly Disney television series.
In 1958, Clint Walker walked out of the popular Warner Bros. television Western, Cheyenne for a variety of reasons. Bill Orr, who was Jack L. Warner's son-in-law, called in Ron Miller to audition as Walker's replacement, and was impressed enough to schedule a screen test. Walt Disney stepped in and told Ron to forget acting, that Disney was grooming him for the position of producer. Walker resolved his differences with Warner Bros. and returned to the show in 1959. As a result, Miller never attempted acting again.
Instead, Miller spent his time in the film division and his co-producer credits appear on such Disney classics as Son of Flubber, Summer Magic, and That Darn Cat!. His first movie with full producer credit was Never a Dull Moment (1968).
President of Walt Disney Productions
He became president of Walt Disney Productions in 1978 and CEO in 1983. Under his leadership, Disney became the target of corporate raiders and takeover attempts, and many influential shareholders criticized Miller's leadership. In 1984, fellow Disney family member Roy E. Disney, Roy Disney's ally on the Disney board of directors Stanley Gold, and shareholder Sid Bass ousted Miller in favor of a trio of non-Disney executives, Michael Eisner, Frank Wells and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Miller is perhaps best known for creating the Touchstone label, which allowed Disney to produce and release adult-oriented films without harming the family-friendly reputation of the Disney name. (Its first film was Splash, starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah.) He was also responsible for establishing The Disney Channel and funding the films of young Tim Burton (Vincent and Frankenweenie), acquiring the film rights and putting into development the Who Framed Roger Rabbit project, initiating Disney’s first attempts at computer animation such as with the feature film Tron, all of which established foundations for future success for the Disney Company.
In 1976, Lillian Disney, widow of Walt Disney, with Diane and Ron, purchased two vineyards in the Napa Valley. Their intention was to upgrade the property, replant to premium varietals, install new trellising and frost protection, but not to build or run a winery. Their vineyards were producing top-quality fruit and award-winning wines year after year for other wineries. So construction of the Silverado Vineyards Winery began in 1980. Architect Dick Keith designed the old California mission-style structure, which is often mistaken for an actual restoration.
During the last twenty years[when?], Miller has spent most of his time building the reputation of his Silverado Winery, and has only spoken openly about Diane's work regarding Walt's legacy.
Awards and nominations
- 1966: Nominated, "Outstanding Children's Program" – Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
- 1969: Nominated, "Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming - Programs" - Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
- 1970: Nominated, "Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming - Programs" – The Wonderful World of Disney
- 1971: Won, "Special Classification of Outstanding Program and Individual Achievement - Programs" – The Wonderful World of Disney
- 1972: Nominated, "Special Classification of Outstanding Program and Individual Achievement - General Programming" – The Wonderful World of Disney
- 1977: Nominated, "Special Classification of Outstanding Program Achievement" – The Wonderful World of Disney
- "NFL Roster for Ron Miller".
- All-Time Letterwinners, 2007 USC Trojans Football Media Guide, August 2007, Accessed October 21, 2008.
- My Dad, Walt Disney (video). 2006.
- Walt - The Man Behind the Myth (video). 2004.
- "Jim Hill Media: In praise of Ron Miller".
- Walt Disney: An American Original. Disney Editions. 1994. ISBN 0-7868-6027-8.
- Stewart, James (2005). DisneyWar. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80993-1.
- Ron Miller (I) - Awards