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Roy E. Disney

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Roy E. Disney
Disney on December 11, 2007
BornRoy Edward Disney
(1930-01-10)January 10, 1930
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedDecember 16, 2009(2009-12-16) (aged 79)
Newport Beach, California, U.S.
Alma materPomona College
OccupationVice Chairman, The Walt Disney Company
Chairman, Walt Disney Feature Animation
Years active1954–2009
Net worthUS$1.2 billion (2006)
Political partyRepublican
Patricia Ann Dailey
(m. 1955; div. 2007)

Leslie DeMeuse (m. 2008)
Children4, including Abigail Disney
Parent(s)Roy Oliver Disney
Edna Francis
RelativesSee Disney family
AwardsAnnie Award (1993)
Disney Legend Award (1998)
Lifetime Achievement Award in Animation (2002)

Roy Edward Disney, KCSG (January 10, 1930 – December 16, 2009)[1] was a longtime senior executive for The Walt Disney Company, which was founded by his father, Roy Oliver Disney and uncle Walt Disney. At the time of his death he held more than 16 million shares (about 1% of the company),[2] and served as a consultant for the company, as Director Emeritus for the Board of Directors. He is perhaps best known for organizing the ousting of two top Disney executives: Ron Miller in 1984, and Michael Eisner in 2005.

As the last member of the Disney family to be actively involved in the company, Roy Disney was often compared to his uncle and father. In 2006, Forbes magazine estimated his personal fortune at $1.2 billion.[3]

Early life and career

Disney with his mother, in Sweden 1951.

Disney was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Edna (née Francis; 1890-1984) and Roy Oliver Disney (1893-1971), the brother of Walt Disney. He graduated from Pomona College in 1951 and first began working for Walt Disney Productions as an assistant director and producer (True-Life Adventure). He continued until 1967 when he was elected to the company's Board of Directors.

First "Save Disney" campaign (1984)

Roy Disney resigned as an executive from Walt Disney Productions in 1977 over disagreements with corporate decisions. As he claimed later, "I just felt creatively the company was not going anywhere interesting. It was very stifling."[4]

He retained a seat on the board of directors until 1984, when he resigned in the midst of a corporate takeover battle. This began a series of events that ultimately led to the replacement of Ron Miller (husband of Walt's daughter Diane Marie Disney) by Frank Wells and Michael Eisner as president and CEO, respectively. While investors were attempting the hostile takeover of Disney with the intention of dismantling the company and selling off its assets, Roy organized a consortium of white knight investors to fend off the takeover attempts. With the introduction of Wells and Eisner, Roy returned to the company as vice chairman and chairman of the animation department, which became Walt Disney Feature Animation.[5]

Partnership with Eisner

Disney in Sweden, 1990 to promote The Little Mermaid.

During the late 1980s and 1990s, Roy's department produced a number of commercially successful, critically acclaimed films, an era which has been called the "Disney Renaissance". The Lion King, for instance, garnered nearly $1 billion[6] following its release in the summer of 1994[7] and was the second highest-grossing film of the year. Despite this, Disney experienced a marked decline in profits beginning in the late 1990s as it expanded into lower-grossing, though still profitable direct-to-video spin-offs and sequels.

Roy was concerned about Jeffrey Katzenberg taking too much credit for the success of Disney's early 1990s releases.[5][8] When Frank Wells died in a helicopter crash in 1994,[9] Michael Eisner refused to promote Katzenberg to the vacated position of president. Eisner recalled that "Roy [Walt Disney's nephew and a force on Disney's board who Eisner says "could be a troublemaker"], who did not like him at all — I forget the reason, but Jeffrey probably did not treat him the way that Roy would have wanted to be treated — said to me, 'If you make him the president, I will start a proxy fight.'"[10] Tensions between Katzenberg, Eisner and Disney resulted in Katzenberg's resignation from the company that October. Katzenberg launched a lawsuit against Disney to recover money he felt he was owed and settled out of court for an estimated $250 million.[11]

On October 16, 1998, in a surprise presentation made at the newly unveiled Disney Legends Plaza at the company's headquarters, Eisner presented Roy with the prestigious Disney Legends Award. Roy Disney's pet project was the film Fantasia 2000, a sequel to his uncle's 1940 animated movie Fantasia. Walt Disney had planned a sequel to the original movie but it wasn't until December 17, 1999 that it was finally released, after nine years of production under Roy. Like its predecessor, the film combined high-quality contemporary animation and classical music, but also suffered at the US box office.[citation needed]

Second "Save Disney" campaign (2003–05)

After relations with Eisner began to sour, Roy Disney's influence began to wane as important executive posts were filled by those friendly to Eisner. When the board of directors rejected Disney's request for an extension of his term as a member, he announced his resignation on November 30, 2003, citing "serious differences of opinion about the direction and style of management" in the company. He issued a letter criticizing Eisner's alleged mismanagement, neglect of the studio's animation division, failures with ABC, timidity in the theme park business, corporate mentality in the executive structure turning the Walt Disney Company into a "rapacious, soul-less" conglomerate, and refusal to establish a clear succession plan.[12]

After his resignation, Disney helped establish the website, intended to oust Michael Eisner and his supporters from their positions and revamp the Walt Disney Company. On March 3, 2004, at Disney's annual shareholders' meeting, a surprising 43% of Disney's shareholders, predominantly rallied by Roy Disney and fellow former board member Stanley Gold, voted to oppose the re-election of Eisner to the corporate board of directors. This vigorous opposition, unusual in major public corporations, persuaded Disney's board to replace Eisner as chairman with George J. Mitchell; he did, however, remain as chief executive. This "Save Disney" campaign regarded Mitchell himself unfavorably and in the same election 25% of shareholders opposed Mitchell's re-election to the board.

As criticism of Eisner intensified in the wake of the shareholder meeting, his position became increasingly tenuous, culminating on March 13, 2005 with the announcement of Eisner's resignation as CEO effective September 30, one year before his contract would expire. On July 8, Roy and the Walt Disney Company, agreed to "put aside their differences." Roy rejoined the board as a non-voting Director Emeritus and consultant. Roy and Gold consequently shut down their website effective August 7 that year.

As announced, on September 30, Eisner resigned both chief executive and a member of the board. Severing all formal ties with the company, he waived his contractual rights to perks such as use of a corporate jet, a Golden Pass and an office at the company's Burbank headquarters. Bob Iger, Eisner's long-time lieutenant, who had been effectively running the company, now assumed the title of CEO. One of Roy Disney's stated reasons for engineering his second "Save Disney" initiative had been Eisner's well-publicized disputes with long-time production partner Pixar Animation Studios and its CEO Steve Jobs, with whom Disney had produced such computer animated hits as Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, which were both critically acclaimed and financially successful for both partners. Iger quickly repaired the estrangement, and on January 24, 2006, the company announced the acquisition of Pixar in an all-stock deal worth $7.4 billion. This deal made Jobs, best known as co-founder and CEO of Apple, Inc, Disney's largest shareholder with 7% of all outstanding shares and gave him a new seat on Disney's board of directors. Eisner, who retained 1.7% of shares, became Disney's second-largest shareholder, followed by Roy Disney, with 1% of shares. Disney's second "Save Disney" campaign against Eisner was chronicled by James B. Stewart in his best-selling book, DisneyWar.


Disney died of stomach cancer on December 16, 2009 at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, California. He was 79 years old, three weeks shy of his 80th birthday, and had been battling the disease for over a year. After his funeral service he was cremated, and his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean.[1]

Other work

Personal life

Disney held several sailing speed records including the Los Angeles to Honolulu monohull time record. He set it on his boat Pyewacket in July 1999 (7 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes, 27 seconds).[15]

On January 19, 2007, after beginning a relationship with Leslie DeMeuse, Roy Disney (then 77 years old) filed for divorce from his wife, Patricia (then 72), citing "irreconcilable differences", according to court documents. The couple, married 52 years, had been living apart for an unspecified amount of time, according to the Los Angeles County Superior Court filing. They had four adult children: Timothy "Tim" Disney, Roy Patrick Disney, Abigail Disney, and Susan Disney Lord.[16] Patricia Disney died of Alzheimer's disease on February 3, 2012, aged 77.[17]

In 2008, Roy Disney married Leslie DeMeuse, a CSTV producer, and Emmy winner of various sailing documentaries. The two created the sailing documentary TransPac—A Century Across the Pacific in 2000, and were executive producers of the sailing documentary Morning Light, which follows the selection and training of 18- to 23-year-old sailors on the 2007 Transpacific Yacht Race.[citation needed]


On January 4, 1998, Pope John Paul II made Disney a Knight Commander of the Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great (KCSG).[18]

On January 1, 2000, Disney participated as the Grand Marshal of the 111th Rose Parade.[19]

On April 26, 2008, Disney received an honorary doctorate from the California Maritime Academy "for his many contributions to the state and the nation, including international sailing."[20]

The animation studio building at the Walt Disney Studios, in Burbank, California, was re-dedicated as the "Roy E. Disney Animation Building" on May 7, 2010.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b James Bates and Dawn C. Chmielewski (December 17, 2009). "Roy Edward Disney dies at 79; nephew of Walt helped revive animation". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 16, 2009.
  2. ^ "Shamrock holding 1% of Disney Stock, USA Today, December 2003".
  3. ^ "#645 Roy Disney". Forbes. Retrieved December 16, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Schneider, Mike (November 4, 1999). "Nephew Is Disney's Last Disney". The Seattle Times. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Hahn, Don (2009). Waking Sleeping Beauty (Documentary film). Burbank, California: Stone Circle Pictures/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
  6. ^ "The Lion King (1994) - Box Office Mojo".
  7. ^ "1994 Yearly Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo".
  8. ^ Stewart 2005, pp. 160–186
  9. ^ "Frank Wells, Disney's President, Is Killed in a Copter Crash at 62". The New York Times. April 5, 1994. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  10. ^ "Michael Eisner on Former Disney Colleagues, Rivals and Bob Iger's Successor". The Hollywood Reporter. July 27, 2016.
  11. ^ B. Stewart, James (2005). DisneyWar. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80993-1.
  12. ^ McCarthy, Michael (December 2, 2003). "War of words erupts at Walt Disney". USA Today. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
  13. ^ "CalArts: Officers & Trustees". Archived from the original on April 20, 2008.
  14. ^ Holson, Laura M (18 August 2002). "As Disney Loses Steam, Insider Loses Patience". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  15. ^ McCormick, Herb (July 1, 2001). "Transpac Is Amusing to Disney". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  16. ^ "Mercury News: Disney files for divorce".
  17. ^ Miles, Kathleen (February 3, 2012). "Patricia Disney Dead: Disney Matriarch Dies In Los Angeles At Age 77". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  18. ^ DART, JOHN (January 3, 1998). "Pope Honors Rupert Murdoch, Roy Disney, Bob Hope" – via LA Times.
  19. ^ Winton, Richard (24 June 1999). "Roy Disney to Head Rose Parade". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  20. ^ "Roy E. Disney is 2008 Cal Maritime Commencement Speaker". Press Release. California Maritime Academy. 18 March 2008. Retrieved 19 April 2018.

External links