(JTA) – Marty Sklar, who served 54 years as an “Imagineer” for the Walt Disney Co. and led the creative team behind the company’s theme parks, attractions and resorts, has died. He was 83. Sklar served as principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, turning the company founder’s ideas into reality. “Everything about Marty was legendary – his achievements, his spirit, his career,” Disney CEO Robert Iger said in a statement. “He embodied the very best of Disney, from his bold originality to his joyful optimism and relentless drive for excellence. He was also a powerful connection to Walt himself. No one was more passionate about Disney than Marty, and we’ll miss his enthusiasm, his grace, and his indomitable spirit.”
Sklar was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and attended UCLA. He was the editor of the university’s Daily Bruin newspaper when he was recruited to edit a tabloid to be sold at Disneyland’s Main Street. Walt Disney liked his work on the tabloid, and eventually Sklar became Disney’s lieutenant. In 2001, Sklar was recognized as a Disney Legend – the company’s version of the Hall of Fame – and in 2009 was honored with a window on Disneyland’s Main Street.
Sklar was the author of the 2013 memoir Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdom, in which he debunked a common rumor that Disney was antisemitic. “I never saw a shred of antisemitism in him,” Sklar told the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles in an interview when the book was published. “Walt was from the Midwest, he wasn’t used to being around Jews. And then he came out here, [where] most of the people in the entertainment business were Jews, so he was the guy out in the cornfield; he was different, and I think that’s where it came from. It never came from anything he said. Not ever.”