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Roy Disney, nephew of Walt Disney, dies at 79

December 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Roy Edward Disney, a longtime senior executive at The Walt Disney Company, and the nephew of Walt, died Wednesday in Newport Beach following a yearlong battle with stomach cancer. He was 79 years old.Disney was a 56-year veteran of the Walt Disney Company. He played a key role in the revitalization of The Walt Disney Company and Disney's animation legacy.

"Roy's true passion and focus were preserving and building upon the amazing legacy of Disney animation that was started by his father and uncle. Roy's commitment to the art of animation was unparalleled and will always remain his personal legacy and one of his greatest contributions to Disney's past, present and future," Bob Iger, president and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement.

Roy E. Disney was born in Los Angeles on January 10, 1930, to Roy O. Disney and Edna Francis Disney. His father, Roy O. Disney, and uncle, Walt, co-founded The Walt Disney Company in 1923.

Disney worked for the family business as a writer and producer, earning two Oscar nominations, one in 1959 for his work on "Mysteries of the Deep" and another in 2003 for "Destino." He also personally oversaw the production of Fantasia 2000, the sequel.

Later, he served as vice chairman of the company's board of directors and chairman of the studio's animation department.

Iger said Disney carried more than just the family name.

"It went well beyond that and he had an appreciation for what Disney is, what Disney could be and a passion for that probably unlike anyone else," said Iger. "Animation has played, is playing, and will play an incredibly important role, and so the legacy of Roy in appreciating that more than anyone else is rather significant."

A longtime champion of creative freedom for Disney employees, he is credited with creating a second golden age for Disney, overseeing the production of recent classics such as "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast, "Aladdin" and "The Lion King." He was a recipient of the Disney Legends award.

"He took it under his wing, was a cheerleader, a coach, therapist," said Don Hahn, an executive producer at the Disney movie studio.

John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, also lauded Disney.

"He put his heart and soul into preserving Disney's legendary past, while helping to move the art of animation into the modern age by embracing new technology," Lasseter said.

Despite his heritage, Disney never got the chance to lead the company. But as a powerful shareholder, he ultimately had a huge impact on the company's destiny, leading two investor revolts.

In 1984, he led a successful campaign to oust Walt Disney's son-in-law after concluding he was leading the company in the wrong direction. Nearly 20 years later, he launched another successful shareholder revolt against Michael Eisner.

Disney was also a philanthropist and an award-winning sailor. He is survived by his wife, four children and 16 grandchildren.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC7.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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