Roy O. Disney

Many things have been said about Walt Disney and his accomplishments. Behind those accomplishments was a steady, measured, dedicated and brilliant man: Walt’s older brother Roy. While Walt was the creative man, Roy was the one who made sure the company was financially stable; Roy and Walt both founded Disney Studios as brothers and I believe without either one the Disney Enterprise would never have become what it is today. Continue after the page break for the wonderful life of Roy O. Disney…

Roy was born to Canadian Elias Disney and German-American Flora Call Disney in Chicago, Illinois. Roy served in the US Navy from 1917–19; a year later his brother Walt tried joining the US Army, only being refused due to being under age. Roy was later discharged from military duty after suffering an injury, and became a banker in Los Angeles. In 1923, Walt moved to Hollywood, joining Roy, together founding the Disney Bros Studio. Roy and Walt ordered and built kit houses from Pacific Ready Cut Homes (a Los Angeles company) and in 1928, they built their homes side by side on Lyric Avenue. Their homes were slightly customized and enlarged, and do not exactly match the original homes featured in the Pacific Ready Cut Homes catalogs.

While Walt was the creative man, Roy was the one who made sure the company was financially stable; Roy and Walt both founded Disney Studios as brothers, but Walt would buy out most of Roy’s share in 1929 and, unlike Max and Dave Fleischer of rival Fleischer Studios, Roy was not a co-producer. Roy became the company’s first CEO in 1929, although the official title was not given until 1968. He also shared the role of Chairman of the Board with Walt from 1945 until Walt dropped the Chairman title in 1960 so he could focus more on the creative aspects of the company. After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, Roy’s role in the company naturally expanded and he postponed his retirement to oversee the construction of California Institute of the Arts and what was then known as Disney World, and later renamed it Walt Disney World as a tribute to his brother. Roy became the president of Walt Disney Productions on December 15, 1966, and remained so until 1968.




Roy was married to Edna Francis, born January 16, 1890, death December 18, 1984, from April 1925 until his death; their only child Roy Edward Disney, was born on January 10, 1930. Throughout his life, Roy rejected the publicity and fame that came with being Walt’s brother. He was extremely camera shy, and a passive individual resulting in few public photos being in existence.

After Walt Disney World opened in October 1971, Roy Disney finally retired. In early December of that year, he complained of a “spot” over one of his eyes and was scheduled to visit his optometrist for a new eyeglass prescription. He was discovered in a dazed condition, collapsed, next to his bed by family members; he died from a seizure. His interment was located in Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery.

Many tributes have arose to honor Roy’s leadership in the company. A statue of Roy O. Disney seated on a park bench beside Minnie Mouse is located in the Town Square section of Main Street, U.S.A., at the Magic Kingdom. A duplicate is located outside the Team Disney building at Disney’s corporate headquarters in Burbank, California. There is a third statue at the Tokyo Disneyland theme park. Roy O. Disney was the father of Roy E. Disney, who died on December 16, 2009. There is a Roy O. Disney Suite on the top floor of the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. The suite is one of the two largest suites of the hotel.

Those of us who love Walt Disney World owe an immense debt of gratitude to Roy O. Disney. He was a selfless man who in turn needs to be given the proper gratitude. In a letter to his niece in 1969, Roy wrote “ . . . we miss Walt very much around here. I only wish he had been given another ten years to reap some of the rewards of all the labor of forty years before. Certainly all that this company is today is rightfully attributed to Walt’s ideas and drive.” Roy Disney’s will, determination and selflessness to see Walt’s vision come true was amazing. Thank you Roy for creating one of the most magical places on the planet and making this piece of history possible:

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