Disney Avenue Podcast – Show #14 – Marty Sklar on the Opening of Disneyland

Welcome back friends to another special episode of the Disney Avenue Podcast. With all the excitement going on right now for the 60th anniversary of Disneyland, I though…what could we do on this show to really make it special for you in commemorating the 60th? And then it hit me…let’s invite the one and only Marty Sklar to come back on the show and tell us all about the opening of Disneyland because, well, simply put, Marty was there with Walt on that special day! Continue after the page break and hear from the legend himself as Marty Sklar takes us back to July 17, 1955 and the opening of Disneyland…

A young Marty Sklar, seated center, poses for a “team photo” with other members of the Disneyland opening team in 1955.

As former vice chairman and principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, Marty Sklar stood as a dedicated torchbearer of Walt Disney’s philosophy since first joining the Company a month before Disneyland opened in 1955. He helped express and preserve Walt’s spirit of optimism, happiness, and hope for the future through attractions and special exhibitions in Disney theme parks around the world.

 
 
 
 Born Martin A. Sklar on February 6, 1934, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Marty attended the University of California at Los Angeles where he served as editor of the Daily Bruin campus newspaper. In July 1955, the student editor was recruited by Walt Disney to create an 1890-themed tabloid newspaper, The Disneyland News, which sold on Main Street during the Park’s debut year. After completing his education, Marty returned to Disneyland publicity and marketing.
 
 
 


He joined WDI in 1961 as part of a team assigned by Walt to develop industry-sponsored shows and pavilions for General Electric, Ford, Pepsi-Cola and UNICEF, and the State of Illinois at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Ever since, Marty served as a key representative working with American industry in developing and sponsoring attractions for Disney parks and resorts around the globe.

During his early years at Disney, Marty not only learned Walt’s philosophy firsthand, but metabolized and translated it into materials he wrote for the master showman which were used in publications, television appearances, and special films. Among them was a 20-minute movie devoted to communicating Walt’s vision of EPCOT, his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, originally intended to help resolve the urban challenges found in American cities.

Marty first became an Imagineering officer in 1974 when appointed vice president, concepts and planning, a role in which he guided creative development of Epcot Center at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. In 1979, he was named vice president of creative development, followed by executive vice president in 1982. He served as president and vice chairman from 1987 to 1996.

In 2001, the Company honored Marty with a special award for 45 years of service and leadership. After the 50th anniversary of Disneyland in 2005, he transitioned into a new role as Imagineering’s international ambassador. He is the only person to have attended the grand openings of all Disney parks. He retired from Disney on July 17, 2009, after 53 years with the Company.

Friends, it is with great joy and excitement that the Disney Avenue Podcast welcome back the legend himself to discuss the opening of Disneyland 60 years ago, the one and only Marty Sklar…..Enjoy!

(Be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player in the top left-hand corner of this page prior to starting the show below if you are on a desktop computer.)

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The Disney Avenue Podcast would like to thank Geren Piltz for his contributions to this show!

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A Moment in Time – Marty Sklar

By Keith Mahne

Welcome to a brand new segment here on Disney Avenue called A Moment in Time where I ask big names in Disney history to share the backstory on a particular picture and post their response here for your enjoyment and knowledge. I absolutely love looking at old photos specifically of Disney. If you follow Disney Avenue on Facebook you’ll see what I mean. But I often come across a photo like the one pictured above and think…what was it like that day?…where was this taken?…who is that guy on the left?…look at all those amazing drawings on the wall and that model on the table! Often times we don’t get to know the backstory of a particular “moment in time”, we just let our imaginations run wild. Well today, you’ll know the one about this photo as I forwarded the picture to Marty Sklar and asked him to share as much info as he could for the Disney Avenue readers, myself included. Continue after the page break for Marty’s response to this “moment in time”…

My email to Marty:

Hi Marty!

I came across a wonderful picture during the creation of EPCOT and thought I’d forward it to you and get some feedback on it. Do you remember this day with John Hench? Was this just a publicity shot? Where was it taken? I absolutely love these older shots and would love your feedback on it if possible.
 
 
 
Marty Sklar’s reply:
 
Keith – Of course I remember this photo! That’s John Hench in the middle, of course, and John DeCuir Jr. – designer and architect. John  is the son of one of the motion picture world’s great production designers, John DeCuir Sr. (Cleopatra, South Pacific, etc. – Google him). He was WED’s art director for the original Hall of Presidents show for the Magic Kingdom (1971).
 
This was probably in the 1975-76 period, when we were developing the design concepts for Epcot Center. John DeCuir Jr. was a whiz at doing these studies of the key elements we were designing – how they related to one another, how much relative space they required, how people would move through the space. Of course we studied many different approaches, and then as the pavilion subjects fell into place, they were positioned on this and other kinds (and sizes) of models. Certain elements, like a “Theme Center”, dropped out in favor of a “Theme Show” – the original (1982) Spaceship Earth show that Ray Bradbury worked on with us. It was Ray’s descriptive and exciting words that brought the communications idea into focus – and enabled us the get the AT&T corporation of that time as Epcot’s theme show sponsor (of course, “participant” in Disney speak).
 
The picture was taken in our headquarters in Glendale. There are many of a similar nature that have been published. I think the best known is a picture of Card Walker, Disney’s CEO, with John Hench and Ray Bradbury and similar models of the time. It was our Epcot project “war room”, where we could study various approaches, and pin up descriptive ideas – see the wall behind the physical model.
 
It happens that John DeCuir Jr. liked to work with materials like this model, which had a lot more “flash” and show then styrofoam or cardboard models of the time. However, we did plenty of those as study models as well!
 
Hard to believe it’s been almost 40 years since this picture was shot! Thanks for the memories!
 
Marty

(end)

 
 
What a wonderful explanation to a great “moment in time”. So if you ever come across this picture again, you’ll know all about it thanks to the Legend himself, Marty Sklar. I hope you enjoyed our first Moment in Time article and stayed tune for many more!

You can hear the interview we did with Marty Sklar for the Disney Avenue Podcast here.

 
 
*******
 
 
 
Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday.
 
 

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Disney Avenue Podcast – Show #3 – Marty Sklar

The Disney Avenue Podcast is back with a guest I think you may have heard of…Marty Sklar! Dusty Sage, founder and CEO of MiceChat.com, joins host Keith Michael Mahne for another fantastic interview with a man that needs no introduction. Marty talks about joining the company, working and writing for Walt Disney, his old pals John Hench and Herb Ryman, finding out Walt had passed away, whether he will attend the opening of Shanghai Disney and so much more. This is a show you definitely won’t want to miss. Continue after the page break for more…

As former vice chairman and principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, Marty Sklar stood as a dedicated torchbearer of Walt Disney’s philosophy since first joining the company a month before Disneyland opened in 1955. He helped express and preserve Walt’s spirit of optimism, happiness, and hope for the future through attractions and special exhibitions in Disney theme parks around the world.

For more than 50 years, Walt’s inspiration has burned in Marty. He once said, “Working with Walt Disney was the greatest ‘training by fire’ anyone could ever experience. Our training was by Walt, who was always there pitching in with new ideas and improving everyone else’s input. The fire was that we were constantly breaking new ground to create deadline projects never attempted before in this business. That, I’m proud to say, has never stopped in my years at Disney.”

During his early years at Disney, Marty not only learned Walt’s philosophy firsthand, but metabolized and translated it into materials he wrote for the master showman which were used in publications, television appearances, and special films. Among them was a 20-minute movie devoted to communicating Walt’s vision of EPCOT, his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, originally intended to help resolve the urban challenges found in American cities.

Marty first became an Imagineering officer in 1974 when appointed vice president, concepts and planning, a role in which he guided creative development of Epcot Center at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. In 1979, he was named vice president of creative development, followed by executive vice president in 1982. He served as president and vice chairman from 1987 to 1996.
As vice chairman, Marty provided leadership for the Imagineering creative staff, delivering breakthrough entertainment concepts for Disney parks and resorts including Disneyland Paris, the Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

In 2001, Marty was recognized as a Disney Legend. He retired from Disney on July 17, 2009, after 53 years with Disney. He currently serves as president of Ryman Arts, whose Ryman Program for Young Artists honors the late Herb Ryman. More information on the Ryman Arts can be found at here. Enjoy the show…

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This episode of the Disney Avenue Podcast is brought to you by the O-Zell Soda Company. All proceeds go to restoring and preserving Walt Disney’s Birthplace home in Chicago, IL!

 
 
 

The Disney Avenue Podcast would like to thank Geren Piltz and Brian Vermillion for their contributions to this show!

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