TEA News

28 July 2017

TEA and the themed entertainment industry mourn Marty Sklar, 1934-2017

Legendary Disney Imagineer Martin A. Sklar passed away in his Hollywood Hills home on Thursday, July 27, 2017 at the age of 83. During a 54-year career, Marty worked closely with Walt Disney and was instrumental in creating, enhancing and expanding Disney’s creative vision.

Marty Sklar at the TEA Thea Awards Gala in 2015,
with Kim Irvine (Disney) who has also received Thea lifetime honors

Thea lifetime honors

In 1995, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) honored Marty Sklar with a Thea Award for lifetime achievement. He was the second recipient of that award, which was created in 1994 and first bestowed upon Harrison "Buzz" Price. Thea lifetime honorees have the privilege to sit on the TEA Thea Awards Committee for life. Marty was a strong and visible presence within TEA year after year, until his passing. 

Photo at top shows four TEA Thea Lifetime Achievement honorees: Harrison "Buzz" Price, John Hench, Marty Sklar and Don Iwerks. The award was officially re-titled a few years ago as the Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements. CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS OF MARTY SKLAR

Iger, Weis and Chapek remember Marty

In 2001, Marty was named a Disney Legend. In a statement released by the Walt Disney Company, Chairman and CEO Bob Iger said, “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.”

Walt Disney Imagineering President Bob Weis said, "It’s hard to imagine a world without Marty, because Marty is synonymous with Imagineering. His influence can be seen around the world, in every Disney park, and in the creative and imaginative work of almost every professional in the themed entertainment industry.”

"From his days working as an intern with Walt to just two weeks ago engaging with fans at D23 Expo, Marty left an indelible mark on Disney Parks around the globe and on all of the guests who make memories every day with us,” said Bob Chapek, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “He was one of the few people that was fortunate to attend the opening of every single Disney park in the world, from Anaheim in 1955 to Shanghai just last year." 

From Disneyland News, to EVP, to Imagineering Ambassador

Born in New Brunswick, N.J., on February 6, 1934, Marty was a student at UCLA and editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper when he was recruited to create The Disneyland News for Walt’s new theme park in 1955. After graduating in 1956, he joined Disney full-time, and would go on to serve as Walt’s right-hand man—scripting speeches, marketing materials, and a film showcasing Walt’s vision for Walt Disney World and Epcot. During this period, he also joined WED Enterprises, the forerunner of Walt Disney Imagineering, and he would later become the creative leader of Imagineering, leading the development of Disney theme parks and attractions for the next three decades. He retired as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador on July 17, 2009, Disneyland’s 54thbirthday. Disney marked the occasion by paying tribute to Marty with the highest Parks and Resorts recognition, dedicating a window in his name on Disneyland’s City Hall.

Marty Sklar at the 2017 TEA Thea Awards Gala

Marty’s awards and accolades also included induction into the Hall of Fame of IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions), and the prestigious Professional Achievement Award from UCLA. He authored several books: Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms (2013), and One Little Spark!: Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to Imagineering (2015).

Family and remembrances

Marty is survived by his wife of 60 years, Leah; son Howard and his wife, Katriina Koski-Sklar; grandchildren Gabriel and Hannah; daughter Leslie; and grandchildren Rachel and Jacob.

Marty and Leah were two of the founders of the Ryman Program for Young Artists, a project of Ryman Arts, a nonprofit foundation whose purpose is to teach and mentor talented young artists in Southern California.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Marty’s name to Ryman Arts at www.rymanarts.org.



David Willrich

Statements from TEA leaders

David Willrich, DJ Willrich Ltd., TEA International Board President

The world of themed entertainment says goodbye to one of our masters of magic, Marty Sklar.

The TEA is about creating memorable moments, not just for theme park guests but for our members as well. I have experienced many - including meeting Diane Disney Miller, also sadly no longer with us, and Marty Sklar.

I was fortunate to hear Marty speak at TEA conferences and events a number of times in the US and Europe. He was someone you could listen to all day long. Hearing him run through "Mickey’s Ten Commandments" was always memorable and worthwhile. The last of those commandments is “Keep it up!” Marty did just that, with plenty of anecdotal stories to make his points. I treasure my signed copy of Marty's book, "Dream It! Do It!" from his special appearance at the 2014 TEA Summit. 

We are grateful for Marty's dedication, involvement and leadership within TEA, which lasted for pretty much the entire 25+ years our association has been in existence. We will miss him, but the legacy of his magic lives on. 


At one of the Legends panels that Bob Rogers regularly organizes
for the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando - 
Seated: Jack Lindquist, Marty Sklar. Standing: Tom Mehrmann,
Matt Ouimet, Bob Rogers. Photo courtesy BRC Imagination Arts.

Bob Rogers, Chairman/Founder, BRC Imagination Arts; fellow recipient of TEA lifetime achievement honors

Marty Sklar was a pivotal mentor to so many. Through his books and speeches, he has touched almost everyone in our industry. Those Marty personally mentored or encouraged (even briefly!) are today doing a better job of leading, mentoring and encouraging others because of him. The things he taught remain timeless insights into our art and craft. And by the way he personally conducted himself, Marty set a high standard of integrity and generosity. If those of us in this business today are any good at what we do, it is only because we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Marty was one of those giants. And a particularly big one at that.




Posted by Judy Rubin



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