Roy Edward Disney, nephew of the legendary Walt Disney who used his shrewd business acumen to revive his uncle's dynasty in the animation world, died today after a yearlong battle with stomach cancer.
Disney was a long-time benefactor of California Institute of the Arts and provided the funding for the REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater) an off-campus performance space for the school within the confines of the Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles' Music Center. He was also a trustee on the CalArts Board of Directors.
A self-made millionaire, Disney's philanthropy also reached into the medical world. In 2005, he and his wife, Patricia provided $10 million seed money to endow the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center at Providence-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Burbank.
"We are saddened by Mr. Disney's passing and offer our deepest condolences to his family," said Barry A. Wolfman, chief executive of Providence Saint Joseph. "The Disney family's generosity will live into the future as we provide the best possible care to our patients at the cancer center they helped to build."
Roy E. Disney had the commitment, generosity and vision to help nurture the California Institute of the Arts from a fledgling arts institution to a leader in visual and performing arts education. He was CalArts’ staunchest advocate, serving as a Trustee for 42 years, joining the board even before the 1969 groundbreaking for the Valencia campus.
“Roy O. Disney was a wonderful man who we will remember always,” said CalArts President Steven D. Lavine. “From the earliest years, he has always been there for CalArts and was ready to help with each new challenge. Not only did Roy carry on his family’s legacy of support to CalArts, but he deepened it with his own passion as a filmmaker.
“As a trustee, he was always there with wise and supportive council, and communicated
his strong convictions and passion for the arts and education with characteristic understatement.”
His father and uncle founded The Walt Disney Company studio in 1923 and in 1961, California Institute of the Arts when they facilitated the merger of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute to establish the first higher educational institution in the country to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in both visual and performing arts. CalArts moved to its permanent home in Valencia in 1971.
Born January 10, 1930, Roy's first job with the Disney Company was as assistant director of "True Life Adventure" films in 1954. While he worked in production, he rose through the ranks, but never got to lead the family studio after Walt's death in 1966 or his father's death in 1971.
He resigned as an executive from the Disney Company in 1977 due to disagreements with corporate decisions, but he retained a seat on the board of directors. He resigned from board in 1984 in the middle of a corporate takeover, which started a series of events that resulted in Michael Eisner and Frank Wells unseating Walt's son-in-law Ronald William Miller. With Eisner at the helm, Roy E. Disney assumed responsibility for the animation department.
Roy led a renaissance in animated successes for Disney, producing such films as "The Little Mermaid" "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King" that revived not only creativity at the studio, but also turned a lucrative profit for the studio with sales of videos and movie character merchandise.
While he helped Eisner rise to prominence with the company, the relations between the two men became extremely strained and Disney felt he was being pushed out by management. He and his business partner, Stanley Gold, both resigned from the board in 1984 and led a shareholders revolt that brought about a no-confidence vote in Eisner, who left the company soon after.
At the time of his death, he was a shareholder and consultant for the company and Director Emeritus for the Board of Directors.
Disney was also known in the sailing community and held several sailing speed records including the Los Angeles to Honolulu monoull time record of 7 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes and 27 seconds, set in July 1999.
In 1952, Roy married Patty Daily and the couple had four children. They divorced in 2007 after 52 years of marriage. He married Emmy-winning producer Leslie DeMeuse in 2008. He is survived by daughters Abigail E. Disney and Susan M. Disney Lord and sons Roy P. Disney and Timothy J. Disney, and 16 grandchildren.