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DISNEYLAND Park was built on old farmland. As a result, it had some interesting animal friends living there, though not as interesting as the alligators out in Florida. DISNEYLAND’s “native wildlife” was cats. At first, the park had a shaky relationship with its furry guests. Scared by the millions of guests who tromped through their stomping grounds, the cats retreated into the one empty building on the property- Sleeping Beauty Castle.
In 1958, Mr. Disney decided to finally put something inside his grand castle. As he inspected the insides of the castle, he saw that it was full of building materials and tarps. Walt pulled up a tarp to inspect what was underneath and was met with a swarm of fleas and feral cats. The castle eventually was cleared out and an everlasting treaty declared with the cats. An effective form of rodent control, the cats were spayed or neutered and allowed to roam the park. The pack of cats still roam the park, though they mostly stay hidden during the day. Except for Figaro; you can see him every day.
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Every day spent at DISNEYLAND is always better than a day spent anywhere else. A day in Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom that stands out from the others must be pretty amazing and I was lucky to have one of those days- it was the day I had breakfast at Disneyland’s private restaurant, Club 33! As if that wasn’t special enough, it was also the day I met a Disney Legend- Marty Sklar.
The morning would have been special even if it had ended after the exclusive breakfast at Club 33. That day, however, we were also treated to special discussions led by three Disney Legends, one of whom was Marty Sklar, who had been at DISNEYLAND from day one and worked closely with Walt Disney. We were literally surrounded by the fruits of Marty’s labor. While happy families entered the Magic Kingdom, excited about their special day, Marty regaled us with stories about the projects he had worked on and his working relationship with Walt Disney.
After our tour, we went to the Disneyana Store for a private reception. It was there that I nervously approached Mr. Sklar to tell him how much his work has meant to me over the years. (Being raised right, I called him Mr. Sklar, though he quickly asked me to call him Marty.) To cap off our discussion, he insisted that I pose for a picture with him and our brief discussion was recorded for posterity. Even if the picture hadn’t been taken, I still would have remembered that moment forever.
Marty lived a life that most of us dream of; helping his boss Walt Disney make his dreams come true. Long after Mr. Disney left us, Marty made sure that the new generations of Imagineers and Disneylanders continued to keep Walt’s dream alive and vibrant. That millions of people still visit Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom each year is a testament to Marty’s success.
Thank you, Mr. Sklar for making a wonderful day even more magical and for the countless wonderful memories your work has created for me over the years. I’m certain that you’re having a happy reunion with Walt Disney right now, filling him in on how his dream is still alive. Rest In Peace, Marty.
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Martin “Marty” Sklar, one of the first DISNEYLAND employees who worked alongside Walt Disney during the park’s first ten years has passed away at age 83.
Marty started at DISNEYLAND from the beginning, working on whatever project needed his assistance. He was there on opening day, working from an office behind City Hall. He eventually found himself at Walt Disney Imagineering, providing creative guidance and managing projects around the world. Mr. Sklar holds the unique distinction of having been in attendance at every Disney Theme Park on opening day, from DISNEYLAND to Shanghai Disney. He almost missed that last one, but he ended up keeping his streak going.
Marty’s importance to DISNEYLAND and the other Disney theme parks around the world is immeasurable. Outside of Walt Disney himself, nobody has been more important to DISNEYLAND than Mr. Sklar. He was proud of his work and the smiles that it put on the faces of children who might never know his name.
“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
“Do what you dream of doing and never lose sight of that.”
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“Until you see it, you’ll never believe there exists such a wonderland of entertainment that awaits you at DISNEYLAND.”
“Just imagine- if you were standing right here over 60 years ago, you’d be standing in the middle of an orange grove. One visionary man stood right where you are now, but instead of orange trees, he envisioned a Magic Kingdom. This man’s name was Walt Disney. And his dream would be called DISNEYLAND.”
“I grew up with DISNEYLAND. I can’t imagine my world without it. Walt put it best when he said ‘DISNEYLAND is a work of love’. And like all happy endings, it will be ours to treasure forever more.”
-Neil Patrick Harris
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Tucked away in Tomorrowland from 1955 until 1966 was the DISNEYLAND Art Corner. Guests could meet Disney artists like Roy Williams (who was better known as the Big Meeseketeer from The Mickey Mouse Club.) and purchase original Disney animation cels for just $1.50. Original artwork such as that sold at DISNEYLAND can now command thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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While many saw Roy Disney as being the money guy at the Disney Studios, he saw himself as someone who could be a little creative as well.
With the success of DISNEYLAND, there was more money around the company to work with. Roy decided to use his own share of the profits to invest in a slate of science fiction films. His brother Walt felt that the films were of dubious quality, but Roy still made the investment. The films didn’t exactly fail, but they weren’t successful either. Roy ended up sticking to the financial side of things.
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When Disney CEO Bob Iger approached NBC Universal about making a deal to trade Oswald for a sports commentator, NBC figured it was a no-brainer. They’d never even heard about Oswald’s theft from Walt Disney back in 1927. Unfortunately for them, they never consulted Universal Studios Japan before deciding to make a deal. Oswald was a huge draw for them, selling millions of dollars of merchandise and entertaining thousands of guests every day. Oswald’s loss was huge. Tokyo DISNEYLAND was thrilled to get back such a huge character.
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