Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Roy Disney Dies at 79

Roy Edward Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney whose commitment to his uncle's creative spirit prompted him to mount revolts that led to the unseating of two of the company's chief executives and a revival of the studio's legendary animation unit, has died. He was 79. Disney, who had been battling cancer, died this morning, according to Clifford A. Miller, a spokesman for Disney's company Shamrock Holdings.

Disney toiled for years in the shadow of his famous uncle and his father, Roy O. Disney, who behind the scenes ran the business side of the Walt Disney Co. for his brother. But the quiet man in the cardigan sweater would emerge as a forceful protector of family traditions.

"People always underestimated Roy," said Peter Schneider, the former president of Walt Disney Feature Animation. "You underestimate Roy at your peril, as many people have learned."

Disney devoted the first 20 years of his career to making nature films, among them "Pancho, A Dog of the Plains," "The Owl That Didn't Give A Hoot" and an Oscar-nominated short subject "Mysteries of the Deep." After the death of Walt in 1966 and Roy's father in 1971, the younger Disney was spurned in his efforts to take a larger role with the company. He finally quit in 1977, but remained on its board as a director, where he was largely a figurehead.

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