Dave Bossert Remembers Roy E. Disney

| November 11, 2013 | 1 Reply

On January 10, 2010, at Roy Edward Disney’s memorial service at the El Capitan Theatre, Roy’s widow, Leslie DeMeuse Disney said, “You couldn’t help but love Roy. He was all of us. He was so much like us. He never put anybody below him. He was always your equal no matter what you did with him, he was always an equal.”

RoyLeslieDisneyRoy Disney and Leslie DeMeuse Disney at the premiere of “Morning Light”
Photo: Phil Uhl

After reading Dave Bossert’s book, “Remembering Roy E. Disney – Memories and Photos of a Storied Life,” you will understand exactly what she meant, especially when Dave reveals that Roy loved going to Costco!

Remembering-Roy-Cover

The book, published by Disney Editions, is not so much a biography about Roy, but a collection of stories by the people who knew him best. When reading the book, you feel that Dave has invited you to a great cocktail party where everyone is telling stories about their friend Roy.

“This is my first book,” said Dave. “And I really just wanted to paint a verbal picture that celebrated Roy as the person I knew and worked with. I didn’t want it to be an in-depth biography, as I stated in the introduction to the book. There are professional biographers that could do that, and hopefully will someday, but my book isn’t that; it’s a personal account of my relationship with stories from others that knew him as well.”

“I think that there is more of a warmth to my book like I am telling the reader a story, almost one on one,” continues Dave.  “I’ve gotten a lot of compliments about my writing style in this book because it has engaged the readers in a more intimate way all in celebration of Roy.”

Dave divides the book into chapters that are more like major scenes in Roy’s life. They include The Walt Disney Company, his interest in sailing and flying, his philanthropy, his values and of course his involvement in film and animation.

“There were tons of stories that didn’t make it into the book,” said Dave.  “Partly because I want to do another one that centers more on the “Fantasia 2000” years which are rich with some great stories and adventures.”

From what Dave and Roy Disney’s other associates have said about him, like his father and his uncle, Roy was either working on a project or planning the next one. According to Dave, “We were actually talking about doing another Fantasia movie that centered on world music.  We had a few meetings about it and were pinning up ideas for sequences, including a few that were already done.  We were discussing it on and off.”

Fantasia” was Roy’s favorite movie for a number of reasons. According to Dave, “He liked the visualization of the music and viewed it [“Fantasia”] as really being at the pinnacle of the animation art form.”

1000px-Fantasia_2000Image: The Walt Disney Comapny

Just because a movie like “Fantasia” is your favorite movie doesn’t seem to be enough of a reason to make a second movie, but for Roy there were other reasons. Dave said, “The reasons for doing another Fantasia were based on his Uncle Walt’s desire to have an ever-evolving movie that would be released every so many years with new segments. ‘Fantasia 2000’ was a continuation of that vision.”

As with any film, there are always scenes that get cut from a film. Dave said that in the case of “Fantasia 2000” there were scenes that were cut from the various segments and there were entire segments dropped or totally changed.

One would think that with Roy being so passionate about The Walt Disney Company and taking drastic measure to save the company not once but twice, he always was at odds with various company executives.  That was not the case.  Roy had some great relationships around the company.  He was more of a “behind-the-scenes” kind of guy.  Dave said that if Roy picked up the phone or met with someone, they listened.

11Roy in his studio office with a Moviola
Photo: The Walt Disney Company

Even though he grew up in and around The Walt Disney Studios, Roy’s first job out of college was as a page at NBC.  He then became a production assistant on “Dragnet.” In 1954, Roy joined The Walt Disney Company and stayed with the Company until 1977. As Roy Patrick Disney said, “During that time he witnessed the birth of his four children, the death of his Uncle Walt, the opening of Walt Disney World and the death of his father, Roy O. Disney.”

Although he was still on the Board of Directors, Roy left The Walt Disney Company in 1977 to produce his own movies. In the six years that he was gone, The Walt Disney Company was adrift and in a state of decline.

According to a November 4, 1999 story in the Associated Press, “In the 1970s, old-guard executives – whom many believed ran the company under a ‘What would Walt do?’ philosophy – derided Disney [Roy] as the ‘idiot nephew.’” It’s hard to believe now that back then Roy was perceived in that way.  “However, there were a few times during certain periods where he did feel a bit marginalized,” said Dave. “Especially when he was pushed out of the company.  He talked with me about that a few times.” Roy, who at that time was one of the Company’s largest shareholders, said, “The years leading up to that were hard.  I just felt creatively the company was not going anywhere interesting.  It was very stifling.” In 1983, during the takeover battle, Roy resigned his seat on the board.

insert16Roy with Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World in 2005
Photo: The Walt Disney Company

During this time, the now infamous hostile takeover attempt from financiers Saul Steinberg and Irwin A. Jacobs was taking place. Steinberg and Jacobs wanted to take over The Walt Disney Company and dismantle it by selling off its parts.  Sid Bass, his brothers and father, came to the rescue and became the largest shareholders. They brought Roy back on board and thus started Roy’s first of two “white knight” rescues of the company he loved so much with the hiring of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells.  Many years later, Roy’s second “white knight” rescue of The Walt Disney Company would involve, interestingly enough, Michael Eisner again.  Only this time it was for his removal from the Company.

When the new board met, their first order of business was to eliminate the animation department, but Roy said, “No, I will take care of animation; it is too important to this company.” “Roy took animation under his wing and was certainly happy with that,” said Dave.  Because of Roy’s passion for animation and under his guidance, this time is now referred to the “renaissance” of animation or “The Second Golden Age of Disney Animation.” Dave said that Roy didn’t just focus his attention solely on animation, but he also would visit and review other things going on all around the company. Since Roy was the Vice Chairman of the company for many years and therefore was involved at a high level in many different aspects of the company, he knew what was going on in every division.

6Left to Right: Roy O. Disney, Edna Disney, unknown, Walt Disney,
unknown, Alice, Roy E. Disney
Photo: The Walt Disney Company

One of the things that struck me as I was reading Dave’s book was how much Roy E. was the perfect blend of Walt and Roy O.  Walt and Roy O. seemed to have a very symbiotic relationship.  Walt excelled at artistic, blue sky imagination and creativity and Roy O. excelled at finding ways to always make Walt’s dreams a reality.  Roy E. found a way to beautifully balance those two qualities and have the best of both worlds.

insert12Roy E. Disney sitting with the bronze statue of his father Roy O. Disney and Minnie Mouse
in the Legends Plaza at The Walt Disney Studios
Photo: The Walt Disney Company

“I think that Roy did find that balance quite well,” said Dave. “He understood what the artists needed and he also knew that it was a business. But above all, Roy knew that it was all about quality and the passion of the people creating the magic very much like his Uncle Walt understood. If you make something of quality, it will have a very long shelf life and that is proven every day when you visit the Disney theme parks or pop a Disney Blu-ray in and watch any one of the classic Disney animated feature films.”

In the book, we get to learn a great deal more about Roy’s other passions: sailing and flying.  One of Roy’s sailing goals was to win the Transpacific Yacht Race (Transpac).  This is an offshore yacht race starting off in Point Fermin, San Pedro (near Los Angeles) and ending off Diamond Head Lighthouse in Honolulu, Hawaii.  First held in 1906, this is considered one of yachting’s premier offshore races. Roy had built and helmed a number of open class racers all named Pyewacket, after the witch’s cat in the 1958 motion picture, “Bell, Book & Candle.”  In 1997, Roy suffered a broken leg from a car crash and was not able to participate in that year’s race.  However, his son, Roy Patrick Disney, also an avid sailor, took the helm of the racer and not only won the race, but beat the old time record.  Pyewacket crossed the Pacific in 7 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes and 27 seconds, ending the yacht Merlin’s 1977 record.

15Roy with his son Roy Patrick Disney
Photo: The Walt Disney Company

Roy certainly was disappointed that he wasn’t on the Pyewacket that year, but Dave said, “In true competitive nature Roy said he was going to beat that record setting win because his oldest son Roy Patrick Disney was on the boat for the 1997 win!!”  Although Roy didn’t set a new time record, he did break his son’s record by four hours and took first place in the 1999 race with a new Pyewacket yacht.

On December 21, 2009, five days after Roy E. Disney passed away, Gary Jobson, president of US SAILING, said this about what Roy Disney meant to the sport: “Roy Disney was great for the sport of sailing. He set a high example for all of us, as a top competitor, visionary and philanthropist. Roy has inspired so many young people to follow their dream of life on the water. Our sport will miss him.”

The book concludes with Dave talking about the inevitable, the death of Roy E. Disney.  He said that Roy was cremated and some of his ashes were spread in the Pacific Ocean near the start of the Transpac race and some were spread at the finish line.  The remainder of his ashes were sprinkled on Diamondhead in Oahu. Three locations that clearly brought pleasure and joy to Roy. A memorial service was held for Roy on Sunday, January 10, 2010 at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.  There were a number of touching moments befitting this extraordinary life including an announcement by Bob Iger that the animation building would now be known as the Roy E. Disney Animation Building. Certainly an honor well-deserved.

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 12.10.13 AMAlton Fitzgerald White
Photo: Alton Fitzgerald White

The memorial service was anything but sad.  Those in attendance were asked not to wear black, but bright colors or Hawaiian shirts. Celebrating his life were friends and family, animators, actors and studio heads.  Among those was Alton Fitzgerald White, who is currently playing Mufasa in the Broadway production of The Lion King. Dave said that Alton and a choir performed “They Live In You” from The Lion King.

62John Lasseter, Roy Disney, Thomas Schumacher at the opening of Mary Poppins, The Musical
Photo: The Walt Disney Company

“Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Roy E. Disney,” said Alton. “I was truly honored and humbled that Thomas Schumacher, President of Disney Theatrical Group, trusted me to perform and to represent The Lion King.”  Having just opened the Las Vegas Company of The Lion King at The Mandalay Bay Hotel, Alton was flown to Los Angeles on the morning of the memorial.  “I didn’t know until I got there that my performance would be closing the ceremony,” said Alton.  “I was also told that ‘They Live In You’ was one of, if not Roy’s very favorite song in the entire Disney catalogue! Having that awesome opportunity is a highlight of my career that I will never, ever forget!”

“After the performance, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” said Dave.  “It was a wonderful way to conclude Roy’s life celebration.”.

daveroyDave Bossert, Joe Grant, Roy Disney at Joe Grant’s 95th Birthday; May 2003
Photo: The Walt Disney Company

Dave Bossert, who became a close friend of Roy E. Disney, started working at The Walt Disney Company in 1984.  The first animated feature he worked on was “The Black Cauldron.”  “I actually first started going to school at the State University of New York at Farmingdale for advertising art and one of my classes was a TV graphics class,” said Dave. “It was the first time I created some animation with my own artwork. Right around that time I read an article in the NY Times about CalArts in Valencia, California which had a program to train new animators for Disney. So I sent my portfolio out to the school and ultimately got accepted and given a Disney scholarship.”

Today, Dave heads up the Walt Disney Animation Studios Special Projects group and is working with partners and colleagues all around the Walt Disney Company on an eclectic array of projects all over the globe.

Dave has contributed his talents to a number of classic Disney animated features including “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” and many others. He worked with Roy on “Fantasia 2000,” where he served as the Artistic Coordinator and Visual Effects Supervisor and served as the Associate Producer on the award winning and Academy Award nominated Disney/Dali short film, “Destino.”

Dave also serves as the Artistic Supervisor for the Disney Restoration Team.  He oversaw many of the Disney animated shorts and the restoration of some classic Disney films including “Bambi,” “Cinderella,” “Lady and the Tramp,” Sleeping Beauty,” “Fantasia,” “Snow White,” and his favorite animated feature, “Pinocchio.”

“Of the Disney classics, ‘Pinocchio’ is the one for me because it is the most lush, beautifully animated work of art,” says Dave. “To me, it represents the pinnacle of the art form during that early golden age of animation. The level of detail and craftsmanship is awe inspiring.”

As for which was his favorite animated feature that he worked on, Dave said that it is kind of like asking which of your children is your favorite. It’s always a tough question for a number of reasons. “Every film you do has its unique set of challenges and you get to work with different artists,” said Dave.  “That said, I usually point to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” because it was a terrific international crew of artists and I got to live in London for almost a year working on it. It was a very memorable and fun picture to be part of for many reasons and it was a great film.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 12.16.01 AM

Recently, Disney released a new iPad app, Disney Animated, to critical acclaim.  Dave was the co-author of the app.  He said that working on this opened up a whole new avenue of creativity for him.  “I was just thrilled by the critical acclaim for the iPad App Disney Animated,” said Dave. “We had put so much hard work and effort into that app and had a really fantastic team working on it. Between my co-author Theo Gray and the teams at Walt Disney Animation Studios, the Disney Interactive Group, and Touch Press in London it was an amazing group of talented people that brought this “coffee table” app together.”

“The amount of material that we put into it is just staggering. In fact, just in the Color Map page that features all 52 Disney animated feature films there are over 26,000 imbedded images alone. It is the most robust and interactive app ever made by Walt Disney Animation Studios and we are extremely proud of it. It’s just unbelievable how much there is in this app; it really is a tremendous value for the price.”

In addition to Dave’s current workload, he is working on a second book and has several other book ideas in the works.

 

References:

Interview with Dave Bossert
Dave Bossert, Remembering Roy E. Disney: Memories and Photos of a Storied Life (New York/Los Angeles: Disney Editions, 2013)
Interview with Alton Fitzgerald White
Schneider, M (1999, November 4). Nephew is Disney’s last Disney, Associated Press
Ravindhran, S (2010, January 10) KABC-TV (Los Angeles, CA)
Tripp, T (2009, December 21). Ocean Racing World Mourns Roy Disney, Oceanlines.biz
Wikipedia

 



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Category: Disney, Disney World, Disneyland, Merchandise, News

  • Linda Tompkins

    Roy was a smart caring wonderful man.