Roy Edward Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney, was so committed to his uncle's creative spirit that he mounted revolts that led to the unseating of two of the company's chief executives who he felt were leading the company astray. He died one year ago at age 79.
As chairman of Disney animation, Disney helped guide the studio to a new golden age of animation with an unprecedented string of artistic and box-office successes that included "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King."
But it was a long road to those successes. After 20 years of working on nature films for the studio, he quit in 1977 when he was denied a larger role in the company after the death of his uncle Walt and his father, Roy O. Disney. He remained on its board as a director but was largely a figurehead.
Disney went on to partner with lawyer Stanley Gold and became a successful financier through Shamrock Holdings, where he built up wealth to ease his reliance on his inherited Disney stock.
When he had accumulated enough money and influence independent of Disney, he made his move against the company that had increasingly frustrated him. He quit the Disney board in 1984, causing a stock turmoil that led the unseating of the company's management. Using his influence, Disney was able to bring in a whole new management team led by Michael Eisner.
The victory was short-lived. Tensions began building between Disney and Eisner when the company's president and chief operating officer, Frank Wells, died in 1994, leaving Eisner solely in control of the company. In 2003, Disney called for Eisner's resignation, saying the company had come to be perceived as "rapacious, soul-less and always looking for the 'quick buck' rather than long-term value." Eisner resigned in 2005.
Disney initially fought the hiring of Eisner's successor, Robert A. Iger, but relented when Iger made peace, offering Disney an office at the company's Burbank studios, a consultancy and the title "director emeritus."
Despite wealth estimated at $600 million, Disney remained shy and outwardly unpretentious, according to people who knew him. He also was involved in several philanthropic activities, including serving on the board of trustees of the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, where he helped carry out the dream of Walt and his father to build and sustain a top arts college in Southern California.
For much more on his turbulent career, creative passion and the sometimes tense drama within his family, read Roy Edward Disney's obituary by The Times. Also, view a photo gallery of his life.
-- Michael Farr
Photo: Roy Disney, in the Shamrock Center in Burbank on December 1, 2003. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times