He was more than just Walt's nephew, the other Roy or the third most famous Disney. Roy E. Disney helped plant Disney Resorts around the world and sparked the Disney Animation renaissance of the late 1980's. Instilled with memories of Walt and his father, he forced the corporation with his family name to find its soul and personally saved the Walt Disney Company twice.
Roy Edward Disney was born to Edna and Roy Oliver Disney on January 10, 1930, in Los Angeles, California. After moving to Los Angeles from Kansas City, Roy's father and uncle founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in 1923. The studio's success led to incorporation of the Walt Disney Company in 1929, and the younger Roy learned about the business of film and animation. After graduating from Pomona College in 1951, he joined the family business in 1953, as an assistant director and producer. In 1967, Roy was elected to the Walt Disney Company's Board of Directors.
Unhappy with the company's direction, Roy resigned from the Walt Disney Company in 1977. Though he wasn't invoved in day-to-day operations, Disney maintained his seat on the executive board. After the Walt Disney Company narrowly avoided a hostile takeover in 1984, Roy sought to strengthen the company's management. To save the Disney Company, Roy orchestrated the removal of CEO Ron W. Miller (Walt's son-in-law & Diane Disney's husband). Disney personally recruited Michael Eisner (Chief Executive Officer), Frank Wells (Chief Operating Officer) and Jeffrey Katzenberg (Disney Studios President). Roy returned to head the animation studios and the Walt Disney Company flourished.
After Roy's return, the animation studios produced highly successful films. Inspired by the studio's past, Roy brought a little Disney magic to hits like Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and The Lion King (1994). Disney also jump started his uncle's planned Fantasia sequel, producing Fantasia 2000. In 1998 Roy E. Disney was named a Disney Legend, the award presented by CEO Michael Eisner. However the Disney-Eisner relationship would dissolve like a toon drenched in The Dip.
In 1994, COO Frank Wells died in a helicopter crash and Eisner forced Katzenberg out. As CEO, Eisner began installing his own executives throughout the Disney Company. Eisner's influence on the board increased as Disney's dwindled. Roy felt the company had become possesed with a cold coroporate mentality, pursuing financial success at the cost of its soul.
Roy resigned from the Disney Company's Executive Board in November of 2003 and began a Save Disney campaign. Disney rallied shareholders and his campaign pushed Eisner to step down as CEO in September 2005, a year short of completing his contract. With Eisner on the way out, Roy rejoined the Disney board as a consultant and non-voting Director Emeritus.
After a year-long bout with stomach cancer, Roy died on December 16, 2009 in Newport Beach, CA. Although Diane Disney Miller is heavily involved with the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Disney Foundation and other charitable causes, Roy E. Disney was the last Disney family member directly involved with the Walt Disney Company's board.