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Where the Diz is

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Where the Diz is

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For most of us, the notion that Roy Disney no longer plays an active part in the day-to-day operation of the Walt Disney Company is sort of an abstract concept. By that I mean: We're aware that this is probably a bad thing. But we're not exactly sure why.

Well, "R" -- today's contributor here at JimHillMedia -- knows all too well the important role Roy played at the Mouse House. Which is why he really seems to be mourning the idea that Walt's nephew is now on the outside, looking in.

We often get to hear the voice of the fan at this website. The type of person who loves Disney almost blindly. But rarely do we get to hear the voice of the colleague. The upper level insider who actually knows how all the pieces fit at the Mouse Factory. Someone who's all too aware of the void that's been left now that Roy's left the building.

Here. Let's let "R" explain ...

When Roy Disney left the Walt Disney Company late last year he emptied Walt's old office of more than just the belongings of the Vice Chairman of the company. He took Disney out of Disney.

This is not a revelation, of course, and certainly not headline news. But something so dramatic happened when Roy left that only those inside the walls of the Mouse House know what it was. As one veteran Disney employee said, "When I went to Roy's office and saw the bare walls, empty rooms, and vacant hallway, I wanted to cry. The tragedy was too much to bear. I had to leave almost immediately. They don't know what they did."

Indeed "they" don't. Few on the outside do.

My association with the Walt Disney Company goes back to Walt and his brother Roy O. Disney through association with my family. I've known and been close to seven of the Nine Old Men, and many others like Ken Anderson, Claude Coats, and Wilfred Jackson. Jax, as he was known, timed "Steamboat Willie" on his harmonica in Walt's garage, and went back about as far as it was possible to go. I have worked with and for Disney on and off practically all my life. I have devoted my adult life to preserving the Disney heritage.

A while back I wanted to thank Roy for encouraging me to make a difficult business decision some years prior. We saw each other on random occasions and I thought it time to express my appreciation for his guidance and for showing confidence in my ability to create something worthy of his consideration.

I sincerely thought Roy might retire before I had the chance to say "thank you" for his help, and I wanted to make sure he knew I was a grateful friend. I stopped in to his office for what was supposed to be a ten-minute visit. Roy and I talked about my success and he was sincerely pleased to learn I had achieved my goals with his encouragement. The irony is his "encouragement" was to say no to my original suggestion. At the time I thought he was a real SOB. In the end, I achieved my goal on my own, but it was Roy who believed I could do it when I didn't have enough belief in myself.

"Its hard to say no to someone," Roy told me that day. "This place has so many things that need done, and I can't do all of them just now. How I wish I could." As he spoke he stared right through me. It was one of the most eerily wonderful things I have experienced in my life. I cannot, in mere words, express the electricity that passed between us. I felt decades of history, Disney history, move in the room. He talked about his uncle and father and their vision of the future and the fact that he was victorious to finally have a book published about his dad's contribution to the Disney legacy. I suppose you won't be surprised to learn the ten-minute chat lasted more than an hour.

When he was done I looked straight at him and said, "Roy, you do know you're the spirit of this company, don't you?" I blurted it out as though something had put the words in my mouth and demanded I say them just then. Afterward I was kind of afraid of what he might say, but he smiled sweetly and returned my gaze, took a deep breath, and sat back in his chair and said, "You know, I tend to think you're right!"

He went on to tell me that one thing God had blessed him with was a great memory and that he knows what Disney means to everyone. He really meant everyone. He once said to me in one of our talks, "In my granddad's time a man could make some mistakes in one town, pick up and move to the next town where no one knew him, and start over again fresh and clean. Today we don't have that luxury. Our history follows us wherever we go. Our steps have to be more carefully thought out. It takes so much longer to get something done. We must do it right the first time. We don't have time to waste."

What those on the outside don't realize is how much Roy means to Disney and how important he is. I've coined a phrase, "Roy is The Diz."

What left the Company a short time ago is The Diz. He was, and still is, warm and receptive to everyone's ideas and input. Nothing happened in a creative direction at Disney until the matter passed the "Did you check with Roy?" test. If he said OK, it went forward.

Are you getting the picture? Nothing happened at Disney of any artistic importance until Roy approved it. Everything, from how the Classic Collections would look to images on a T-shirt, were approved or reviewed by The Diz. Roy is the spirit of the Walt Disney Company.

So what is happening now that Roy isn't there? Nothing! The entire creative heart of Disney is stopped. Not gone, just stopped. Everyone is just, well, waiting for Roy to return. Like his uncle before him, from the low to the high Roy knew what was going on. Nothing skipped his gaze. He knows what's going on now, and what's going on is the long wait for the return of The Diz.

I was talking to Milt Kahl one day, long ago of course, and he said, "Drawing for Walt was one of the most difficult things I ever did in my life. I will never draw that way again. Every day that I went to work was painful. It was unnatural to draw or design that way. But we made his films for him the way he envisioned because we loved him." Without that love there would be no Disney.

Dear reader, without the love of and for Roy Edward Disney there is nothing to look forward to, because he is The Diz. They're waiting for the love to return to the Disney Company. You now know something no one has, as yet, told you. If love doesn't return to Disney, and soon, the stock won't amount to a hill of beans. We all know this to be true.

We are all waiting. Just waiting.

With love,


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