Roy Oliver Disney (June 24, 1893 – December 20, 1971)[1] was an American businessman, becoming the partner and co-founder, along with his younger brother Walt Disney, of Walt Disney Productions, since renamed The Walt Disney Company.

Early life

Roy was born to Irish-Canadian Elias Charles Disney and English-German-American Flora Call Disney in Chicago, Illinois. On July 1, 1911, Elias purchased a newspaper delivery route for The Kansas City Star. It extended from Twenty-seventh Street to the Thirty-first Street, and from Prospect Avenue to Indiana Avenue. Roy and Walt were put to work delivering the newspapers. The Disneys delivered the morning newspaper The Kansas City Times to about 700 customers, and the evening and Sunday The Kansas City Star to more than 600. The number of customers served increased with time.[2]

Roy graduated from the Manual Training High School of Kansas City in 1912. He left the paper delivery route and worked on a farm over the summer. He then found employment as a bank clerk along with his brother Raymond Arnold Disney at the First National Bank of Kansas City.[2]

Roy served in the United States Navy from 1917 to 1919.[2] A year later his brother Walt tried to join the U.S. Army but was refused because he was underage. After Roy contracted tuberculosis, he was discharged from military duty and became a banker in Los Angeles. In 1923 Walt moved to Hollywood, joined Roy, and the two founded the Disney Bros. Studio. The brothers ordered kit houses from Pacific Ready Cut Homes (a Los Angeles company) and, in 1928, built their homes side by side on Lyric Avenue in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles.[3]

Walt Disney Productions

While Walt was the creative man, Roy was the one who made sure the company was financially stable. Roy and Walt both founded Disney Studios as brothers, but Walt would buy out most of Roy's share in 1929 so, unlike Max and Dave Fleischer of rival Fleischer Studios, Roy was not a co-producer. However, Roy would be equal partner in all facets of the production company.

Roy became the company's first CEO in 1929, although the official title was not given until 1968. He also shared the role of chairman of the board with Walt from 1945. Walt however dropped the chairman title in 1960 so he could focus more on the creative aspects of the company. After Walt Disney's death in 1966, Roy postponed his retirement to oversee construction of what was then known as Disney World. He later renamed it Walt Disney World as a tribute to his brother. Roy became the president of Walt Disney Productions on December 15, 1966, and remained so until 1968.

Personal life

Roy was married to Edna Francis[4] from April 1925 until his death. Their son, Roy Edward Disney, was born on January 10, 1930.[5] Throughout his life, Roy rejected the publicity and fame that came with being Walt's brother. He was extremely camera shy and a passive individual, resulting in few public photos being in existence.

REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater

REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) is an interdisciplinary contemporary arts center for innovative visual, performing and media arts in downtown Los Angeles, located inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex. Opened in November 2003 as the initial professional presenting arm of CalArts, REDCAT has since garnered a reputation for groundbreaking theater and a worldwide arts following as a launching platform for up-and-coming local artists, and for introducing internationally acclaimed productions and exhibitions to L.A. audiences that are often premiering on the West Coast for the first time. The art center consists of a 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) gallery space with revolving exhibitions, a 200–270-seat flexible black box theater, and a lounge cafe/bar hosting public conversations and a bookstore offering diverse art publications.

As the Walt Disney Concert Hall came under construction in 1992, Roy Edward Disney, son of Roy Oliver and Edna Disney, saw an opportunity for California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA to have a presence downtown. With the approval of The Walt Disney Company's Board of Directors and support from the County of Los Angeles, the project's lead architect, Frank Gehry, whose children also graduated from CalArts, was tasked to design the new venue. Roy E. Disney and his wife Patricia (Patty) personally matched the Disney Company gift for REDCAT's construction and, to extend the memory of Roy O. Disney who built The Walt Disney Company with his brother Walt and oversaw the construction of CalArts' campus, dedicated the new art center to his parents' name. CalArts President Steven D. Lavine cites the pairing of high caliber renegade experimentation and a social space for artist-community engagement, especially those in London (e.g. The Cottesloe Theatre as part of the Royal National Theatre), as a pointed consideration for the venue design and its conception as an institutional laboratory.[1]

Mark Murphy was brought on board as executive director of REDCAT to guide the vision of the new organization. He observed a dearth of interdisciplinary art spaces in Los Angeles the likes of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Wexner Center for the Arts, and the Walker Art Center, or the Alte Oper in Frankfurt and the Hebbel am Ufer in Berlin.[2] This impetus propelled initiatives for commissioned works, artist residencies, collaborations, and public programs to facilitate dialogue on the creative city within the world arts arena. Harvey Lichtenstein, president and executive producer of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, was brought in as a consultant during the development phases of REDCAT during 1999.


After Walt Disney World opened in October 1971, Roy Oliver Disney finally retired. On December 20, 1971 at age 78, he died from a intracranial hemorrhage. He is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial-Park Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles[6][7]


Roy O. Disney's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Walt Disney World Railroad #4 Roy O. Disney

One of the Walt Disney World Railroad locomotives was named after Roy.[8] On June 6, 2002, his son Roy E. Disney rededicated this locomotive in his father's honor.[9] As of 2016, this locomotive became a hundred years old.[10]

One of the Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad locomotives was also named after Roy.[citation needed]

A statue of Roy Oliver Disney seated on a park bench beside Minnie Mouse is located in the Town Square section of Main Street, U.S.A., at the Magic Kingdom theme park in Florida. A duplicate is located outside the Team Disney building at Disney's corporate headquarters in Burbank, California. There is a third statue at the Tokyo Disneyland theme park. The Roy O. Disney Suite is located on the top floor of the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.

In 2014, Roy O. Disney was portrayed in the feature film Walt Before Mickey by Jon Heder.

See also


  1. ^ Jones, Jack (December 21, 1971). "Roy O. Disney". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 24, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Barrier (2007). The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. pp. 18–20. 
  3. ^ Pollard-Terry, Gayle (July 16, 2006). "12,000 easy pieces". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 November 2017. 
  4. ^ Daniel (2009-08-01). "Disney's Magic Makers: Edna Francis Disney". Netcot.com. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  5. ^ "The Windows on Main Street: Roy E. Disney". Wdwcentral.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2012-10-31. 
  6. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 12402). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  7. ^ "Roy O Disney (1893-1971) Grave Site BillionGraves". BillionGraves. Retrieved 2017-08-13. 
  8. ^ DeFeo, Todd (July 31, 2015). "A Closer Look at the Roy O. Disney at Walt Disney World". Railfanning.org. Archived from the original on February 17, 2017. Retrieved May 20, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Carolwood Chronicle, Summer 2002" (PDF). Carolwood Pacific Historical Society. Summer 2002. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 27, 2017. Retrieved May 27, 2017. 
  10. ^ "Carolwood Chronicle, Winter 2016" (PDF). Carolwood Pacific Historical Society. Winter 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 20, 2017. Retrieved May 28, 2017. 


Further reading

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
First CEO
CEO of The Walt Disney Company
Succeeded by
Donn Tatum
Preceded by
Walt Disney
Disney President
Succeeded by
Donn Tatum
Preceded by
Walt Disney
Disney Chairman
Succeeded by
Donn Tatum