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Friday, January 8, 2021

Disney People: Roy Disney, Part Two



After contracting tuberculosis, Roy Disney was honorably discharged from the Navy and sent to a military hospital in Southern California, where navy doctors felt the climate would be conducive to his convalescence. Before joining the Navy, Roy had worked as a bank teller, so he quickly found work in his new home. (It was through his prior bank job in Kansas City that he had met his future wife.) 


Roy didn’t have much time to settle in when his younger brother blew into town. After suffering a bankruptcy in Kansas City, Walt Disney decided to go west to California to follow his dreams. Walt had an idea for a series of short pictures in which a live action girl would be inserted into a cartoon world. Roy was skeptical and initially watched his brother’s attempts to sell the cartoon from a distance. After Margaret Winkler signed a contract with Walt to produce the series for Universal Pictures, the younger Disney quickly realized that he was out of his element and he instinctively went to the one person he knew could help him turn the contract into a viable business- his brother Roy Disney.


Roy was intrigued, but initially resistant. He knew nothing about the motion picture business and didn’t want to be involved in “show business” at all. However, he had promised his brother that he would always look out for him, providing any assistance he might need. After convincing himself that maybe these newfangled motion pictures might become huge- and getting Walt to agree to solely take care of the show side of things while he took care of the business, Roy quit his job and formed Disney Bros. Studios.










Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Disney People: Roy Disney, Part One



Roy Oliver Disney was born on June 24, 1893 to Elias and Flora Disney in Chicago, Illinois. Roy joined older brothers Herbert and Ray Disney in the strict Disney household. Elias Disney was a stern father who was seemingly always investing in failing enterprises like a jelly company or newspaper distributorship though was primarily employed as a construction contractor. Elias expected that all family members fully contribute to the family’s survival and thus Herbert, Ray and Roy entered the working world at tender ages. Desperate for a daughter, Flora convinced Elias to have another child and in 1901, there was a new addition to the family- Walter Elias Disney. As the brother closest in age to the new Disney, Roy was unofficially assigned to look after him, a job he would have for the rest of his life. The final Disney sibling- Ruth Flora Disney- would complete the family in 1903.


Elias would soon deem Chicago to be an unsuitable place to live after a crime wave, so he packed up his family and moved to Marceline, MO. The family’s time spent in Marceline would later be looked upon fondly by both Roy and Walt. It was unfortunately short lived, as Elias was unable to make a go of the farm he had purchased. While both Roy and Walt later described the trauma of watching their family’s belongings get auctioned off, Roy’s takeaway from the dire situation was less emotional than Walt’s. His father’s business failures made Roy become more fiscally conservative than his brother. While Walt decided that it was the poor quality of his father’s ideas- not his lack of business acumen- that sunk the family’s prospects, Roy decided that it was his father’s reckless spending that led them to ruin- and he was not about to follow his lead. 


The family relocated to Kansas City, where Elias purchased a newspaper distributorship. By this time, Herbert and Ray had tired of Elias’ overbearing, abusive attitude and moved out of the house, leaving Roy and Walt as Elias’ main delivery boys. Both Roy and Walt would later describe this time in their lives as bleak. Roy would choose to use the military to escape the Disney household, joining the navy and promising to still come around if Walt needed him.








Monday, January 4, 2021

Disney People: Roy Disney, The Introduction


In the 1960’s, Walt Disney Productions was riding high. While the studio had been largely successful for most of its 40+ years, it zoomed into the stratosphere at a time when other studios were rapidly losing ground to television and a changing entertainment landscape. When other studios shunned television in the 1950’s, Walt Disney had embraced it, using the new medium to promote his latest projects. He was handsomely rewarded for doing so; his amazing magic kingdom opened before a television audience of over 100 million viewers. Literally overnight, a pilgrimage to his magic kingdom in Anaheim, California became a dream of millions of children around the world.


While a great deal of the success the company enjoyed was credited to Walt Disney and his team of artists, the most important component to the company’s success was arguably
Walt’s brother Roy Disney. Roy’s contributions to the company are often overlooked and even when he is mentioned, he’s often portrayed as a skinflint who stood in the way of Walt Disney’s biggest dreams. In actuality, the Disney brothers had a relationship that was closer and more complex than most articles or books depict. (This site is guilty of this as well.) So to kick off the new year, we shall correct this oversight by bringing you the story of the lesser known Disney brother- Roy Oliver Disney.