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.