Roy E. Disney, nephew to Walt Disney and ever-present figure at the Walt Disney Company, passed away this morning at the age of 79. Disney had been battling stomach cancer for nearly a year.
Roy E. Disney began his career with the Walt Disney Company making nature films, moving on to become a board member with the company in 1977 even though his role was largely as a figurehead. In 1984, Disney quit the board abruptly out of frustration with the company’s direction, especially the way the feature animation studio had been allowed to languish. His departure led to a corporate purge that replaced existing studio figures with Michael Eisner, Frank Wells, and Jeffery Katzenberg, and ultimately led to a revival in Disney’s animated feature film division with the release of The Little Mermaid in 1989. However, friction between Disney and Eisner ultimately led to Disney leaving the board of directors again in 2003, rallying shareholders into a 45% no-confidence vote in Eisner in 2004 that contributed to Eisner’s departure as chief executive officer in 2005, a year before his contract expired. Disney rejoined the company again on July 8, 2005, as a Director Emeritus and consultant.