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  • 12.16.09

Roy E. Disney, 1930-2009

A look at the organization that his uncle built, and which Roy fought for in his waning years.

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Roy Disney has died. Disneyphiles know Roy, a longtime executive at Disney, as the fiery nephew of Walt who resigned the
board of the company in 2003, along with Stanley Gold, and fired a
deadly shot at then-chairman Michael Eisner in the process in a letter for the ages:

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You well know that you and I have had serious differences of opinion about the direction and style of management in the Company in recent years. For whatever reason, you have driven a wedge between me and those I work with even to the extent of requiring some of my associates to report my conversations and activities back to you. I find this intolerable…

…Michael [Eisner], I believe your conduct has resulted from my clear and
unambiguous statements to you and to the Board of Directors that after 19 years at the helm you are no longer the best person to run the Walt Disney Company. You had a very successful first 10-plus years at the company in partnership with Frank Wells, for which I salute you. But, since Frank’s untimely death in 1994, the Company has lost it focus, its creative energy, and its heritage.

Roy and Mickey

In many ways, Roy was fighting for an strangely organized company that Walt created, dedicated to refining brilliant ideas rather than hoovering profits. To wit, check out his org chart of Disney under Walt (above).

As At Issue points out, this wasn’t your standard pyramidal corporate hierarchy–it was one dedicated to giving autonomy to the people actually making the films, and letting each of their own processes work themselves out. Naturally, as Disney grew into a corporate behemoth, that organization was swept away in favor of layers of VP’s and SVP’s. And Disney never again make movies like they used to–Just as Roy always argued.

[Chart via WeLoveDataVis]

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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