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Roy Disney: The Not-So-Silent Partner

Walt's older brother managed the business side of the Disney empire.

Chris Queen


June 28, 2013 - 1:00 pm
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Roy O. Disney

Walt Disney gets the lion’s share of the credit for the success of the Disney company in its first four decades, and deservedly so. But many people don’t realize the influence that Walt’s older brother Roy had on the company. Roy served as Walt’s business partner and handled the business decisions for the company from its founding  until his passing in 1971. Bob Thomas, author of Walt Disney: An American Original, published Building A Company: Roy O. Disney And The Creation Of An Entertainment Empire. Thomas’ biography of Roy tells his story like no one else can.

Roy Disney was born eight years before his brother Walt. Their two older brothers had grown up and moved away, so Roy took Walt under his wing, and the two were inseparable for many years. Roy served in Europe in World War I, and his brother’s service prompted Walt to serve with the Red Cross at the tail end of the war. Later, Roy contracted tuberculosis and moved to California to recuperate. When Walt decided to strike out on his own in Los Angeles, Roy was in a VA hospital in nearby Sawtelle. Walt visited Roy to tell him of his plans to start a studio. Roy walked out of the hospital with his brother and never looked back.

In the early days of the studio, Roy worked a camera, but that was the extent of his work in “show business.” The two brothers married – Walt married Lillian Bounds, while Roy tied the knot with his longtime girlfriend, Edna Francis. As the studio grew, Roy traveled back and forth to New York to meet with distributors or to secure financing. Many times, Roy found himself faced with the choice of acquiring more funds or refusing to implement one of Walt’s ideas. Roy rarely told Walt “no.”

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Too bad the Disneys died. I would have learned from the masters themselves if they were still alive, to take back for the Walt Disney Corporation, what the likes of Michael Eisner and Robert Iger took away from it, which was its dignity, and its reputation. Thanks to Eisner, we've got cheap sequels to various movies (Return of Jafar and King of Thieves was all right, but the rest were garbage unfortunately), Gay Day at the various Disney theme parks (honestly, that scandal among others are one of the reasons why I'm unwilling to go to Walt Disney World, or any Disney theme park in America, for that matter), heck, even Obama. And thanks to Robert Iger, we have him promoting the Democrat Party line, cutting three crucial minutes of The Path to 9/11 simply because the Democrats didn't like what was on the tape, won't even release the DVDs and, heck, won't even sell the rights to another person to release it in SPITE of it getting rave reviews and being an overnight hit. That's not even getting into GCB and Modern Family being produced under HIS watch. Its really sad how Disney has fallen. Chris Queen, you probably should take over Disney and ensure its returned to Walt Disney's roots. You have a lot of expertise in his field, plus modern knowledge as well, so I think you can pull it off.
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