Roy Disney: The Not-So-Silent Partner

Roy O. Disney looks over the dedication plaque for Walt Disney World. Roy O. Disney looks over the dedication plaque for Walt Disney World.

Even though Roy rarely ventured into the creative realm, he was no silent partner. Roy made his opinions clear, sometimes in sly, creative ways. The late John Hench, extraordinary Imagineer, told one story to Thomas:

It amused all of us when we used to take audience reaction [at the studio] to scenes or rough cuts of features. There was always one comment: "Walt, stick to shorts." We knew who that was: it was Roy. Walt was so annoyed. He'd say, "I gotta find this guy and explain to him. He just doesn't have the right spirit here. He keeps saying, 'stick to shorts' all the time." He never did find out, because none of us ever told him.

The company continued to grow, the studio moved from cartoon shorts to animated features, then on to live action features, documentaries, television, and theme parks. Roy's travels, usually with Edna, took him all over the world, seeking new markets and helping make Walt's new dreams a reality. Roy wasn't just a brother and business partner to Walt: he was a trusted right-hand man and an integral part of the company's success.

The employees at the studio for the most part divided into "Walt's Boys" and "Roy's Boys." Walt handled the creative end of the company, of course, and according to Thomas, Walt motivated them out of the sheer force of his genius as opposed to personally. "Roy's Boys," handling the business aspects of the company on the other hand, felt great affection for their boss. Thomas uses variations on the phrase "fierce loyalty" over and over throughout the book to describe employees' attitudes toward the elder Disney. Another employee in Europe appreciated how Roy "was always looking to the future" in a business sense that was much different from Walt's futuristic plans.

Around the studio, employees knew Roy for his even temper and the atmosphere he brought to the office. Harry Archinal, an executive in the foreign sales department, told Thomas:

Roy brought a calming presence to everything... You knew you weren't going to get your ass chewed out, as with some bosses. There was absolutely zero fear in whatever the group as, as long as Roy was there.

As time went on, Roy's sense of humor was more apparent that Walt's. Walt would become so intensely focused on tasks that he would not respond well to joking, but one employee remarked that Roy "could laugh real quick."