Roy E. Disney, who helped revitalize the famed animation division of the company founded by his uncle, Walt Disney, and who at times publicly feuded with top Disney executives, died on Wednesday in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 79.
His death, at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, was caused by stomach cancer, a spokeswoman for the Walt Disney Company said. Mr. Disney, who had homes in Newport Beach and the Toluca Lake district of Los Angeles, was the last member of the Disney family to work at the entertainment conglomerate built by his uncle and his father, Roy O. Disney, New York Times reports.
Mr. Disney persuaded the new regime to invest about $10 million in computer animation equipment, a seemingly minor decision that proved to be a turning point in the company's fortunes. Within a few years, the company turned out a remarkable string of animated hits, including "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King." The films won critical acclaim and proved wildly lucrative, as well, with money pouring into the company from the box office and film merchandise.
Born Jan. 10, 1930, in Los Angeles, Mr. Disney was the only child of Roy O. and Edna Disney. Growing up around the studio, he was exposed to both the joys of the Walt Disney aura as well as its darker side. In a 1999 Tribune Newspapers interview, Mr. Disney recalled how his uncle came to see him when he had the chicken pox as a boy, enthralling him with a story he wanted to make into a film about a wooden puppet named "Pinocchio," Chicago Tribune informs.