February 17, 2006

Disney’s longtime Imagineering chief to step down

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Martin Sklar, the creative force
behind most of Walt Disney Co.'s theme parks, will step down as
head of the company's famed Imagineering division, Disney said
on Friday.

Sklar, 72, takes on a new role as a recruiter and
ambassador for the division where he worked for 50 years and
was regarded as a legend.

The change at the top of Imagineering comes as Pixar
Animation Studios Inc. creative director, John Lasseter, steps
into a more formal advisory role there when Disney's expected
acquisition of Pixar is completed this summer.

Lasseter, whose talents as an animator and storyteller have
been compared with Walt Disney's, will not replace Sklar, but
will advise the division on how best to integrate animated
characters into Disney rides, shows and products, Disney
spokeswoman Marilyn Waters said.

Disney is conducting a nationwide search for a creative
executive to head Imagineering, which designs rides and other
attractions for the company's cruise line, hotels and theme
parks around the world, Waters said.

Sklar, 72, serves as vice chairman and principal creative
executive of Walt Disney Imagineering and is the division's
last link to founder Walt Disney.

He began work at Disney in 1956 and had planned to change
his role at Disney after celebrating his 50th anniversary at
the company in June, Waters said.

In an internal memo, Sklar said that as Imagineering
Ambassador for the Disney Parks and Resorts, he will help
recruit new talent from universities and within Disney, develop
traveling exhibitions and speak at conferences about the
vaunted creative team.

Sklar lauded the arrival of Lasseter whom he said would
"contribute to the 'no fear' approach" fostered at

The Imagineers began as a creative team of set designers,
directors, animators and others who were handpicked by Walt
Disney to plan the theme park that became Disneyland.

Sklar, who started at Disneyland as a publicist and acted
as the Disney founder's personal scribe until his death in
1966, became president of Imagineering in 1987.