What It’s Like to Meet a Disney Legend

By: Amy Kawa

Every now and then, the fates align and you experience something you know will only happen once in your lifetime.  If you’re really lucky, you realize this sensation when it happens and are able to savor it and take it all in.

Disney offers so many magical experiences inside its theme parks, but the most magical experience I’ve had didn’t happen in front of Cinderella Castle or during Illuminations.  My once in a lifetime moment happened on the morning my family was leaving the great Walt Disney World (typically a very sad day) and inside what so happens to be my favorite resort on property.

After doing some last-minute retail therapy at The Contemporary, my family and I were heading back up to our room, getting ready to board the elevator.  When the elevator reached the fourth floor, one man stepped out dressed in an Epcot track jacket.  As I saw him leave the elevator, I thought, “Hey, he looks like Marty Sklar.”  Then, I remembered that Mr. Sklar was indeed going to be in Disney World for a special talk that very weekend. So, it must’ve been THE Marty Sklar.

Marty Sklar is one of the most famous Imagineers in the history of the Walt Disney Company.  He started with the company in 1955, immediately becoming Walt’s right-hand man, writing his speeches and marketing materials for Disneyland.  Mr. Sklar retired as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador in 2009.  Over his some 50+ years with Disney, he oversaw the development of Epcot, countless attractions, and the development of all Disney theme parks throughout the world.  You can read a full story of Mr. Sklar’s amazing journey here.

Needless to say, Marty Sklar is one of my biggest heroes.  He is, in many ways, responsible for so many of the things that make me the happiest in life: Spaceship Earth, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, World Showcase, and all of the special attractions and details in between.  So, what do you do when you see someone you want to say so much to and owe so much to when you know you only have 2 minutes or so?

When I have had the opportunity to meet famous (or semi-famous) people in the past, I tend to shy away from that chance.  It’s just too intimidating.  But this time was different. This man, who I have read and know so much about, was standing right in front of me, and I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I just let this moment pass me by.

So, as he broke away from the crowd and headed towards the monorail, I approached him.  He was as kind and gentle as you’d hope.  Although I wish we could have talked for hours and hours (hey Mr. Sklar, want to grab breakfast at Chef Mickey’s?), I was able to say things that will stay with me the rest of my life.  I was able to thank him for all that he has done over his illustrious career and that I really do owe him more than I could ever say.  He was so gracious, asked where I was from, and how long we had stayed for.  He also said he loved my Mickey ears (Figment-style) and t-shirt (Contemporary logo).  I asked for a picture and his parting words will stay with me forever, “It’s people like you that keep the magic alive around here.” Cue Amy as a puddle on the ground.

This moment was one I will cherish for the rest of my life.  I met one of my biggest heroes completely by chance – that’s some Disney magic right there!  Marty Sklar passed away on July 27, 2017.  When I heard this news, I was immediately saddened.  He seemed to be so full of life just six short months ago.  It also felt like the end of an era for the Walt Disney Co., like the last of the old guard was gone, and with all of the changes ahead for the Disney Parks, it seemed like the guiding hand that makes sure everything is up to Walt’s standards was gone.

So, I say it again, thank you for EVERYTHING, Mr. Sklar.  The words were hard to come by when I met you just six short months ago, and they’re even harder to say now.  I was truly lucky to have met a Disney legend, but blessed beyond belief for that legend to have been Marty Sklar.

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