Roy Oliver Disney (June 24, 1893 – December 20, 1971) was an American businessman, becoming the partner and co-founder, along with his younger brother Walt Disney, of Walt Disney Productions, since renamed The Walt Disney Company.
Roy was born to Irish-Canadian Elias Charles Disney and English-German-American Flora Call Disney in Chicago, Illinois. On July 1, 1911, Elias purchased a newspaper delivery route for The Kansas City Star. It extended from Twenty-seventh Street to the Thirty-first Street, and from Prospect Avenue to Indiana Avenue. Roy and Walt were put to work delivering the newspapers. The Disneys delivered the morning newspaper Kansas City Times to about 700 customers, and the evening and Sunday Star to more than 600. The number of customers served increased with time.
Roy graduated from the Manual Training High School of Kansas City in 1912. He left the paper delivery route and worked on a farm over the summer. He then found employment as a bank clerk at the First National Bank of Kansas City.
Roy served in the United States Navy from 1917 to 1919. A year later his brother Walt tried to join the U.S. Army but was refused because he was underage. After Roy contracted tuberculosis, he was discharged from military duty and became a banker in Los Angeles. In 1923 Walt moved to Hollywood, joined Roy, and founded Disney Bros Studio with Roy. The brothers ordered kit houses from Pacific Ready Cut Homes (a Los Angeles company) and, in 1928, they built their homes side by side on Lyric Avenue.
Walt Disney Productions
While Walt was the creative man, Roy was the one who made sure the company was financially stable. Roy and Walt both founded Disney Studios as brothers, but Walt would buy out most of Roy's share in 1929 so, unlike Max and Dave Fleischer of rival Fleischer Studios, Roy was not a co-producer. However, Roy would be equal partner in all facets of the production company.
Roy became the company's first CEO in 1929, although the official title was not given until 1968. He also shared the role of chairman of the board with Walt from 1945. Walt however dropped the chairman title in 1960 so he could focus more on the creative aspects of the company. After Walt Disney's death in 1966, Roy postponed his retirement to oversee construction of what was then known as Disney World. He later renamed it Walt Disney World as a tribute to his brother. Roy became the president of Walt Disney Productions on December 15, 1966, and remained so until 1968.
Roy was married to Edna Francis from April 1925 until his death. Their son, Roy Edward Disney, was born on January 10, 1930. Throughout his life, Roy rejected the publicity and fame that came with being Walt's brother. He was extremely camera shy and a passive individual, resulting in few public photos being in existence.
After Walt Disney World opened in October 1971, Roy Disney finally retired. In early December of that year, he complained of a "spot" over one of his eyes and was scheduled to visit his optometrist for a new eyeglass prescription. He was discovered by family members in a dazed condition, collapsed, next to his bed; on December 20, 1971 at age 78; he died from a seizure. He is interred in Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery.
A statue of Roy O. Disney seated on a park bench beside Minnie Mouse is located in the Town Square section of Main Street, U.S.A., at the Magic Kingdom theme park in Florida. A duplicate is located outside the Team Disney building at Disney's corporate headquarters in Burbank, California. There is a third statue at the Tokyo Disneyland theme park. The Roy O. Disney Suite is located on the top floor of the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.