Roy O. Disney, Walt’s brother, once said: “My younger brother dreams of castles, but I am the one that has to get them built.” When Walt passed away, Roy, then 73 years old, came out of retirement and took over the building of Walt Disney World, despite being told he was too old to make it happen. In fact, only two months before Walt’s passing, Walt was asked what would come of Disney World, should he die before it’s completion. “Absolutely nothing,” Walt had replied. “My brother runs this company.” When going to Disney World this time, I had one thing that I wanted to do when I got to Magic Kingdom. I wanted to sit by Roy. O. Disney on his bench with Minnie Mouse. I wanted to do this for two reasons. The first was simply this. Roy has become a hero of mine. While Walt drives me in his belief in creativity and imagination, Roy was the one who actually did the heavy lifting and kept the company and the dream alive. The other was this. Last time we went to the park, a mere 8 months ago, I had no idea who Roy O. Disney was. It was time to right that wrong.
The statue itself was sculpted by Blaine Gibson who had been with Disney since 1939, when he started as an animator and soon moved into Imagineering. He sculpted figures for The Hall of Presidents, Jungle Cruise, Rivers of America and even the famous Walt Disney and Mickey “Partners” statue. The statue itself is located very near to where Roy dedicated the park in October of 1971 and was installed in October of 1999. It sits in Town Square as you enter the park, across the street from a shop which has an upper window with his quote “If we can dream it – We can do it!”
The statue was based on photos of Roy sitting on a bench during the dedication ceremony with a costumed Mickey. The idea is that he is sitting there, leaning back and relaxing when Minnie comes to him to ask him why he is sitting and not working. You might also notice that he holds Minnie’s hand underneath, as if supporting her, just like he supported his brother all those years. Originally, the statue was put behind a fence, but folks wanted to sit with him, just like I did, and would climb the fence to do so. Thus, it was moved to a safer, more open location.
Roy retired in 1971, after the park officially opened, and passed away two months later, his work complete. Without Roy, the park would not exist. Plain and simple. Walt did the dreaming, Roy did the building. He was dedicated to the magic of the park and the vision of his brother and, like so many imagineers I’ve read about, he understood that this project was bigger than himself. Walt, to me, is the embodiment of the idea that if you believe in something enough, any wish can come true. But Roy is equally important, imparting the wisdom that if we work hard enough, really push ourselves, anything is possible. Two sides to one fantastic coin. As you can see, I eventually found Roy and we sat together on that bench and I took in just what was happening. I sat net to my hero, a man I once knew nothing about, and now look up to and strive to work as hard as. Thanks for the wisdom Roy. Now let me get back to work.