Disney biographer remembers Roy E. Disney


LOS ANGELES (AP) — The scene was Van Nuys Airport in the San Fernando Valley. Patty and Roy E. Disney were preparing for a flight to New York to help promote a book about Roy’s father who found the money to realize the dreams of his brother, Walt Disney. Patty and Roy were seated in the right front row. They were holding hands as the plane, which Roy owned, trundled down the runway to prepare for the flight.

They still held hands as the plane climbed over Burbank and began the flight east. They finally loosened their grips over the mountains and Roy commented to a fellow traveler, “We always hold hands at the takeoff. So far we’ve never had a problem.”

It was 1998 and we were on our way to New York to tout the book I had written about Roy O. Disney, older brother of Walt Disney. We would also visit where both Disneys were born in Illinois, and Kansas City, Mo., where they lived before their arrival to Los Angeles.

Roy Edward Disney, who died Wednesday at age 79, had been an ideal source about his father and Uncle Walt, whose biography I had also written. He recalled that his father was ambivalent about whether his son should join the studio.

“I think he was apprehensive about that if I did get involved in doing things for Walt, that he would not treat me as well as he did other people,” Roy told me, adding “Of course he treated everybody pretty rough.

“I have always said he was very, very fair to me, If I did crappy work, he told me so. If he liked what I did, he told me that too.”

Young Roy tried out on the studio’s “True Life Adventures” nature film series and suggested two scripts to Walt but got no reply. Then he clicked on the idea for “An Otter in the Family.” He made four more “True Life Adventures” before Walt died.

Roy found cooperative co-workers in far-off locations, but the studio workers were not as understanding. They concocted derogatory terms for the son of the boss. It would be a long time before they would recognize his contributions.

Roy Edward’s work required long periods in the wilds, but he was able to court Patricia Dailly, New Orleans-born daughter of newsman Pete Dailly. On one of his flights back to L.A. from Utah, Roy was greeted by his mother and Patricia. His mother said to her son, “Well, aren’t you going to kiss her?” He did.

When Roy started on a trip back to Utah, he mused, “I’ve got to go back and propose to the girl.” But out of his shyness he didn’t. Instead, when he got to Salt Lake City, Roy wrote a five-page letter to Patty. At the end he suggested, “By the way, I think we ought to think about getting married.” She sent a telegram: “Hell yes!”