Legendary Disney Imagineer Sam McKim Dies at Age 79; Acclaimed Artist Influenced Disney Theme Parks With His Sketches and Drew First Disneyland Souvenir Maps

Jul 13, 2004, 01:00 ET from Buena Vista Pictures Marketing

    BURBANK, Calif., July 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Sam McKim, the legendary Disney
 Imagineer who drew the first souvenir maps of Disneyland in 1954 and went on
 to a spectacular 32-year career with Disney lending his artistic vision to
 many popular theme park locations and attractions, died of heart failure on
 Friday July 9th at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank.  He was
 79 years old.  In addition to his Disney career, McKim started out as a child
 actor who appeared in films with John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Rita
 Hayworth and Gene Autry.
     (Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20040713/LATU106)
     Commenting on McKim's passing, Marty Sklar, vice-chairman and principal
 creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, said, "Sam's early sketches
 for Disneyland's Main Street and Frontierland are inspirational to Imagineers
 -- among the very best ever drawn for Walt Disney theme park attractions.  He
 was the quintessential researcher; you always knew he would dig out the real
 gems for our stories, especially for historical subjects.  He had incredible
 talent and was as fine a gentleman as you would ever want to know."
     McKim joined WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) as an
 illustrator in 1954, six months before the opening of Disneyland.  His initial
 assignments included sketches for attractions, shops, and restaurants for Main
 Street and Frontierland, including the Golden Horseshoe Revue.  His early work
 as a Disney artist also touched several of the Studio's films, including
 "Zorro," "Johnny Tremain," "The Shaggy Dog," "The Gnome-Mobile," and "Nikki,
 Wild Dog of the North."  He went on to play a key role at the 1964-65 New York
 World's Fair, for which he contributed sketches for all four Disney
 attractions ("Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," "It's a Small World," "Carousel
 of Progress," and "Magic Skyway.")  His paintings also helped introduce the
 public to the "Haunted Mansion" and the Monorail at Disneyland, and the "Hall
 of Presidents" at the Magic Kingdom.  Later, his artwork contributed to the
 story development of Epcot pavilions, including the Universe of Energy, and
 the Disney-MGM Studios, including "The Great Movie Ride."
     John Hench, the late great Disney Imagineer who passed away earlier this
 year, once observed of McKim, "Sam was the greatest to work with.  He loved
 Disney, and his enthusiasm was always contagious.  Once he got involved in
 anything, no matter how problematic, you always knew everything was going to
 be okay.  If I ever needed to hear the truth about something, I always went to
     Born in Canada on December 20, 1924, McKim came to Los Angeles as a young
 boy and became a child actor, working with many of the top stars of the day.
 In fact, he didn't get the first Disney position he wanted, after auditioning
 for the voice of Pinocchio in the 1930s.  After serving in the U.S. Army in
 World War II, McKim enrolled in Art Center College of Design.  The day after
 he graduated, he was called back to the Army to serve in Korea, where he
 earned several medals and honors, including the Distinguished Service Cross
 and the Bronze Star.  Upon returning to the States, he took acting roles as
 well as advanced art classes at the Chouinard Art Institute.
     McKim recalled, "John Ford offered me a supporting lead in 'The Long Gray
 Line' with Tyrone Power, Maureen O'Hara and Ward Bond.  Would you believe I
 turned it down to become an artist?  I started at 20th Century Fox, then moved
 to Disney for a temp job, and didn't leave until I retired 32 years later."
     As one of a select group of Disney theme park cartographers, McKim's "fun
 maps" charted the layouts of Disneyland (several editions), the Walt Disney
 World Magic Kingdom, "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Tom Sawyer Island," and
 Disneyland Paris.
     Following his retirement from Imagineering in 1987, McKim remained
 connected with WDI and Disney.  In addition to appearances at Disney fan
 events and consulting work, his two sons both worked for Disney -- Matt for
 Imagineering, and Brian for Feature Animation.  He also continued to be active
 in the arts.  His work can be found in the U.S. Air Force and L.A. County
 Sheriff Department Collections, as well as in private collections.
     McKim is survived by his wife, Dorothy; son Matt; son Brian and his wife,
 Dorothy, and their two children, Tyler and Natalie.  A graveside service will
 take place this Friday (7/16) at 2:30 at Pierce Brothers Valhalla (10621
 Victory Boulevard) in North Hollywood.  A memorial service will follow at 4:30
 at First Christian Church of North Hollywood (4390 Colfax Ave.) in Studio
 City.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in McKim's name to the
 American Heart Association (Gift Processing Dept., 1710 Gilbreth Road,
 Burlingame, CA 94010 or online at www.americanheart-donate.org).

SOURCE Buena Vista Pictures Marketing