Jim reflects on the lives of two Disney Legends

It is especially tragic when someone you genuinely like and respect passes away, especially when they still had so much more to share. February saw the deaths of Ron Miller and Dave Smith who both showed me many kindnesses throughout the decades.

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Ron Miller

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Miller was responsible for the creation of The Disney Channel; funded Disney's first produced show on Broadway (Total Abandon with Richard Dreyfuss in 1983); hired a young Tim Burton as an animator and gave him encouragement to develop his own style; acquired the rights and put into development the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit, against the wishes and advice of other Disney executives, especially Card Walker; and initiated Disney's first attempts into computer animation with Tron, as well as the first Walt Disney Home Video releases in their distinctive white clamshell cases. Dumbo was released for sale on tape in summer 1982, while Alice in Wonderland was released for sale in November 1982.

He was also responsible for starting a separate film label, Touchstone, to handle subject matter that might not have been appropriate for the more family-oriented brand of Walt Disney Pictures. The first release was the Ron Howard film Splash (March 1984) with Tom Hanks, and Miller had to aggressively defend it to stockholders who felt Disney was abandoning its family brand.

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Dave Smith

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Smith became a Disney Company employee on June 22, 1970. His first assignment was to document all the items in Walt Disney's offices.

For four decades, Smith was regarded as the ultimate authority on all things Disney. He authored several books and magazine articles and assisted on many others. He wrote a continuing "Ask Dave" question and answer column beginning in July 1983 for the Disney Channel magazine as well as the Disney Magazine and it still appears today on the D23 website and magazine.

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