Sam McKim

Disney Imagineer

Disney Imagineer Sam McKim died of heart failure July 9 in Burbank. He was 79.

McKim drew the first souvenir maps of Disneyland in 1954 and went on to a 32-year career with Disney, working on many popular theme park locations and attractions.

A graveside service will take place Friday, July 16 at 2:30 at Pierce Brothers Valhalla, 10621 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood. A memorial service will follow at 4:30 at First Christian Church of North Hollywood, 4390 Colfax Ave., Studio City.

“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,” said Marty Sklar, vice chairman and principal creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering. “He was the quintessential researcher; you always knew he would dig out the real gems for our stories, especially for historical subjects.”

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. He also worked on Disney films “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”).

McKim’s paintings also helped introduce the public to the Haunted Mansion and the Monorail at Disneyland, as well as the Hall of Presidents. 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.

Born in Canada, McKim came to Los Angeles as a young boy and became a child actor, working with John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Rita Hayworth and Gene Autry.

He auditioned for the voice of Pinocchio in the 1930s but didn’t get the job. After a stint in the Army during WWII and in Korea, he attended the Art Center College of Design and Couinard Art Institute and continued his acting career.

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.”

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.

McKim is survived by his wife, Dorothy; two sons; and two grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the American Heart Assn., Gift Processing Dept., 1710 Gilbreth Road, Burlingame, CA 94010.

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