Jack Lindquist, a longtime Disney Parks employee who served as the first president of Disneyland and helped plot the global expansion of the Mouse’s theme park operations, died of natural causes Sunday morning at his home in Anaheim, Calif. He was 88.
Lindquist was a designated Disney Legend for his long tenure at the Anaheim theme park that is the cornerstone of Disney’s global parks and resort empire. Hired by Walt Disney himself, Lindquist served as the first advertising manager for Disneyland, which opened its doors in July 1955. Lindquist rose up the marketing ranks at Disney during the next 35 years before being named president of Disneyland in 1990.
Lindquist is a recipient of the ultimate honor for Disney insiders: a window featuring his name on Disneyland’s Main Street. It reads: “J.B. Lindquist, Honorary Mayor of Disneyland.”
During his 38 years with Disney, Lindquist did everything from market the original ticket books that guests used to ride attractions in Disneyland to serving as an integral part of the planning for Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland and what is now Disneyland Paris.
“Jack Lindquist was a Disney original in every sense,” said Robert Iger, Disney chairman-CEO in a statement. Iger noted that Lindquist always referred to his role as Disneyland president as “the best job in the world.”
Moreover, Lindquist “made sure Disneyland was the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ for each guest who walked through the gates, setting the standard for every leader that followed,” Iger said. “Those of us who had the good fortune to know Jack will always remember the kindness, humility and dedication that made him such an important part of this company and a true Disney Legend.”
A native of Chicago, Lindquist’s family moved to Los Angeles when he was four. He worked as a child actor with credits that included serving as an extra in Hal Roach’s popular “Our Gang” series and as a kid hoofer in the 1943 Lucille Ball movie “Best Foot Forward.”
After graduating from Hollywood High School, Jack spent two years in the U.S. Air Force and then attended USC.
Lindquist rose through the marketing ranks at Disney parks, becoming VP of marketing for Disneyland and Disney World in 1972. Ten years later, he was promoted to exec VP of marketing and entertainment for all of the company’s outdoor recreation activities.
Lindquist retired from Disney on Nov. 18, 1993, a date that also marked Mickey Mouse’s 65th birthday.
Lindquist published a memoir, “In Service to the Mouse,” in 2010.
Marty Sklar, former vice chairman of Walt Disney Imagineering, called Lindquist a “great friend and mentor.” He cited his creativity in dreaming up promotions such as giving away a car to every 30,000th visitor to Disneyland to celebrate the park’s 30th anniversary in 1985. Disney handed out some 410 cars in all and reaped invaluable promotion for the park in the process.
“The title of Jack’s memoir really says it all about his professional career: ‘In Service to the Mouse.’ That’s who he was and what he did,” Sklar said. “His innovations pioneered theme park industry marketing: New Year’s Eve parties, Grad Nights for high schools, Disney Dollars and his ultimate concept to celebrate Disneyland’s 30th anniversary. … As he acknowledged in his book, ‘Keep that smile on your face, twinkle in your eye, and song in your heart. Thanks, Mickey!’ And all of us who worked with him say “Thanks, Jack!”