Foundersland: "One Little Spark!"

By Marty Sklar, Founder, Past Board President, Chairman Leadership Council

I’m very proud that as part of the Ryman Arts career program in the Spring semester, my colleagues at Ryman Arts – President Wayne Hunt, fellow Board members, Executive Director Diane Brigham and Education Manager Rebecca Tuynman – have chosen to provide each of our 300 high school artists with their own copy of my new book, One Little Spark! – Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to Imagineering.

This is exactly why I wrote the book, and why 75 Walt Disney Imagineers joined me in writing advice to anyone who hopes to follow a path into a creative career in the arts – and especially those who hope someday to become an Imagineer.

The book came about because everywhere I spoke about my first book – Dream It! Do It! My Half Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms – parents, grandparents and especially young people asked me these key questions: “What should I do – what should I know – to prepare for a career in the creative arts?”

“One Little Spark!” answers those questions. The book is filled with great advice based on the careers and experiences of those 75 Imagineers. It includes my own “Mickey’s Ten Commandments” – my personal philosophy developed through my 54 years at Disney, 30 of them as the creative leader of Walt Disney Imagineering. It features advice from my former colleagues under the following headings:

  • Story
  • Passion
  • Mentor
  • Collaboration
  • Disney Park Experience
  • Education – Never Stop Learning
  • Be Curious
  • Take A Chance/Think Differently
  • Become the Best
  •  ImagiNations


In this blog, I don’t have space to go into these special categories – The Imagineers did that for me (and you!) in “One Little Spark!” But I would like briefly to introduce you to four of the Imagineers who wrote suggestions and advice based on their personal experiences…because they represent the kind of diversity of backgrounds and experiences that make the book so useful to talented young artists like our Ryman Arts students:

  • Daniel Joseph, a young man from Delaware who was teased in school for his lack of reading and math skills – now one of the top special effects inventors at Imagineering.
  • Dex Tanksley, an architect who admits that without his Imagineering career he would be “designing strip malls in my hometown, Rochester, New York.”
  • Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony, who went to an all-Black elementary school in Richmond, Virginia – and was rescued by President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs, now creating theatrical stage shows for Disney Parks and cruise ships.
  • And Kevin Rafferty, producer and writer for “Cars Land” in Disney California Adventure – he made his way from nearby Fullerton to Anaheim for the start of his Disney career in Disneyland – washing dishes!

Me with Tom Rodowsky 

I hope I have intrigued you enough with this brief background to explain why I think it was so important for Ryman Arts to provide our students, as part of the career planning our program provides, with their own copy of “One Little Spark!” – and for you to seek out a copy to give to any young person interested in a career in the creative arts.

As I say at the end of ”One Little Spark!”:

“Life is like a Blank Sheet of Paper; you never know what it can be until you put something on it!”


Cover photo: At the construction of Disney California Adventure.