Year Inducted: 1997
In 1949, when Armand Bigle was asked by Company co-founder Roy O. Disney to accept a commission sales job, opening new territories for Disney in Europe for 30 percent of the gross, he had to think about it. After all, it offered no salary. Roy E. Disney, son of Roy O. Disney, later recalled, “At the time, we had no significant merchandising business in Europe. Once Armand accepted the position, however, the deal soon had to be re-negotiated because he grew the business rather wildly.”
“Armand was always full of outrageous marketing ideas,” Roy added. “When Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier was released, he had my wife, Patty, and his wife, Betty, walking up and down the famed Champs- Elysees wearing coonskin caps—he wanted to create a new fashion rage in Paris.”
Indeed, Armand is known as Disney’s Godfather of Europe. By generating the creation of Disney toys and publications in more than a dozen countries, he helped bring the Disney name to households throughout the continent. He also laid the foundation of what would become a multibillion-dollar enterprise.
Born in Paris on November 13, 1917, Armand graduated with a law degree from the University of Paris in 1938. During World War II he worked as a correspondent for Opera Mundi, a news agency serving the Western European press, covering activities in Belgium and Holland.
In 1946, he happened to interview Walt Disney for a feature article. During their meeting, said Armand, Walt turned the tables and began to interview him. Subsequently, Armand received several letters from The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank until, the following year, Company co-founder Roy O. Disney traveled to meet him in Brussels.
He soon founded his own company, Screpta Brussels, to serve as representative for Walt Disney Productions in Benelux and Switzerland. He launched the successful Mickey Magazine, which sold more than 60,000 issues a week in Belgium.
Based on the magazine’s success, Roy asked Armand to relocate to Paris to serve as the Company’s premier European special sales representative. In that position, he was charged with the awesome task of opening new territories for Disney merchandise and publications by recruiting licensees in such countries as Russia, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Greece, Israel, Indonesia, Benelux, and the Middle East. Armand later said, “It was a challenge to open in these countries; many were still recuperating from the war.”
After serving Disney for more than 40 years, Armand Bigle retired in 1988. He passed away on August 25, 2007, in Paris.