In 1971, Esmond Cardon “Card” Walker was elected president of The Walt Disney Company, then known as Walt Disney Productions. He proceeded to successfully navigate corporate divisions, ranging from Disneyland to Studio Productions, through the uncertain times following the deaths of both Walt and Roy O. Disney. Card, who began working at the Studio in 1938, ultimately helped preserve Disney tradition while further expanding its magic around the globe. Under his direction and personal supervision, the Company grew to include such landmarks as Epcot Center, Tokyo Disneyland, and The Disney Channel.
In 1990, former Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner said:
“In a very real sense, Card is the link between the small, family-owned film company of the ‘30s and the major global corporation we are today. I’m grateful to have had the benefit of his experience, his judgment, and his convictions about the ‘Disney way’ of doing things.”
Born January 9, 1916, in Rexburg, Idaho, Card and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1924. Upon graduation from UCLA, he joined Disney; his first job was in the Studio mailroom, where many of the company’s 150 employees had started—Walt Disney believed that the mailroom was the best place for a new employee to get to know the entire Studio operation. Before long, Card took his first steps up the corporate ladder, beginning in the camera department. Later, he served as unit manager on short subjects in the production department.
Card’s career at Disney was interrupted in 1941, when he enlisted with the U.S. Navy to serve as a flight deck officer during World War II. After four years he returned to the Studio to work in the story department, testing audience reactions to potential new film properties, such as Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella, using a new polling system called A.R.I. (Audience Research Institute).
In 1956, Card’s corporate ascent accelerated when Walt Disney named him vice president of advertising and sales, promoting such films as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Four years later, in 1960, he was appointed to the Company’s Board of Directors.
In 1965, Card was appointed vice president of marketing, followed by executive vice president of operations (in 1967), and executive vice president and chief operating officer (in 1968).
In 1976, after serving five years as the Company’s president, he assumed the additional responsibility of chief executive officer. In 1980, he was appointed to chairman of the board. He retired from these roles in 1983, after overseeing the successful development of Tokyo Disneyland. He continued to serve as a consultant to the company until 1990. After 61 years of service to the Company, Card retired from the board of directors in 1999 and was designated an emeritus member of the board.
Card Walker passed away on November 28, 2005, in La Cañada Flintridge, California.