Harold P. “Harry” Archinal, the man widely considered to have practically invented the international film distribution business, was the only child of Harry Paul Archinal and Catherine L. Peters. Born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 3, 1928, he was, in a sense, “born” into the movie business. His father had worked for Samuel Goldwyn Productions for 39 years as company treasurer.
Having received a bachelor of arts from Wagner College, in Staten Island, New York, Harry was drafted into the Army in 1951 and served three years in the Signal Corps. He attained the rank of first lieutenant and served overseas in Japan and South Korea before leaving the Army in 1953.
Following his discharge, Harry started working for Disney in March 1954 as a clerk in the foreign department at the New York office of the Buena Vista Distribution Company, which was founded by Disney in 1953 to distribute its films. It was a part-time position that earned Harry $50 per week while he continued his graduate work for a master of arts in history, which he was eventually awarded from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
After receiving his degree, Harry joined Buena Vista International as Latin America sales supervisor. He became general sales manager for the foreign division and then vice president before eventually being named president of Buena Vista International in 1972. He married Beatrix M. Treuherz in Copenhagen on November 1, 1974.
“Harry Archinal is one of the great pioneers in the world of international film distribution, as well as a central figure in establishing Disney’s great success in overseas markets,” said Dick Cook, former chairman of The Walt Disney Studios.
“From his humble beginnings as a sales supervisor for Buena Vista International in Latin America to his 16-year reign as president of the division, Harry always conducted business in a fair and friendly manner that reflected his personal style and earned him an incredible reputation in the industry. During my years in distribution, I learned a lot from Harry, and always had tremendous respect and admiration for him as an executive and as a person. Being named a Disney Legend officially recognizes Harry’s great contributions to our Company.”
On January 1, 1988, after 33 years with The Walt Disney Company and 16 as president of Buena Vista International, Harry retired from the Company where he had spent his entire career. At that time, Jeffrey Katzenberg, then Disney Studios chairman, said, “Harry has greatly contributed to Disney’s tremendous stature and success in overseas markets for many years with his keen instincts regarding foreign marketing and distribution. The record-breaking box office figures set by many of our animated releases, new product as well as reissues, reflect favorably on his leadership abilities.”
After retiring from Disney, Harry became an executive vice president at Introvision, a special effects firm that applied its unique “Introvision” technique to dozens of Hollywood blockbusters in the 1980s and 1990s, including Disney’s Adventures in Babysitting and Columbia’s Stand By Me. He passed away on Saturday, May 13, 2017, at the age of 88.