Irving Ludwig, 95; Distribution Executive for Disney Studios

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Irving Ludwig, 95, a film distribution executive who helped launch such Disney films as “Fantasia,” “Mary Poppins” and “The Love Bug,” died Saturday at his home in Santa Monica of natural causes, Disney officials said.

Ludwig joined the Walt Disney Co. in 1940 and managed the release of “Fantasia.”

The animated film, in which characters perform to classical music, had trouble finding a distributor, so Ludwig and his group bought old theaters in some cities to screen the movie.

He later helped create Disney’s distribution arm, Buena Vista Distribution, and served as a mentor to many Disney executives, including Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios.


“Irving was key to the successful release of many Disney films, and his work on such films as ‘Fantasia’ and ‘Mary Poppins’ is still worth studying and learning from,” Roy Disney, director emeritus, said in a statement.

Born in Russia, Ludwig immigrated to the United States in 1920 and started in show business in 1929 as a part-time usher at New York’s Rivoli Theatre, where he became manager.

During his career at Disney, he also helped launch such movies as “The Shaggy Dog,” “The Parent Trap” and “The Absent-Minded Professor.”

He became president of Buena Vista in 1959 and held that post until his retirement in October 1980.