Digital media trailblazer and ex-Disney exec Bob Lambert dies

Bob Lambert, a widely respected entertainment industry executive who played a pivotal role in the advent of computer animation, died of undisclosed causes Friday at his home in Glendale, his family announced Monday night. He was 55.

Lambert served as senior executive in various departments at Walt Disney Co. for 25 years, helping to usher Disney into the digital era.

While working for Disney Feature Animation, Lambert conceived a strategy for replacing cell animation with CGI production. He worked with Pixar to develop a digital production system that earned Disney an Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement.

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“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and former colleague Bob Lambert,” said Dick Cook, former chairman of the Walt Disney Studios. “Not only was he a great person, he was a highly respected visionary who forever changed the moviegoing experience by leading the motion picture industry into the digital era. His passing is a great loss.”

Lambert was also a founder and chairman of DCI, the six-studio consortium that helped movie theaters transition to digital exhibition by establishing specifications that ensured a uniform and high level of technical performance and quality.

Born and raised in Roanoke, Va., Lambert was a graduate of Virginia Tech. He held 30 patents in media technologies and was named an industry pioneer by ShoWest, the exhibition industry trade show now called CinemaCon.

He was chairman and chief strategic officer of the University of Southern California’s Entertainment Technology Center. He left Disney in 2010 and recently served as CEO of the Digital Firm in Los Angeles.

“Bob was one of the most respected technology executives in the media and entertainment business,” said Kenneth Williams, the executive director of USC’s technology center. “Always generous with his time, his friendship and tremendous insight will be greatly missed.”

Lambert is survived by his wife Cheryl Murphy, brother Paul Lambert and nephew Nathaniel Lambert.