Former Disney senior executive Bob Lambert, who helped the Mouse House move from film to digital production, died suddenly Friday of unnamed causes at his Glendale, California home, his family announced Monday night. He was 55.
No other details were available concerning the death of Lambert, a technical strategist at Disney for 25 years.
While working for Disney Feature Animation, Lambert realized a method to replace cel animation with CGI production. He chose Steve Jobs’ Pixar to design the software and supervised the collaborative process between the companies.
Lambert initiated Disney’s longterm successful collaboration with Pixar and the development of a completely new digital film production process, which brought Disney an Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement.
As senior vice-president for worldwide technology strategy and development, he was challenged with looking “down the road and around the corner” to help guide one of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking companies to successfully engage in new business strategies. His group drove innovation in content production and distribution.
He and his team pioneered award-winning digital landscape transitions and strategies in film, television, e-commerce, social media and emerging consumer media, often partnering with competitors and parallel industries to create new sea-change opportunities.
Lambert began at Disney in 1985, leaving in May 2010 as part of a corporate restructuring.
European Digital Cinema Forum CEO David Monk described Lambert as a “courageous visionary.” Lambert and Disney colleague Phil Barlow, Monk remembered, were behind the pivotal European digital-cinema release in 2000 of Toy Story 2.
Lambert served as president of technology operations and licensing and chairman of Disney’s interdivisional technology board, mapping technology and innovation approaches in new media with Disney’s worldwide business units and technology partners. He served as Disney’s senior tech executive in strategic planning, M&A diligence, intellectual property and patent strategy, inter-industry relations, standards and regulatory issues, and tech talent recruitment.
He was chairman emeritus of the University of Southern California’s Entertainment Technology Center, a 17-company consortium dedicated to consumer media trends, and had served as chairman and CEO of USC/ETC.
Lambert was a founder and term chairman of DCI, the six-studio consortium that successfully pioneered the transition of more than 40,000 theatres from film to digital cinema worldwide. In his role as a digital cinema industry leader, he served as a co-author of Understanding Digital Cinema, a comprehensive resource on all aspects of finishing, distributing and displaying film digitally.
Prior to Disney, Lambert was executive director of development for Paramount Pictures. He also directed development for Western Technologies, a consumer products and entertainment technology design firm.
As an inventor, Lambert held 30 domestic and international patents in media technologies. He was named an Industry Pioneer by the ShoWest national film and television industry conference, outstanding alumnus of Virginia Tech, and received an Astrolabium Award from the International Electronic Cinema Festival. He lea symposia on innovation and cultural change, and keynoted international trade events in Asia, Europe, and the United States.
He served on the board of directors of start-up ventures and non-profits, including LLE, Inc, a firm pioneering eco-friendly laser-based lighting systems. He served on advisory boards of USC, Virginia Tech, the American Film Institute, the National Academy of Science and the Starbright Foundation, and supported InventNow, an organization devoted to promoting innovation, creativity and invention in elementary and high school students.
A Virginia native, he most recently was CEO of The Digital Firm, an Los Angeles-based technology investment company. He was executive vice-president of strategy and innovation for The World Technology Network. Last year, he helped launched CityWorks (X)po, the first national conference to examine the rise of small cities.
Requesting privacy, the family said that it has no immediate plans for a memorial service. It asked that contributions in his honor be sent to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.