Bob Lambert, 55, led Disney’s digital transition

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Bob Lambert

Bob Lam­bert

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.

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