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Irving Ludwig, 95; helped release 'Fantasia,' ran Disney unit

LOS ANGELES -- Irving Ludwig, a film distribution executive who helped launch such Disney films as ''Fantasia," ''Mary Poppins" and ''The Love Bug," died Nov. 26 at his home in Santa Monica, Disney officials said. He was 95.

Mr. Ludwig joined The Walt Disney Co. in 1940, just in time to manage the release of ''Fantasia." The innovative animated film, which showed characters interpreting classical music pieces, had trouble finding distribution. So Mr. Ludwig and his group bought old theaters in some cities to screen the movie.

He went on to help create Disney's distribution arm, Buena Vista Distribution, and influenced the way Disney releases its movies. He 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.

Mr. Ludwig was born in Lutck, Russia, and immigrated to the United States in 1920. He entered the entertainment industry in 1929 as a part-time usher at New York's Rivoli Theatre.

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

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

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