Former Disney Exec Steve Fickinger Dies at 62

Steve Fickinger, a Tony Award-winning producer behind musicals like Dear Evan Hansen, Newsies, and The Lion King, has passed away. He was 62 years old. According to Fickinger's niece, Los Angeles Times editor Jessica Roy, Fickinger died suddenly on June 17 at his home in Laguna Beach. No cause of death has been revealed. During the course of his long career, Fickinger worked as an executive at Disney, overseeing Disney Theatrical's Education and Outreach program and shepherding shows like High School Musical and Aladdin to the stage. He also worked on the film side, helping develop Mulan, Tarzan, and Lilo & Stitch

Fickinger was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1960. As a teen, he appeared in commercials for Brown's Chicken, and performed on stage with future Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. He later attended UCLA, where he was the first recipient of the Carol Burnett Musical Award for excellence in performance. After college, he headed to New York for a few years to perform on stage before returning to California.

According to Roy, Fickinger literally started at Disney as a temp in the mail room, and worked his way up to Director of Creative Development for Walt Disney Feature Animation over the course of about 20 years with the company. It's there that he worked on Mulan and Lilo & Stitch, among other projects, before transitioning to the Disney Theatrical Group, where he supervised six Broadway shows from idea to premiere during that period, including six-time Tony Award-winning The Lion King. His outreach efforts also provided materials, resources, and teaching to bring Disney musicals to underserved schools.

After leaving Disney in 2013, Fickinger co-founded FickStern Productions, which launched with a bang with the mega-hit Dear Evan Hansen, which won six Tony Awards, two Drama League Awards, a Grammy, a Critics' Circle Award, and three Laurence Olivier Awards.  Fickinger served as executive producer of Rock of Ages at The Bourbon Room in Hollywood, which starred Nick Cordero, prior to Cordero's death due to COVID in 2020.

Among various philanthropic projects, Fickinger supported AIDS Walk, a cause for which he helped raise more than $15 million, as well as the Los Angeles Food Mission, Meals on Wheels, and the Race to Erase MS.

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At the time of his passing, Steve had a number of projects in development, including Live at the Crescendo Club: An Evening with Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Pearl Bailey, written and directed by Seret Scott, and produced with Fickinger's friend and four-time Grammy Award-winning icon Deniece Williams. 

Fickinger is survived by his siblings and their spouses (Joan and Bill Frazier, Jan and Dennis Roy, Michael and Emily Fickinger, and Ellen Fickinger), his nieces, nephews, and nephews-in-law (Jessica Roy and Joe Magdalena, Charlotte Roy and Sandy Albert, Andrew Frazier, Kathryn Roy, Carolyn Roy, and Joey Fickinger), his dog Nicki, and, per Roy's heartwarming obituary, "a wide, warm circle of friends, neighbors, and colleagues on both coasts and around the globe." A funeral will be held in Chicago and a memorial service in Los Angeles.