Disney Legends 2013

At the previous D23 Expo in 2011, the Disney Legends ceremony was the kick-off event for Day 1; it was a fantastic session that set the bar for everything that followed.   The inductees in 2011 including the singing voices of 4 Disney princesses  (Jodi Benson – Ariel, Page O’Hara – Belle, Lea Salonga – Jasmine & Mulan, and Anika Noni Rose – Tiana), among other honorees.   The four voice actresses sang individually, as well as together, as part of the ceremony.    We also got a live performance from Brian Henson as his father Jim was inducted as a Disney Legend.   These performances were so memorable that there didn’t seem to be any way the 2013 ceremony could top that.

The 2013 Disney Legends included 8 new honorees, 4 of whom were present plus 4 that were being honored posthumously.    There were no performances this time, so the ceremony was not as energetic or exciting — but it was moving, and I think everyone in the audience was touched and felt privileged to be a part of the celebration of the work of the newest Disney Legends.

Tom Bergeron (Host of Dancing with the Stars and Americas Lamest Jokes with Videos) hosted along with Bob Iger (Disney CEO)

Tony Baxter

The first honoree was Tony Baxter, for Imagineering.   Tony worked his way up at Disneyland, starting out scooping ice cream in the park.    Tom shared a brief recap of the story of how during a break, Tony snuck in to the still-under-construction Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, where he got a personal tour of the ride from legendary Imagineer Claude Coats (who would later become Tony’s mentor in Imagineering).   I’ve heard Tony tell a longer version of this story at another D23 event, and it really captures some of the pride of craftsmanship and eagerness to share that characterizes the greatest Imagineers.

Tony was moved into Imagineering in 1970 and participated in development of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.    He returned to California to work on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.   He participated in the development of many well-known attractions at various Disney parks after that, including The Living Seas, The Land, Journey Into Imagination, Star Tours, Indiana Jones Adventure, and Splash Mountain.   He was the executive producer of Disneyland Paris and continued work on various Imagineering projects until his quasi-retirement in 2013   (he remains an advisor to Imagineering).

In his remarks, Tony said that one of the secrets to success is recapturing the naive optimism of a 12 year old who believes that anything you can imagine is possible, and said that Disney is a company that encourages employees to find that childlike place again.

Ed Wynn

Ed Wynn’s career started in vaudeville and continued in television, movies, and on Broadway.    He was best known as a comic actor but did dramatic roles as well (earning an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for The Diary of Anne Frank).

His association with Disney begin with voicing the character of The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.    (The King Candy character in Wreck-it-Ralph is a tribute, as Alan Tudyk does a pretty spot-on impression of Wynn’s voice in the role) .

He did many other Disney roles in films such as Babes In ToylandThe Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber, and several others, but no role was better remembered than that of Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins.

Mr. Wynn’s granddaughter accepted the Disney Legends award on behalf of her grandfather.

Collin Campbell

Collin Campbell was an animator and, later, an Imagineer with Disney.    As an animator, he worked on such classics as Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians.    He’s another case of someone working their way up on the inside, having started with the company as a messenger.

Collin was one of the employees assigned to WED (the precursor to Imagineering) to produce attractions for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.    He built models and sets for the fair exhibits Magic Skyway, it’s a small world, and Carousel of Progress.   At Disneyland he worked on The Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Club 33.

Moving on to Walt Disney World, Collin produced concept art for the resort hotels and worked on areas such as Tom Sawyer Island and the entrance and queue to Pirates of the Caribbean.

Collin retired in 1990, but returned to work on the Tom Sawyer Island renovation at Disneyland.   He passed away in 2011.

The Disney Legends award for Collin was accepted by his son Jim.

John Goodman

John is best known for his work outside of Disney, as an actor in both dramatic and comedic roles in movies, TV, and on Broadway.   He was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actor in a Music for Big River.   He frequently appears in Coen Brothers films such as Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, and Barton Fink.

He is probably best known for playing Dan Conner in the long-running sitcom Roseanne, earning a Golden Globe and seven Emmy nominations.

His Disney appearances include the films Arachnophobia, Born Yesterday, Stella, Coyote Ugly, and Confessions of a Shopaholic.

His most loved Disney/Pixar work as as Sulley in Monsters, Inc. and this year’s Monsters University, but he has also lent his voice to animated characters in The Emperor’s New Groove, Kronk’s New Groove, The Jungle Book 2, and The Princess and the Frog.

In accepting the award, he indicated that he really felt he and Billy Crystal were being honored as a team; somewhat unusually for animated voice work, they performed their lines together in the studio rather than recording them separately.    (He also was thankful that he didn’t have to follow Billy in his acceptance).   John also said that it the true honor was just in being cast to work with the Disney artists in the first place.

Billy Crystal

Billy Crystal was a successful stand-up comic who gained a national audience through his appearances on the shows Soap (1977-81) and Saturday Night Live (1984-1985).   He hosted several Comic Relief fundraisers along with Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams.

He appeared in a number of Rob Reiner films including The Princess Bride (“Have fun storming the castle!”) and When Harry Met Sally.     He was nominated for Golden Globes 3 times for his film work.

He turned down the opportunity to voice Buzz Lightyear in the original Toy Story film before voicing Mike Wazowski in Monsters, Inc, a role he has called his favorite character he ever played.    He recently reprised the role for this year’s Monsters University.

As a 9-time host of the Academy Awards, Billy has surpassed everyone but Bob Hope in the number of times hosting the show.

In accepting the award, he reflected on the change in how we watch entertainment today — specifically recalling how watching Disney movies was something that brought the whole family together, with everyone watching together, rather than everyone wrapped up on their own iPad / iPhone or other device and doing their own thing.

Dick Clark

Dick Clark was recognized for his enormous contributions in the television industry, as a host and producer.

His best-known contributions are American Bandstand, which he hosted for over 30 years, and the annual New Years Rockin’ Eve special which he also hosted for over 30 years.   In addition to those shows, he performed on or produced many game shows, awards shows, and specials.

Dick won five Emmy awards and is a member of both the Television Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll hall of fame.    He passed away in 2012 and his Disney Legend award was accepted by his wife, Kari.

Glen Keane

Glen spent 38 years as a Disney animator, and is the pencil (or computer-pointing device) behind some of the most beloved characters of the second Golden Age of Disney Animation.

His father, Bil Keane, is the cartoonist behind the long-running Family Circus comic and devised all six of the jokes used in the strip.

Glen joined Disney just as the last animators that directly worked under Walt were approaching retirement, and was mentored by such greats as Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston and Eric Larson.

Characters animated by Glen include Penny (The Rescuers), Elliott (Pete’s Dragon), Tod, Vixey, and the bear (The Fox and the Hound),  Ariel (The Little Mermaid), the Beast (Beauty and the Beast), and the title characters in Aladdin, Pocahontas, and Tarzan.

Glen did much of the original development work on the Rapunzel story that eventually morphed into Tangled.

Glen retired from Disney in 2012 but continues to teach and inspire new artists.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is obviously best-known for his contributions to Apple, but his contributions to Pixar are bigger than many (or most) people realize.   Before reading Walter Issacson’s biography, I had assumed Steve was just an investor / owner; only after reading about his involvement did I realize how important his contributions were to the company that Pixar became.

When Disney acquired Pixar in 2006, Steve became Disney’s largest shareholder and a member of the Board of Directors.

Steve’s award was accepted by Pixar and Disney future legend John Lasseter.   The acceptance was certainly the most moving part of the Legends ceremony, and perhaps the most moving moment of the entire expo.     I recommend watching it here.

That concludes the 2013 Disney Legends; inductions are now biannual to coincide with the Expo so then next class of inductees will be named in 2015 shortly before that year’s Expo.

 

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