The 2019 Disney Legend honorees were announced today! Once upon a time, I started a super geeky series about Disney Legends. I may get back to that one day, hopefully. But today, I’m sharing my excitement with you that one Robert Downey Jr is going to be in the same room as me this summer at the 2019 D23 Expo. Check out the list of the 2019 Disney Legends honorees that was released today!
What is the Disney Legends Award?
Bob Iger said of the prestigious honor, “The Disney Legends Award is the highest honor we can bestow; it’s a recognition of talent, a celebration of achievement, and an expression of profound gratitude to the remarkable men and women who have made an indelible mark on our company and our creative legacy….. This year’s honorees have earned a place in our hearts and our history for their significant contributions in film, television, and our theme parks around the world.”
From my original post in the series:
Began in 1987, the Disney Legends program recognizes specially selected recipients who have made “extraordinary and integral” contributions to The Walt Disney Company. Each year a selection committee deliberates and chooses honorees, who are presented with the Disney Legends award at a special ceremony.
The award itself is a bronze statue with three parts:
the spiral, representing idea and imagination;
the hand, representing skill, gifts, and craftsmanship; and
the wand and star, representing magic – the spark that is created by combining imagination and skill.
Award winners also receive a plaque (which includes their handprints and signature, if they are living at the time it is presented), and a “golden pass” – lifetime admission to all Disney parks worldwide.
Who are the 2019 Disney Legends Award Honorees?
Want to jump to a specific honoree?
- Wing Chao
- Robert Downey Jr
- Jon Favreau
- James Earl Jones
- Bette Midler
- Kenny Ortega
- Barnette Ricci
- Robin Roberts
- Diane Sawyer
- Ming-Na Wen
- Hans Zimmer
Wing Chao was the vice chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for Assia Pacific Development and the executive Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering. He played a huge role in the architecture and design of cruise ships, attractions, retail spaces, and pretty much all of the things in California, Florida, Hawaii, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and more. As a fan of Aulani, Shanghai Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland, I’m now a fan of Wing Chao, too.
Robert Downey Jr
I mean…. I loved RDJ in Chaplin. I love his story of redemption. But mostly, you know I’m #TeamIronMan. I wasn’t really alive for the Brat Pack (and Brat Pack Adjacent) era of filmmaking, but I’ve made up for it in attempting to become a Robert Downey Jr completist. Suffice it to say, I’m pretty glad he agreed to take on the role of a relatively obscure Marvel character named Iron Man so that we could be given the gift that is the MCU (see also: Jon Favreau).
Side note: did you know that RDJ is slated for the titular role of The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle next year?
I loved Pete Becker in Friends. The Jungle Book, while not my favorite remake, was stunning – as I’m sure The Lion King will be. The information coming out about The Mandalorian is pretty exciting. Heck, even Jon’s small (sometimes near-cameo) roles of Happy Hogan and “Doctor” in Elf are charming. But movie fans owe him a true debt of gratitude for taking a chance on the aforementioned Iron Man character, that was just as likely to be a total flop as any measure of success. Turns out, it didn’t flop, exactly. It spawned 21 more movies that have literally changed the face of filmmaking and storytelling for generations to come. NBD.
James Earl Jones
What has this man done that isn’t legendary? Whether your first image (or sound….?) of James Earl Jones is as Darth Vader or Mufasa, most of us would recognize his voice anywhere. He’s lended it to major movies as well as animated series (Star Wars Rebels, The Lion Guard, etc). He’s narrated Disneynature films, hosted in Fantasia, and is one of the quickest sellouts every time he performs in Epcot’s Candlelight Processional.
I’ll be honest, my first thoughts of Bette Midler are all non-Disney related. A lime green, polka dotted CD* I wore out at my grandma and grandpa’s house; singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” for my other grandpa at a flea market karaoke stand; a solo performance of “The Rose” during my final year in Miami University Choraliers… In the Disney universe, Midler appeared in many 1980s’ comedies, provided the smash hit “Wind Beneath My Wings” for the Touchstone picture Beaches, and voiced the adorable (if totally spoiled) poodle Georgette in one of my favorite childhood films, Oliver and Company. Apparently, she was also in a little known Halloween classic called Hocus Pocus, too, which a handful of Disney fans like. 🙂
*Experience the Divine, including “From a Distance”, “Chapel of Love”, “The Rose”, “Miss Otis Regrets”, “Wind Beneath My Wings”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and “In My Life” – as well as so many other great songs.
I’m super excited about seeing this guy, too. He has been involved in number of Disney films since the 1980’s, but we are all definitely huge fans of his direction and choreography of the High School Musical and Descendants franchises, as well as 1992’s Newsies.
Another choreographer on this year’s Disney Legends honor roll, Barnette Ricci began choreographing numbers at Disneyland, including parades, park grand openings, and stage shows. She worked on the Golden Horseshoe Revue, Diamond Horseshoe Revue, Main Street Electrical Parade, and other favorites. Perhaps my favorite of the things she’s done though, is the creation of Fantasmic!. She served more than 40 years in these roles and as Vice President/Show Director of Special Events, before retiring in 2013.
If Robin Roberts sounds familiar to you, you probably grew up – as I did – in a house full of sports fans. Robin was all over ESPN from the time I was a child; she spent time on NFL Primetime, SportsCenter, and her own show, In the Game with Robin Roberts. She went on to appear on Good Morning America, In the Spotlight with Robin Roberts: All Access Nashville, and ABC red carpet coverage for awards shows.
Were someone to ask me to name famous newscasters, as someone who grew up in a household (and continues to run a household) that didn’t really sit around the television and watch news broadcasts, I’d maybe be able to come up with 10. Diane Sawyer would be one of them. If there is a thing that a journalist could do – news anchoring, primetime documentaries, investigatory specials, and major interviews – she’s done them. If you name an award for journalism, there’s a chance she’s won it.
Ming-Na Wen has had several roles in Disney and ABC television shows. She’s currently on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D as Agent Melinda May; she also appeared on ER and Fresh Off the Boat. What I know her best for though, is her voice work – namely as Mulan in the original animated feature Mulan, Kingdom Hearts, Disney Infinity, Disney’s House of Mouse, Sofia the First, and Ralph Breaks the Internet. She also lent her voice to roles on Phineas and Ferb, Disney XD’s Guardians of the Galaxy animated series, the current (and super underrated) animated series Milo Murphy’s Law, and the animated mini-series Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors.
My husband and I were literally just engaged in a discussion about movie score composers less than a week ago. We named the most noteworthy, and of course among those names was one Hans Zimmer. We went on a deep dive into his work and commented that he’s just an Emmy away from the infamous “EGOT” accomplishment (where a single artist earns an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award during his or her career). He has scored more than 160 projects, won an Academy Award, two Golden Globes, three Grammys, an American Music Award, and a Tony Award. Some of his most famous Disney-related scores include White Fang, Cool Runnings, The Lion King (both the 1994 animated and the 2019 remake), Muppet Treasure Island, Iron Man, and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
When will the Disney Legends Awards be presented?
Since the D23 Expo began, the Disney Legends Awards have been presented during a ceremony kicking off the beginning of the Expo. Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis; it is included in the price of a ticket to the 2019 D23 Expo, taking place in Anaheim in August.