What is the Disney Legends program?
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.
In this new series of posts, we’ll take a quick look at a Disney legend. Some of them you’ll know, but may not know their connection to the Disney company. Others of them will be new to some of you. If you’re a fan of history – especially entertainment or Disney history – I hope you’ll enjoy the series!
If you consider yourself a “Disney nerd” – or you’ve taken my advice and watched As Dreamers Do 🙂 – you may recognize the name Ub Iwerks. Ub and Walt worked together at the Pesmen-Rubin Commercial Art Studio, but were both laid off at the age of 19. They decided to start their own studio, “Iwerks-Disney Studio Commercial Artists”… because “Disney Iwerks” sounded too much like an eyeglass manufacturer. 🙂 The studio didn’t last long, but the relationship did.
When Walt formed Laugh-o-Gram Films in 1922, he contacted Ub to bring him on as his chief animator. Ub and Walt stuck together through Laugh-o-Gram’s bankruptcy, Walt’s move to Hollywood, and numerous other ups and downs with the company in its various forms. Ub worked on the early Mickey Mouse cartoons as well as the Alice comedy series, and is even credited with animating Mickey’s first film, Plane Crazy, which he drew on his own in less than three weeks!
Ub then spent some time working on his own, but returned to the company in the 1940s, where he pioneered new technology that would change the face of animation processes. He won two technical Academy Awards and helped solidify Walt Disney Animation as the leader in the industry.
If that weren’t enough to earn him a Disney Legends award, he also had a large role in developing rides such as “it’s a small world”, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and The Hall of Presidents.
Ub Iwerks passed away in 1971, and became a Disney Legend posthumously on July 19, 1989.
Want more Ub?
Watch Instantly: Cartoons that Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection (or Volume 2 here)
Watch on YouTube: The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story