Thousands of Disney’s most loyal and passionate fans were live witnesses to history on Saturday afternoon at the Anaheim Convention Center as The Walt Disney Company honored the eight newest inductees into the prestigious circle of Disney Legends.
Tony Baxter. Collin Campbell. Dick Clark. Billy Crystal. John Goodman. Steve Jobs. Glen Keane. Ed Wynn. These incredible talents have now been honored with their places alongside the 249 men and women who, since 1987, have been honored with The Walt Disney Company’s highest honor for their timeless contributions and inspirational talent.
Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger, along with Dancing with the Stars host Tom Bergeron, electrified the crowd with a deft, deferential co-hosting performance that mixed humor with history and re-introduced the enthusiastic crowd to the eight newest Disney Legends.
“This is an incredibly special occasion for everyone at Disney, and for everyone who loves Disney,” Bob said, early in the Ceremony.
“Because today we are celebrating some of the remarkable people behind the Disney magic.
Of the hundreds of thousands of cast members and artists who have been part of the Disney family over the last 90 years, only 249 have been recognized as Disney Legends. The distinction is reserved for the incredible artists, visionaries, and unique talents who truly embody Disney’s creative spirit and have made significant contribution to our company and our legacy.”
Beloved Imagineer Tony Baxter was the first to be honored, and the warm reception he received from the audience came as no surprise. “Tony followed a string of early achievements with several iconic Disney theme park attractions, including Star Tours, Indiana Jones Adventure, and Splash Mountain,” Tom said. “He’s known and loved by some of Disney’s most ardent fans as the guy who gave the world Figment and Dreamfinder,” Bob said. “We found out just how important these two characters are to people just a few years ago when they disappeared during the renovation of the Journey Into Imagination pavilion. For a while there, anytime I spoke with fans—at Shareholder meetings or anywhere else—I could always count on someone asking where Figment went, what we had done with him, and when we were going to give him back. Well, we’re happy to have him back in the attraction—it’s now called Journey Into Imagination with FIGMENT. So I don’t think he’s going anywhere.”
Tony started on a comic note, as well. “When are we bringing Dreamfinder back?” he quipped, turning to Bob, before explaining some of the keys to his success. “Whenever I think what I want to do next, it’s the child in me looking for the next challenge.”
Tom Bergeron weighed in with a witty assessment of legendary actor Ed Wynn—now a Disney Legend for all time. “A comedian is a man who doesn’t do funny things but who does things funny,” Tom said, quoting Mr. Wynn. “In the spirit of the late, great Ed Wynn, and in honor of his first Disney role as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, I’d like to mark his introduction into the Disney Legends by wishing everyone a ‘very merry unbirthday!’ Bob said.
Imagineer extraordinaire Collin Campbell, who worked alongside Walt Disney, was warmly praised during his induction. “Collin had it… and Walt saw it… and put his talents to great use across the entire company,” Bob said. “Especially at Imagineering, where his talents had unlimited applications and where he spent the rest of his career making magic for the millions of guests we’ve entertained in our parks and resorts.”
John Goodman, then Billy Crystal, were inducted next to rapturous applause. Both have distinguished careers with The Walt Disney Company but are especially beloved for their roles as James P. “Sulley” Sullivan and the cyclopean Mike Wazowski, in the Pixar blockbusters Monsters University and Monsters, Inc. “I first met John on the set of Roseanne,” Bob recalled. “It was my first week as president of ABC Entertainment, and he and the rest of the cast and crew were celebrating their first year as a hit show.” As for Billy, Bob was just as effusive. “Billy has pretty much done it all,” Bob said. “He’s a comedian, an actor, a writer, a director, a producer, a host, the world’s oldest major league baseball player, a friend of mine, and now a Disney Legend.”
“Thank you for not having me follow Billy,” John laughed. “The honor for me is working with Disney artists in the first place. This [Disney Legends Award] is partial payback for having to go to the Disney Stores all those years to buy Arial outfits and Jasmine outfits! Seriously, it’s overwhelming to be here and something I will treasure this for the rest of my life.”
Billy Crystal received his Award and said, “I grew up as a lot of us did, watching Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse Club in black and white on a little TV,” he remembered. “My favorite movie is Pinocchio and my favorite characters are Jiminy Cricket and Dopey—which is how I spent my teenage years,” he laughed, pulling his own version of a Dopey face. “Fantasyland has become Reality to me. This is what happens when you wish upon a star.”
Iconic American Bandstand host Dick Clark, who passed away in 2012, was next to be honored with the Disney Legends award. “Dick Clark opened the door to a new era, and he helped us celebrate the coming of each new year,” Bob said. “New Year’s Eve will never be the same—or quite as rockin’—without him.”
Truly legendary animator Glen Keane, who animated such heartwarming and unforgettable characters as the ruby-locked Arial in The Little Mermaid, the imposing Beast in Beauty and the Beast, and the proud and noble Pocahontas, was honored next. “In 1996, Glen began work on his retelling of the Rapunzel story, which he would develop over the next decade,” Tom said. “The project became the 2012 hit Tangled, for which he served as executive producer, animation supervisor, and directing animator for the character Rapunzel.”
“Glen represents the best of Disney animation, and quite frankly, the best of Disney period,” Bob said. “We are forever in his debt for giving us some of the most beautiful and beloved characters ever drawn.”
“This is incredibly humbling, the idea of being a Disney Legend,” Glen laughed. “Last night, I said to my wife, ‘Now you have to call me a legend,” he said. “She said, ‘You don’t kiss like a legend!'” He explained what makes him such a successful animator by saying, “I love characters that believe the impossible is possible. They believe something as crazy as a mermaid that think that she can walk on Earth.” He closed his comments with an exhortation: “Long live Disney animation!”
Next to be honored was one of the greatest visionaries the world has ever seen, Apple founder Steve Jobs. Pixar’s initial major financial investor, he was credited as the producer of the 1995 Pixar film, Toy Story. Disney has consulted and distributed all Pixar features ever since and acquired the company in 2006.
After leaving Apple for a time, Steve returned in 1996 and became CEO in 2000. When The Walt Disney Company acquired Pixar in 2006, he became the Company’s largest shareholder overnight, joining the Board of Directors in 2006. He remained a valuable advisor in the years that followed.
He passed away on October 5, 2011 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
“This particular award is rather personal to me, because Steve was a dear friend of mine, and I’d give anything to be presenting this to him in person,” Bob said. “The world lost something extraordinary—and irreplaceable—when we lost Steve.” Bob then introduced Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter to accept the Disney Legends Award for Steve Jobs. ”
“I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,” he said, plainly emotional and clearly reminded of how much he missed his dear friend. “I remember a meeting with him going over the Tin Toy stories and drawings,” he remembered. “And he did that trademark move of his—his hands under his chin—and he wasn’t even looking at the drawings. He was looking into the future. At the end of the meeting, he said, ‘John, make it great.'”
There are now 257 Disney Legends—men and women that stand for the very best of Disney and made countless contributions to the Company that continues to change the face of family entertainment.
Their names are forever memorialized at Legends Plaza at the Disney Studio lot in Burbank.