The Disney Legends Ceremony, a cherished 22-year Company tradition that honors as Disney Legends those special few who embody our Company’s unique creative spirit, was held for the first time ever off Disney property today as part of the inaugural D23 Expo.
In a ceremony hosted by Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars, America’s Funniest Home Videos) and taking place in the D23 Arena shortly after Disney President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger’s opening presentation, memories, laughs and even a few tears were evoked as 10 Disney luminaries — Tony Anselmo (the voice of Donald Duck), Harry Archinal (Administration), former Golden Girls Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan and Betty White, Bill Farmer (voice of Goofy), Don Iwerks (Film Production), Leota Toombs Thomas (Imagineering and Attractions) and iconic actor Robin Williams — joined the circle of Disney Legends. Their names and handprints will forever be enshrined in the Legends Plaza on the Disney Studio Lot in Burbank.
“It is quite a treat for me and an honor to have been asked to be your host for this event,” Tom said before introducing Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios and of the Disney Legends committee. “To be named a Disney Legend is to be acknowledged as a standout in a field of excellence,” Dick added. “We made our first Disney Legends 22 years ago and the honor went to Fred MacMurray… Since then, 227 men and women have been honored, among them Disney luminaries like Julie Andrews, Annette Funicello, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Steve Allen, Steve Martin, Elton John and of course Walt Disney’s ‘Nine Old Men.’ Today we add 10 new Legends to this prestigious circle.”
Any time you have an all-star lineup like today’s, there are bound to be standout moments, and the 2009 Disney Legends Ceremony didn’t disappoint. “Boy oh boy, thanks for coming,” squabbled Tony Anselmo upon accepting his award — in perfect Donald Duck patois. “Don’t this beat all,” said Bill Farmer, in spot-on Goofy form.
Accepting the award for Bea Arthur, who passed away earlier this year, were her two sons, Matthew and Daniel Saks. “Growing up in our house, everything Disney was always looked at as the highest form of entertainment, so obviously this would be a big honor for her,” Daniel said. When the adorable Betty White received her award, she quipped, “First of all I want to put to rest the rumor someone started that I used to babysit for Walt when he was a little boy. I didn’t, but when the first Mickey Mouse doll came out… my parents, bless their hearts, bought him for me and he still stands on my desk at home. But the miracle of miracles is that I not only got to work for Disney many years ago… But that I’m still working for Disney!” And Robin Williams was his trademark self, firing off droll one-liners with manic urgency, but also taking the time to say, “I want to thank all the animators who made Aladdin, thank you, you really pushed the boundaries of what Disney can do. This is a great, great honor.”
“This event usually takes place at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank at Legends Plaza, but we thought it would be especially appropriate to hold this year’s ceremony right here at the D23 Expo in front of so many of Disney’s greatest fans, friends and Cast Members,” Bob added. “We’re proud that the name Disney has become synonymous with excellence, dedication to craft and devotion to innovation and creativity. This heritage was founded out of Walt’s extraordinary skills and drives our Company to this day.”