Robert Downey Jr., Bette Midler and Kenny Ortega are among the eleven stars to be honored as Disney Legends during this year’s D23 Expo.
The Disney Legends Awards began in 1987 and acknowledges those who have made an extraordinary impact on The Walt Disney Company legacy. Over the years, 289 stars have been honoured including 2019’s legends: Barnette Ricci, Bette Midler, Diane Sawyer, Hans Zimmer, James Earl Jones, Jon Favreau, Kenny Ortega, Ming-Na Wen, Robert Downey Jr., Robin Roberts, and Wing Chao.
Each of the Disney Legends will be given a two-foot-tall bronze sculpture, whilst they will participate in a handprint ceremony at the end of the event, where their prints will be displayed at the Disney Legends Plaza. They will also be given a Disney Golden Pass which gives them lifetime access to the Disney Parks.
Speaking about this year’s honorees, Bob Iger, Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Officer said: “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.”
Let’s take a look at the 2019 Disney Legend honorees in more detail:
Barnette began her Disney career as a choreographer at Disneyland, creating and directing Kings of the Kingdom before choreographing and directing numerous parades such as as the Main Street Electrical Parade. In addition to working on the grand openings of Walt Disney World, EPCOT Center, and Tokyo Disneyland, and directing numerous shows, her biggest project to date is the creation of Fantasmic, which debuted at Disneyland in 1992. Barette later became the vice president/show director of Special Events at The Walt Disney Studios, and after a 40+ year career, she retired in 2013.
Multi-award winning star Bette Midler has appeared in a number of hit comedies, including Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), Ruthless People(1986), Outrageous Fortune (1987), and Big Business (1988). Touchstone’s 1988 drama Beaches was another hit and also included Bette’s platinum-selling version of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’. Several other Disney films followed, although one of her most famous roles has to be witchy Winifred in the Halloween spooktacular Hocus Pocus (1993).
Award-winning ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer is one of the most respected journalists in the world. She is used to tackling some of the biggest issues of our time including the realities of poverty through reporting, primetime specials, in-depth investigations and interviews. She has won numerous awards during her career including duPonts, Emmys, Peabodys, and an IRTS Lifetime Achievement Award. Diane was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1997, and was named co-anchor of Good Morning America in January 1999, before taking over the World News anchor chair in December 2009.
Having scored more than 160 projects, and with countless awards under his belt, there’s no doubt that Hans Zimmer is worthy of his Disney Legend status. His early work with Disney includes additional music for White Fang (1991) and co-writing music for Cool Runnings (1993) however, his Academy Award-winning instrumental score for The Lion King (1994) led to many more memorable projects. These include Crimson Tide (1995), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), The Rock (1996), Pearl Harbor (2001), King Arthur (2004), Iron Man (2008) and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. He has also composed the music for the forthcoming reimagining of The Lion King.
James Earl Jones
Despite starting his acting career with numerous film and television roles, James Earl Jones is probably best known for his iconic voice acring, which began with the role of Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). He reprised the role in numerous Star Wars movies including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and TV shows like Star Wars Rebels (2014–18). He is also the unmistakable voice of Mufasa in The Lion King (1994), The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride (1998), and The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar (2015), whilst he will be reprising the role this summer for the reimagining of The Lion King. James’ voice can also be heard in Disney Parks across the globe, including recurring vocal performances as Darth Vader for Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.
Jon Favreau is a successful producer and director who started his career with appearances in film and television before getting his big break with indie film Swingers (1996), for which he wrote the screenplay, starred, and co-produced. His list of credits are out of this world – as a director he is responsible for Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), the live-action remake of The Jungle Book (2016), and the forthcoming reimagining of The Lion King (2019). He is also an executive producer for Marvel Studios, and has also made appearances in several of the films as Tony Stark’s bodyguard Happy Hogan. Additionally, he has voiced characters for Disney television shows and films including Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (TV, 2000), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (TV, 2010–13), and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). He is currently writing and executive producing the live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian for Disney+, which will premiere this November, and will also be starring in the forthcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home movie.
Multi-award winning director, choreographer, and producer Kenny Ortega began his Disney career by choreographing the TV special Disney’s Totally Minnie (1988), followed by Mickey’s 60th Birthday the same year. In 1993 he directed his first feature film, Newsies, followed by Hocus Pocus. Our personal favourite works from Kenny is without doubt the High School Musical trilogy, which became a huge smash hit across the world. He also produced and staged the High School Musical: The Concert tour, as well as the Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers Best of Both Worlds Tour. Most recently, he has been at the helm of the Descendants franchise, with the third film being released this summer.
Ming-Na Wen has a number of successful roles under her belt, including seven years as Jing-Mei Chen on ER, and her current role as Agent Melinda May, aka “The Cavalry,” on the ABC series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In terms of the big screen, she found animation immortality as the title star of Mulan, a role she would later reprise during numerous projects including video games Kingdom Hearts II and Disney Infinity, and in the Walt Disney Animation Studios film Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018). Additionally, Ming-Na is known for various television projects including her voice work in Disney Channel’s Phineas and Ferb, the six-part digital short Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, and a recurring role in ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat.
Robert Downey Jr.
Golden Globe winner Robert Downey Jr. has appeared in more than 80 films, although it’s his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man which has truly captured the hearts of moviegoers across the world. The first Iron Man movie was released in 2008, kickstarting the incredible Marvel Universe legacy. Two more Iron Man films followed, with Robert also starring in The Incredible Hulk (2008), Captain America: Civil War (2016), and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017); and four Avengers films, including the record-breaking Avengers: Endgame (2019) which recently shattered box office records.
Award-winning Robin Roberts has been a part of the Disney family for almost 30 years, beginning her career with ESPN in 1990 as a frequent contributor to the network’s programming. In 1995, Robin began making appearances on Good Morning America, and left ESPN ten years later to join the show full-time as a co-anchor. Over the years, Robin has hosted In the Spotlight with Robin Roberts: All Access Nashville, as well as the red carpet coverage of the Academy Awards for ABC. In addition, she has created original broadcast and digital programming for the network through her production company, Rock’n Robin Productions, and has also released her own book.
Wing T. Chao has played a huge role in the designing and developing of projects at Disney for 37 years. He served as vice chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for Asia Pacific Development as well as executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering, where he oversaw master planning, architecture, and design. Amongst his many achievements, he developed and built projects including resort hotels, parks, cruise ships, restaurants and more across The Walt Disney Company’s projects across the world. He also directed development teams consisting of Disney Imagineers and many of the world’s most renowned architects and designers.
Hosted by Bob Iger, the Disney Legends Awards ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, August 23, in Hall D23 of the Anaheim Convention Center.