Every two years, at the biennial D23 Expo, The Walt Disney Company honors the most remarkable contributors to the Disney legacy, recognizing them as official Disney Legends. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Disney Legends Awards. The first Disney Legend was Fred MacMurray (The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, The Happiest Millionaire), who was honored in 1987. Today Disney proudly announced the names of the nine gifted individuals who will be joining past Disney Legends such as Julie Andrews, George Lucas, Alan Menken, Dick Van Dyke, Barbara Walters and Robin Williams.
“The Disney Legends Award is the highest honor our company can bestow on an individual, reserved for those few who have truly made an indelible mark on the history of The Walt Disney Company,” said Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger. “It’s a celebration of talent, a recognition of achievement, and an expression of gratitude to the men and women whose work has significantly contributed to Disney’s enduring reputation for creative excellence.”
Exclusive photos by Richard Sandoval
Here are the honorees for 2017 (in alphabetical order):
- Carrie Fisher became an overnight sensation in 1977 with her iconic performance as Princess Leia in Star Wars. But throughout her career, Carrie took on many roles—as an actress, author, playwright, screenwriter and outspoken advocate for mental health awareness.
- Clyde “Gerry” Geronimi joined the Disney Studio in 1931, working first as an animator for several memorable Mickey Mouse, Silly Symphony, and Pluto cartoons, and he eventually contributed to more than 50 of the Studio’s shorts. He made the leap to directing, with the apex of his Disney career coming when he served as supervising director for the 1959 masterpiece Sleeping Beauty.
- Whoopi Goldberg is one of a very elite group of artists who is an EGOT, which is an acronym for a person who’s won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. She has won Emmys (as host of AMC’s “Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel,” and a Daytime Emmy for “The View”), a Grammy (“Whoopi Goldberg”), an Oscar (“Ghost”) and a Tony (Producer of “Thoroughly Modern Millie”). Today at D23 EXPO: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event, she can add Disney Legend to this impressive list, making her the one and only LEGOT recipient!
- Manuel Gonzales, one of 33 artists selected from thousands of applicants to join Disney in 1936, took over penciling duties on the Sunday Mickey Mouse comic strip from Disney Legend Floyd Gottfredson in 1938. He brought Mickey Mouse to newspapers nationwide for nearly 40 years.
- Mark Hamill achieved worldwide attention as Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy, which included The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He returned as Luke in The Force Awakens and will appear in the upcoming The Last Jedi.
- Wayne Jackson began his career as a Walt Disney Imagineer in October 1965, and in the decades that followed he would put his technical skills and know-how to great use in the development and installation of Disney attractions around the world.
- Jack Kirby first grabbed our attention in the spring of 1941 with Captain America, a character he created with Joe Simon. Kirby then followed this debut with a prolific output of comic books in the Western, Romance and Monster genres—all a prelude to his defining work helping to create the foundations of the Marvel Universe. For the next decade, Kirby and co-creator Stan Lee would introduce a mind-boggling array of new characters and teams—including the Avengers, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Ant-Man, Wasp, Black Panther, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Inhumans. Kirby was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame’s 1987 inaugural class and continued creating comics throughout the ’90s before passing away in 1994.
- Stan Lee turned a job as an office assistant at a comic publisher in 1938 called Timely Comics into a storied career that has been highlighted by the co-creation of an enormous roster of Marvel characters, including Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, the X-Men, Daredevil and Falcon. He became Marvel’s editorial director and publisher in 1972, and eventually was named chairman emeritus.
- Garry Marshall wrote and produced many big hits for ABC, including The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. He was also a successful movie director, with 18 films to his credit. At Disney, he made stars of two young actresses: Julia Roberts, in Pretty Woman, and Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries.
- Julie Taymor is a Tony®-, Emmy®– and Grammy®-winning and Oscar®-nominated filmmaker whohas changed the face of Broadway with her innovative direction. Her adaptation of The Lion King debuted in 1997, and became the most successful stage musical of all time.
- Oprah Winfrey is a renowned award-winning producer, actress, talk show host and philanthropist. For 25 years, she was the host of the award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which ran for 25 seasons on hundreds of stations domestically and in more than 100 countries around the world. Oprah produced and starred in the feature film Beloved for Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, as well as ABC’s 1989 limited series The Women of Brewster Place, and she would go on to produce many films for ABC, including Tuesdays with Morrie, Before Women Had Wings, and Their Eyes Were Watching God under the “Oprah Winfrey Presents” banner. She performed as Eudora in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog in 2009 and will co-star as Mrs. Which in Disney’s 2018 film A Wrinkle in Time.