Robert Downey Jr., Christina Aguilera, James Earl Jones, Bette Midler and eight additional luminaries were honored with the designation of 'Disney Legend' today at Disney's D23 Expo in Anaheim, California (Friday). In addition to those aforementioned, Diane Sawyer, Jon Favreau, Hans Zimmer, Robin Roberts, Barnette Ricci, Ming Na Wen, Wing Chao and Kenny Ortega publicly accepted the company's "highest honor" for their remarkable contributions to the Disney legacy. Hosted by Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger, he described this year's recipients as having "earned a place in our hearts and our history for their significant contributions in film, television, and our theme parks around the world.”
Former 'The All-New Mickey Mouse Club' member Christina Aguilera kicked off the ceremony with a live performance of the song that coincided with her first recording contract, "Reflection" from the soundtrack to Disney's Mulan.
Former 'The All-New Mickey Mouse Club' member Christina Aguilera kicked off the ceremony with a live performance of the song that coincided with her first recording contract, "Reflection" from the soundtrack to Disney's Mulan. While accepting her honor from Iger, she made note of how her time as a "Mouseketeer" provided a safe foundation to explore her artistic interests. She found it hard to relate to other kids in her sports-centric school, and the TV show allowed her to find community in it's cast members.
Iron-Man actor Robert Downey Jr. hilariously accepted the designation by recounting his story of being arrested while visiting Disneyland for the first time.
Here’s a bit of trivia for you, the very first time I went to Disneyland I was transported to another place…within moments of being arrested. I was brought to a surprisingly friendly processing center. Given a stern warning and returned to, if memory serves, one very disappointed group chaperone. I've been sitting on that shame for awhile and I'm just gonna release it here...tonight. I would like to make amends for whomever had to detain me for smoking pot in a gondola without a license.
He then pivoted to sentiments a little more serious sharing that he had a feeling today's ceremony would be special, and how "delighted" he was to be a part of such a "rich and diverse group of humans."
Newscasters Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts subsequently accepted their awards. Both name-checked each other in their respective speeches, shining a light on their long-held professional relationship and personal friendship. Sawyer shared a funny anecdote on one of their first on-screen interactions. During a live news segment Sawyer not only butchered Roberts' name, but the name of her news outlet while introducing her. When the camera cut to Robin she dryly responded "...or whatever."
Imagineer Wing Chao and choreographer Barnette Ricci were honored for their contributions to entertainment at Disney's international theme park properties. Kenny Ortega, James Earl Jones and Hans Zimmer were recognized for their work with iconic company properties, most notably High School Musical, Star Wars, and Pirates of The Caribbean respectively.
Bette Midler, star of Disney's Halloween themed classic Hocus Pocus, regrettably was not able to attend due to weather complications while traveling. Her daughter Sophie von Haselberg accepted instead, brought to tears by her mother's touching speech.