The Disney Legends Awards puts Disney’s impact on our world into light. Each person started out, just like you and me. Normal people who had a dream for their lives and made it come true. It is an inspirational event that rewards people for their incredible careers and contributions to the Walt Disney company. Here are the 2017 award recipients and the best moments from this ceremony.


The Ceremony was hosted by Bob Iger who introduced the expo saying there would be many secrets revealed at this weekend’s expo. He hinted at Oswald the Lucky Rabbit being used more in the future, and then made a few (dad) jokes inserting him into current properties (like Haunted Mansion). He said that getting Oswald back after Walt had lost him was one of his proudest moments with the Walt Disney Company. We are privileged as Disney fans to have a CEO that has a heart, and seems to love the company he works for. It’s not just a ladder climb for Bob Iger. He has tried to make a name for himself and do things that are true to his own personal fandom obsessions. He spoke to the fans, saying the company wouldn’t be what it is without them.

Carrie Fisher – Film –

CARRIE FISHER is known best by Disney fans as Princess Leia, a role she originated in Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. In addition to reprising the role in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes BackStar Wars: Return of the JediStar Wars: The Force Awakens, and the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Carrie’s Disney appearances also include Scream 3 (2000) and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back(2001) for Dimension Films. Outside of her notable acting career, Carrie was also an accomplished author, playwright, screenwriter, and outspoken advocate for mental health awareness.

Carrie Fisher secretly wanted to be a Disney Princess. Her daughter, who was not able to be there, but had Bob Iger read a letter from her, said she would have been overwhelmed to not only have achieved becoming a Disney princess, but also a Disney Legend.

Bob Iger on Carrie:

“Carrie bared her soul to the world, always outspoken about her personal struggles”
“Carrie Fisher was a legend and there will never be another”
“Carrie, may the force be with you, always”

Clyde Geronimi – Animation –

CLYDE “GERRY” GERONIMI (pictured left) joined the Disney Studio in 1931 and animated several memorable Mickey Mouse, Silly Symphony, and Pluto cartoons. Throughout his career, Gerry contributed to more than 50 of the Studio’s shorts. Gerry made the leap to sequence director with 1943’s Victory Through Air Power, and he subsequently contributed to The Three CaballerosThe Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. ToadCinderellaPeter Pan, and One Hundred and One Dalmatians. He also directed segments for television’s Mickey Mouse Cluband contributed to episodes of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. Gerry also had the honor of serving as supervising director for the 1959 animated classic Sleeping Beauty.

“My dad was an immigrant”. Clyde’s son Gary said of him, expressing his gratitude for the award given to his father. Clyde’s contributions to the Disney company are a part of every Disney fan’s legacy.

Whoopi Goldberg – Film & Television –

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”). This makes her the one and only LEGOT recipient!

Whoopi took the stage proclaiming her love for all things Disney. She expressed a need to own Minnie’s shoes and was disappointed that the Walt Disney Company wouldn’t let her. So she found Irregular Choice shoes and she took one off to show us a black sparkly pump with Minnie’s signature bow on the toe. Good for Irregular Choice! They make incredible shoes! She talked about her mother always wanting to take her to Disney, and that she actually got the opportunity as an adult to take her mother to Disney and fufill her families dreams. Whoopie said “Disney made you feel like no matter where you came from you were welcome” And this was important to her experience as a black actress and comedienne.

Manuel Gonzales – Publishing –

MANUEL GONZALES was one of 33 artists selected from thousands of applicants to join Disney in 1936. In 1938, he took over penciling duties on the Sunday Mickey Mouse comic strip from Disney Legend Floyd Gottfredson. He brought Mickey Mouse to newspapers nationwide for nearly 40 years. His Mickey-starring comic strip appeared in 120 newspapers around the world with a collective circulation of more than 20 million readers each week. Manuel is one of a few to receive a “Mousecar” award from Walt Disney himself in 1966.

This award was also accepted by Manuel’s son. Who expressed gratitude for his Disney’s appreciation of this father’s legacy. He told a story about an interaction his dad had with Walt when he purchased a car the same model, but a year newer than Walt’s. His first day driving the car to the studio, the security guard mistook him for Walt and directed him to Walt’s parking space. Manuel, wasn’t aware and went about his business. Suddenly he was summoned to move his car, as he was parked in Walt’s space. He was scared Walt would be mad at him, but he put his arm around him and said “You know, I think i’m paying my artists too much” and they all had a laugh. He said for years it was an inside joke between his dad and Walt, Who would ask him, “So what kind of car are you gonna get next?”

Mark Hamill – Film –

MARK HAMILL is best known as Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy, but Mark’s Disney roots can be traced back to a recurring role on ABC’s General Hospital and a starring role in MTM’s The Texas Wheelers. A prolific voice actor, he has performed on Disney’s Miles from Tomorrowland and Milo Murphy’s Law, and has also provided the voice of The Joker in the Batman animated series, a role that recently earned him a BAFTA Award. He returned as Luke in The Force Awakens and will reprise the role in the upcoming The Last Jedi.

Mark Hamill took the stage as a fan of the Disney company first and foremost. He expressed deep gratitude for all Disney has shown him and done for him and was overwhelmed with emotion at times as he described his love for the company. He said, “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on earth”. “Disney provided me a tutorial for how to make my dreams come true” I think we all feel that way. It’s always easy to identify with Mark Hamill, who is a true fan’s fan.

Bob Iger said he would reveal a secret about the upcoming Star Wars movie, “The Last Jedi”. With baited breath, he told us that “This is Marks best performance as Luke Skywalker to date.” Thanks for the “spoiler”, Bob!

Wayne Jackson – Imagineering

WAYNE JACKSON began his career as a Walt Disney Imagineer in October 1965, and he put his technical skills to great use in the development and installation of Disney attractions around the world. Originally trained in aircraft tooling, he began as a technician and machinist assigned to rebuild the shows from the 1964–65 New York World’s Fair that were slated for installation at Disneyland. Instrumental in the early development of Audio-Animatronics® technology, Wayne would go on to help create Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Wayne would eventually work on the construction and installation of attractions and show systems at Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Disneyland Paris.

Wayne Jackson was hired in 1965 and become well known for his work with animatronics. He went on to become Installation Supervisor for Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and from there moved to Tokyo and was instrumental in his design work for Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea. He was known for his patience, kindness and thoroughness. We owe him for what he did for animatronics in Disney parks and for what the Tokyo parks are today.

Jack Kirby – Publishing

JACK KIRBY first grabbed our attention in the spring of 1941 with Captain America, a character he created with Joe Simon. Jack 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, Jack 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. Jack was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame’s 1987 inaugural class and continued creating comics throughout the ’90s before passing away in 1994.

Though I did not know Jack Kirby’s name prior to this ceremony, I realized I am more familiar with his work than I knew. He is responsible for almost every Marvel comic character, working with Stan Lee to build the Marvel brand. His award was accepted by his son, who was clearly touched by the honor.

Stan Lee – Film and Publishing –

STAN LEE got a job as an office assistant at a comic publisher in 1939 called Timely Comics—forerunner of the powerhouse we all know as Marvel. Stan made his debut with a Captain America story in 1941, and by the next year, at the age of just 18, he was promoted to editor. In 1961, Stan teamed up with Jack “King” Kirby to create the Fantastic Four and ushered in a spectacular new age of comics. Stan co-created 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.

As he accepted his award, Stan Lee was driven to tears thinking about a life working with Jack Kirby. He told a story about his love of reading as a child. He saw an expensive coffee table book in a shop called The Art of Disney and he dilegently saved his money so he could afford the book. He said, “I loved that book so. I loved Walt Disney so. He was something to reach for. To be like him.” It was clear that Stan Lee is still the fan that we all are. And that’s why we love him and identify with him so whole heatedly.

Garry Marshall – Film & Television – 

GARRY MARSHALL began his career in Los Angeles writing for a number of hit shows, including The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Lucy Show. But his big break came in 1970, when he produced The Odd Couple for ABC, the first of many big hits he created for the network. Beginning with Happy Days in 1974, he developed a shared universe of spinoffs including Laverne & ShirleyMork & Mindy, and Joanie Loves Chachi. He also produced AngieThe New Odd Couple, and Blansky’s Beauties for ABC. In addition to his television work, Garry directed 18 films, including multiple films for Disney, like Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts, and The Princess Diaries with Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway. Garry was known for his acting, as well, and he appeared in Disney’s Race to Witch Mountain and Hocus Pocus.

Garry Marshall sadly passed away last year. His children accepted the award on his behalf. His son said Garry had said, “Walt understood a bench”. Apparently Garry was a “bench dad” at Disney parks. Always opting to sit on a bench while his kids did the big rides. Its apropos since Walt Disney sat on a bench and had the first idea for Disneyland. His son Scott said, “he would have wanted us all to sit on a bench and dream.”

Julie Taymor – Theatrical

JULIE TAYMOR is a Tony®-, Emmy®-, and Grammy®-winning and Oscar®-nominated filmmaker who has 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; 24 global productions have been seen by more than 90 million people. The show has played in more than 100 cities in 19 countries. It received 11 Tony Award nominations, earning Julie Best Director, Costume Designer, and Best Musical. She is currently directing M. Butterfly on Broadway, opening Fall 2017.

“I think most people don’t take risks in life and I find that boring”
Julie is a trailblazer for women and feminists. She is the first woman director to win a tony for directing. She brought the Lion King to life on stage and revolutionized how people think of broadway shows and how they have become a rite of passage for many parents who introduce their children via Disney on Broadway. She said, “The thing that means the most to us in the lion king family is when it allows us to act as healers.” She told a touching story of a family who had lost a child and came to see the Lion King. Their young son, during He Lives in You, proclaimed that his sister was there with them. She was always there, like the stars in the sky and the great kings of the past.

Oprah Winfrey – Film & Television

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 in the United States and in more than 100 countries around the world. In 1998, she produced and starred in Beloved for Disney’s Touchstone Pictures. Oprah also produced and starred in ABC’s 1989 limited series The Women of Brewster Place, and 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 voiced 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.

Oprah told a story about going to Steakhouse 55 this trip and meeting a cast member who had worked at the resort for 42 years. When she asked him how he had lasted so long he replied that, “Disney was a place where he could always be himself”. Oprah went further and said “[Disney] was the best place to let me be me”. She said, “A legend is about the common experience we all hold and share”

What do you think of the recipients? Are they worthy of Disney Legend Status? Tell us how you feel in the comments and stay tuned for more articles!

It’s sure to be a great D23 Expo so please stay plugged in to Mice Chat for all the latest news from the expo and beyond!