Among the class of 2011 to be inducted into the group of Disney Legends is a television host, puppeteer, a number of voice artists, and a hotelier. This group represents a diverse slice of Disney history and speaks to the large shoulders upon which the company stands today. The Disney Legends Awards program is a 24-year tradition of The Walt Disney Company. Including this years inductees, there are 237 members. A very small group compared to all the people who have had an impact on the Walt Disney Company.
“From giving voice to some of our most iconic and beloved Disney princesses to bringing a smile to millions of television viewers every morning for two decades, we are proud to present these 12 men and women with our highest, most coveted honor, The Disney Legends Award,” said Disney President and CEO Bob Iger. “Our newest honorees now join this unique and prestigious circle, which recognizes those whose incredible talents and outstanding contributions have had a lasting, meaningful impact on Disney’s great legacy.”
The 2011 Disney Legends Award honorees (listed alphabetically) are:
JODI BENSON is an acclaimed voice actress and soprano singer who provided both the singing and speaking voices for Disney’s Princess Ariel in The Little Mermaid and its sequels. For more than 20 years, Benson has voiced Ariel in film, television, video games, toys and at Disney Parks. She also starred as Sam in Disney’s Enchanted and voiced Barbie in the hit Disney/Pixar films Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, plus Weebo in the film comedy Flubber.
BARTON “BO” BOYD began his career at Disney 1968 as an Assistant Merchandise Supervisor at Disneyland. Continually advancing over the course of his 33-years with the company, Boyd was an integral part of the team creating merchandise specifically for Disneyland and Walt Disney World and held positions including Merchandise Division Director and Vice President, Retail Merchandising. In 1997, he was named Chairman of Disney Consumer Products where he oversaw one of the longest periods of sustained growth in the history of Disney merchandising with such initiatives as Licensed Merchandise, Walt Disney Records, the start of Hyperion Press, the entire line of Disney magazine products, Disney Catalog, Disney Interactive for computer games and educational software, ESPN—The Store, Walt Disney Classics Collection, Walt Disney Collectors Society and the establishment of the first Disney Store outside the grounds of the Disney Parks.
JIM HENSON, an Emmy Award-winning television producer and Oscar-nominated film director, was an American puppeteer and the creator of global phenomenon, The Muppets. The cross-cultural appeal of The Muppets propelled television shows like Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock to new heights. The success of these series led Henson to explore feature films including The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan, as well as the technologically ground-breaking fantasy classics The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. The Muppet legacy continued with popular Disney films such as The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, as well as the upcoming The Muppets, premiering this November.
LINDA LARKIN is a celebrated actress and popular voice performer best known for providing the voice of Princess Jasmine in the Disney animated feature Aladdin, its sequels, spin-offs and television specials. She has also been vocally featured in the Disney animated television series House of Mouse and the popular Kingdom Hearts video game.
PAIGE O’HARA is a Broadway actress and singer best known for providing the voice of Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, its sequels, series and games. She also starred as Angela in the Disney film hit Enchanted. O’Hara has also been vocally featured in the Disney video game Kingdom Hearts and as Belle on the 64th Annual Academy Awards.
REGIS PHILBIN is an Emmy Award-winning, cultural icon who has entertained millions of people through talk shows, game shows, books and albums for more than 50 years. For the past 23 years, Americans have woken up to Philbin, thanks to the nationally syndicated hit talk show LIVE! with Regis and Kelly which originated in 1983 when Philbin created The Morning Show for WABC in New York. In addition to his daytime success, Philbin launched ABC’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire into a primetime powerhouse and hosted a variety of shows including NBC’s America’s Got Talent, CBS’ Million Dollar Password, and the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards.
JACK AND BONITA WRATHER struck a deal with their friend Walt Disney in 1954 to build a luxury family hotel on property adjacent to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Ground was broken on March 18, 1955, and the hotel opened six and a half months later—104 rooms in five two-story buildings at a starting room rate of $15. The Disneyland Hotel, originally conceived as simply lodging, presaged future developments in how Americans entertained themselves, pioneering, as Jack’s son Chris wrote, “new forms of dining as entertainment, shopping as entertainment and the use of a waterfront setting” in an urban environment. The Disneyland Hotel has since played host to kings, queens, presidents, entertainment and sports legends and families from around the world.
ANIKA NONI ROSE is a renowned actress and singer who provided the voice of Princess Tiana in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. In addition, some of her Broadway, television and film credits include her Tony Award-winning performance in Caroline, or Change, the blockbuster feature film Dreamgirls, and television series including The Starter Wife and The Good Wife.
LEA SALONGA is a celebrated actress and singer who provided the singing voice for two Disney Princesses: Jasmine in Aladdin, and Fa Mulan in Mulan and Mulan II. In addition to her recording and television career, Salonga’s vast Broadway credits are highlighted by her performance as Kim in Miss Saigon which garnered her numerous awards including a Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics’ Circle and Theater World Awards.
RAY WATSON was President of The Irvine Company when he was asked to join the Board of Directors for Walt Disney Productions in 1973. Watson’s early tenure on the Board saw the expansion of Walt Disney World, the 1976 opening of River Country—Disney’s first water park, and the opening of EPCOT Center, in 1982, which at a cost of $1 billion was the largest private land development project ever at that time. In 1983, Watson was elected as Chairman of the Board and after stepping down as chairman 1984, remained on the Board until he retired in 2004 after serving the Company for 30 years and establishing a worldwide reputation as a real estate development visionary.
GUY WILLIAMS was an acclaimed actor who starred in the hit Disney television series Zorro and two feature films, The Sign of Zorro and Zorro the Avenger. Williams’ charming portrayal of Zorro helped galvanized the character in the public’s imagination and made the series a favorite among the Baby Boomer generation and beyond. His other popular television credits include the hit series Bonanza and Lost in Space.
Each honoree receives a two-foot-tall bronze Disney Legends sculpture that signifies the imagination, creativity and magic they have brought to the Company. Disney Legends Award recipients also participate in a handprint ceremony, and their bronzed prints will be displayed in the Disney Legends Plaza at the Company’s Burbank headquarters.
The first Disney Legend, actor Fred MacMurray (The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, The Happiest Millionaire), was named in 1987. Past Disney Legends include Tim Allen, Robin Williams, Julie Andrews, Howard Ashman, Annette Funicello, Peter Jennings, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin, Alan Menken, Hayley Mills, Fess Parker, Sir Tim Rice, Dick Van Dyke and Barbara Walters.