D23 Expo 2019: Robert Downey Jr, Jon Favreau, Christina Aguilera, Hans Zimmer honoured as Disney legends
D23 Expo, the ultimate Disney fan event, kicked off Friday morning with the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony.
If you're a fan of Disney and all its supercalifragilisticexpialidocious franchises and acquisitions, there was no place more magical than Hall D23 at the Anaheim Convention Center, where the 2019 D23 Expo kicked off Friday morning with the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony. The Walt Disney Co. welcomed 12 new members to its exclusive club at what has become a lovely tradition at the Disney fan event.
Robert Downey Jr, Jon Favreau, Christina Aguilera and Hans Zimmer along with such luminaries as James Earl Jones, Kenny Ortega, Ming-Na Wen, Bette Midler, Wing Chao, Barnette Ricci, Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer, were honoured for their extraordinary contributions to the Disney legacy.
Taking the stage as host of the eagerly anticipated event, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger introduced the 12 new talents, who "challenged coventional wisdom and changes the status quo" and thus made a remarkable impact on the Mouse House. Welcoming the fans to the sixth edition of the Disney fan event, Iger noted how a lot has changed since the previous edition, referring to the recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox and Disney joining the streaming wars to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime. But he made sure to remind fans of the humble origins of Walt Disney's enduring vision: "No matter what, we've never lost sight of one thing: it all started with a mouse."
The ceremony began with the felicitation of Downey Jr, whose debut as Iron Man in 2008 launched what is now known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Having played the character for over 10 years in 10 movies, he became the face of the MCU, recognised and beloved globally. It often felt like Tony Stark was a role he was born to play. It also helped create a fresh narrative for the actor following years of addiction and self-destructive behaviours that almost destroyed a once promising career. His transformation from a selfish charismatic playboy to a selfless superhero in the era-ending and saga concluding chapter, Avengers: Endgame, has thus endeared him to fans worldwide.
“For my part, playing Tony over many years, the thematic idea that technology can guide our species towards enlightenment or destruction, it’s been a really worthwhile and ongoing meditation. Honestly it’s been a great gift,” he said. The 6800-odd Disney fans in Hall D23 rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation, with many in the audience often interrupting him mid-speech with sweet declarations of "I love you, 3000" and "I am Iron Man".
Downey Jr. was his usual quippy self, sharing a priceless anecdote about how he was arrested during his first visit 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, if memory serves, to one very disappointed group chaperone. I’ve been sitting on that shame for a while and I‘m just going to release it here tonight. I would like to make amends for whoever had to contain me for smoking pot in the gondola without a license," he explained.
Jon Favreau, the director who gave Downey Jr. a second chance by casting him as Tony Stark, also achieved legend status. Favreau not only directed Iron Man and Iron Man 2 but also helmed two of Disney's most successful live-action remakes — The Jungle Book and The Lion King.
Christina Aguilera, a former Mouseketeer, opened the ceremony with a heartfelt rendition of her song "Reflection" from the 1998 Disney animated film, Mulan. She also joined the Disney Legends Class of 2019, calling the honour "way cooler than a Grammy."
Renowned film composer Hans Zimmer, who won an Oscar for Best Original Score for The Lion King (1996), was also honoured for his contribution to the Disney legacy. Others joining the ranks included Mulan and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Ming-Na Wen; James Earl Jones, the iconic voice behind The Lion King's Mufasa and Star Wars' Darth Vader; Hocus Pocus star Bette Midler; and choreographer Kenny Ortega, who also directed popular Disney titles like Newsies and the High School Musical trilogy.
The Disney Legends Awards program is a 32-year tradition of The Walt Disney Company and has since celebrated the talent and legacy of 289 individuals.
The Disney D23 Expo runs from 23-25 August at the Anaheim Convention Center.
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