Before I was born, my Grandmother bought a ticket to the first day of Disneyland for me as a gift to keep and cherish for my entire life. Years later, my Disney connection would become solidified by being cast as one of the leads in the Original Los Angeles production of The Lion King and now as a film critic attending D23 for the first time.
The weekend kicked off strong with a tribute to Disney legends which included, Robert Downey, Jr, Diane Sawyer, Hans Zimmer, Robin Roberts, Christina Aguilera, Ming Na Wen, James Earl Jones, Wing T. Chao, Kenny Ortega, Barnett Ricci and Bette Midler.
Bob Iger hit the stage to thanks all the fans for showing up for decades and promised to continue to show up for the fans with a new streaming service Disney +, which will reversal 661 hours of The Simpsons, ESPN Plus, the newly acquired Hulu and 21st Century Fox. With that announcement, Christina Aguilera (another honoree this morning) belted out a fantabulous rendition of her Mulan hit “Reflections” kicking off the awards, which she excitedly exclaimed is “cooler than a Grammy.”.
Robert Downey, Jr., in full Downey style, gave a hilarious account of being arrested for smoking pot in a gondola before thanking his friends, family, peers and constituents. Next honoree, Jon Favreau, who started out as an animated voice actor, gave homage to the magic of Disney and how it has ultimately effected his life and career. Not surprised about the relationship between Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts, what I didn’t know was that they made history together on GMA as the first two women to host a morning show for a major network. Robin Roberts tearfully thanks her now deceased parents, her sister and in her video package proudly declared that she also has the honor of being the first African American sports newscaster in network television.
Barnett’s Ricci, who choreographed for the Disney Parks humbly stated that this was “the best thing to happen to her in her life” while confirming that her work was based on her mentors ideology “every little detail matters.”
Ming Na Wen’s profound speech struck me to my core when she said, “…sometimes your star can’t start until you go someplace…I have hit every bucket list thanks to Disney.” This only admitting she use to pray to God, Buddha and ‘the force.” Which brings up to the legendary James Earl Jones, whose role as Darth Vader was literally recorded in one day. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving…lol. Disney Architect, Wing T. Chao held up a mask of Jackie Chan joking that he surgery was botched in Beverly Hills making him Wing T. Chao. Chao beautifully shared in his acceptance speech that “gratitude for your parents should be as high as the mountains and as deep as the ocean.”
High School Musical, Newsie, Hocus Pocus and Descendants choreographer Kenny Ortega, shared he literally took the back off of the television so he could climb and and join the Mickey Mouse Club. Last, but never least, Bette Midler, who can control just about everything except for the weather, was unable to attend. Her daughter Sophie glady excepted proving that we have yet a future Disney Legend in our midst.
D23 runs now through August 25th so stay tuned for more news from your girl The Curvy Film Critic!!!