Carrie Fisher and Stan Lee have been legends for decades, but now it's official, at least at Disney.
Disney has grown to be one of the biggest forces in entertainment. The company either creators or now owns hundreds of characters, thanks in part to two of the most popular properties in the world, Star Wars and Marvel.
The company is so big that it can legitimately have its own Hall of Fame. So the Disney Legends program, created in 1987, honors those who work in all corners of Disney's business, from film and television, to parks and resorts, to animation and archives. Inductees get a statue, a plaque at Disney's studio in Burbank, CA, and a Disney Golden Pass, for lifetime access to all Disney parks.
Carrie Fisher passed away in December of 2016, but her spirit lives on through her work. Disney CEO Bob Iger presented the award, and he had nothing but great things to say about our beloved Princess Leia:
"Carrie has been an iconic part of the Star Wars franchise and she will always hold a very special place in our hearts and the hearts of fans around the world. We all miss her talent, the wit and her friendship. She certainly left a mark on the world and on our company [...] Carrie Fisher was an original and there never will be another. We're very fortunate to have known her [...] We're incredibly proud to call her a Disney legend."
Fisher's daughter, #BillieLourd couldn't be at the event due to work commitments in Season 7 of America Horror Story, but she penned a beautiful letter to the audience, which Bob Iger read:
"As far back as I can remember, my mom and I have been Disney fanatics. I was so obsessed with Ariel that I wanted to change my name. We went to Disneyland so much that I now realize that she might have even loved it more than I did.
So becoming part of the Disney family was truly an amazing moment for her. She secretly always wanted to be a Disney princess, so getting to be a Disney princess and a Disney legend would have been her ultimate dream [...] May the Force be with you, always."
#JackKirby was a legend in the comic book industry, and was responsible for a large number of superheroes Disney now owns, such as Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk. Kirby passed away in 1994 – long before Disney took ownership of the many characters Kirby created – so his son Neal Kirby took the stage to deliver an emotional acceptance speech, in which he thanked fans for enjoying his father's work:
"First of all, I would like to extend our family's condolences to Stan...The loss of his wife, our thoughts are with you. My father, I know, would be very humble and proud to accept this award. He was probably the most humble person on the face of the planet. Thank you for enjoying his incredible and staggering body of work."
Stan Lee appeared in front of a cheering crowd, and holding back tears he began to speak:
"I've never been known as a man of few words, but I've gotta say, I was so thrilled to see that testimonial to Jack Kirby.
Lee went on to tell a touching story about his childhood. The creator used to go to a bookshop where he saw a book about the art of #WaltDisney, but he couldn't afford it at the time. Lee then saved his money for a few months, and was finally able to make his dream purchase. He followed that story by stating:
"I loved Walt Disney. To me he was more than a man, he was an inspiration, he was something to reach for, to be like him. And to think that today I’m standing here in the house that Disney built, and we paid tribute to Jack and now we're talking about all the things of Disney's — it is so thrilling, I can't tell you. [...] And of course, I can't leave without saying 'Excelsior!'"
As a big fan of Stan Lee, that was a pretty epic way to end his speech.
#MarkHamill may be a well-known actor but he's first and foremost a geek. Hamill proved his life-long geek cred during the ceremony, in which he talked about #Disney being the inspiration behind him going into the entertainment industry:
"As an avid collector of rare Disney memorabilia, it'll be hard to top this one. I thought of that quote by baseball great Lou Gehrig: 'Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth' [...] I would be remiss if I didn't thank the fans whose support and affection over the years is just astonishing to me. They make you feel like you're part of their family [...] So thank you, Walt Disney, for telling me that if I wished upon a star, my dreams really could come true."
Hamill also paid tribute to Carrie Fisher, discussing their sibling-like relationship and talking about her reaction if she had been at the event.
"I would like to give my deepest respects for the super cool space sis I have in Carrie Francis Fisher. I loved her. And we were like siblings. The good and the bad! [...] I know if she were here this morning, she would have flipped me the bird at least twice already."
Bog Iger ended the acceptance speech by how any Star Wars fan would have wanted: By promising Hamill's role in #TheLastJedi to be the actor's best performance as Luke Skywalker yet.
Following an introduction from Bob Iger, #OprahWinfrey expressed her excitement by sharing a story. She walked into a restaurant prior to the event and met a waiter, who resonated with her because of their mutual love for their respective professions:
"As I was there, sitting alone, I had time to talk to my waiter, whose name was Steve. I was getting Steve's story, and I was saying, ‘Tell me, how long have you worked here?’ And Steve said, '42 years'… and I said [...] 'How did you stay at this company for 42 years?' He said, 'I found it to be the best place to let me be me.' [...] I feel the same way about my work with Disney since 1984, launching 'The Oprah Winfrey Show.' Every day, Disney ABC-7 let me be me. It was an honor, and I feel that more than anything, being a legend, more than being a celebrity or being awarded for notoriety, that really a legend is about the common experience that we all hold and share, and every day, on that show, I was able to tell our common story."
Oprah has consistently – and for decades – been one of the most powerful voices out there, so it's great to know she got honored this way.
Whoopi Goldberg was revealed as the surprise final Disney Legend inductee. For her acceptance speech, Goldberg shared a touching story from her childhood, opening up about how the House of the Mouse inspired her:
“When you live in the projects and you had a black and white TV, you knew what you were going to see every week. Every Sunday, The Wonderful World of Disney would come on [...] And my mother always said, ‘You know, one day, I’m gonna take you kids.’ As a parent, that’s what you want to do. And instead, I got to take her. For me, that meant we were okay, because Disney made you feel that no matter where you came from, you were welcome."
Other inductees to the hall of fame included Clyde Geromini (for animation), Manuel Gonzales (for publishing), Wayne Jackson (for Imagineering), Garry Marshal (for film & television) and Julie Taymor (for theatrical). It's nice to see these talents get the recognition they deserve.
What did you think about Disney's new Legends? Let me know in the comments!