Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel from “The Little Mermaid,” was among 12 contributors to the Disney legacy who were named and honored Friday morning as official Disney Legends during the D23 Expo in the Anaheim Convention Center Arena.
The awards ceremony kicked off the first day of the D23 Expo, hosted by noted TV personality Tom Bergeron, host of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and America’s Funniest Home Videos.
“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.”
Benson, an acclaimed voice actress and soprano singer, provided both the singing and speaking voices for Disney’s Princess Ariel in The Little Mermaid and its sequels and TV Series. For more than 20 years, Benson has voiced Ariel in film, TV, 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.
The late Jim Henson, an Emmy Award-winning TV 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. He also produced the cartoon series Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies. The success of these series led Henson to explore such feature films as 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 such popular Disney films 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 series. 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.
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.
Also honored were Barton “Bo” Boyd, Regis Philbin, Jack and Bonita Wrather, Ray Watson and Guy Williams.
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, California headquarters.
The first Disney Legend, actor Fred MacMurray (The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, The Happiest Millionaire), was named in 1987. Including this year’s honorees, a total of 237 Disney Legends have been named. 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.
At the inaugural D23 Expo in 2009, the Legends Awards ceremony, which honored Robin Williams, Beatrice Arthur, Estelle Getty, Rue McLanahan, Betty White, Tony Anselmo, Bill Farmer, Harry Archinal, Don Iwerks and Leota Toombs Thomas, was presented to thousands of Disney fans for the first time.