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Disney Legends Ceremony Held Yesterday

(edited press release) One hundred years to the day after the birth of the man who started "Disney magic," The Walt Disney Company on Wednesday inducted the 2001 "class" of Disney Legends for their roles in creating the company's treasure trove of entertainment.

Honored during a ceremony in Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World Resort were Howard Ashman, Bob Broughton, George Bruns, Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline, Fred Joerger, Alan Menken, Marty Sklar, Ned Washington and Tyrus Wong.  They join 131 actors, film makers, animators, composers and other creative people previously honored since 1987 when actor Fred MacMurray received the first Disney Legend designation.

Six of the new Disney Legends made a mark with music, creating some of the most memorable music in Disney history -- songs such as "When You Wish Upon a Star," "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf," "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," "Under the Sea," "Whistle While You Work" and "A Whole New World."  Other new inductees were behind motion picture magic and the Imagineering responsible for Disney's world-renowned theme parks.

Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, who spoke at Wednesday's ceremony on the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney's birth (Dec. 5, 1901), termed the latest group of Legends "the reason our company has such a rich heritage.  They are people who didn't strive to become household names.  Instead, they strove to make memorable music and films and animation and theme park attractions.  They made their accomplishments, not themselves, bigger than life."

Presiding at the ceremony, Roy E. Disney, feature animation chairman and vice chairman of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company, said the 2001 Legends are part of "an amazing collection of brilliant and talented individuals, all working in the service of a common cause:  to bring new levels of excellence and innovation to every project they put their hands and hearts and minds to."

In addition to honoring the newest Legends, Roy Disney made a special presentation to author Bob Thomas, who has written five Disney books including the biographies of Walt and Roy O. Disney -- Roy E. Disney's uncle and father, respectively.  For the special award, Disney Legend John Hench painted the first Mickey Mouse portrait he has created for an individual.  In the painting, Mickey is shown reading one of Thomas's books.

Here are some of the accomplishments of the newest Disney Legends:

* Howard Ashman and Alan Menken made a huge Disney splash with the Oscar-winning song, "Under the Sea," written for the 1989 animated feature The Little Mermaid.  Menken also earned the "Best Music, Original Score" Oscar for The Little Mermaid.  The duo of Ashman and Menken collaborated on another Oscar-winner with the title song of Beauty and The Beast, which Ashman also produced.  Following Ashman's death in 1992, Menken collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice on the Oscar-winning "A Whole New World" and took home an additional Academy Award for the original score of Aladdin.  Menken earned later Oscars for his work on Pocahontas, including Best Music/Song for "Colors of the Wind." For more than 45 years, Bob Broughton devoted his skill as a camera effects artist to nearly every Disney motion picture from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 to "The Black Hole" in 1979.  As a talented camera effects artist on both animated and live-action motion pictures, his job was to create spectacular effects in a subtle way. For instance, in Mary Poppins, he helped Dick Van Dyke dance with animated penguins by using Color Traveling Matte Composite Cinematography, an award-winning technology that combined live-action and animated actors.

* George Bruns burst onto Disney's musical scene in 1953 when he was personally hired by Walt Disney to score the animated feature Sleeping Beauty, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination.  The greatest success among the more than 200 motion pictures and television shows for which he created music: "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," which sold more than eight million records.  Bruns died in 1983.

* Composer Frank Churchill's toe-tapping "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf," featured in Disney's 1933 animated short, "Three Little Pigs," raised the spirits of countless Depression-weary audiences who adopted the song as a resilient national anthem of hope.  Some of his other memorable Disney ditties:  "Whistle While You Work," "Heigh-Ho" and "Someday My Prince Will Come" for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Churchill died in 1942.

* Composer Leigh Harline and lyricist Ned Washington collaborated to create "When You Wish Upon a Star."  The beloved ballad, first introduced by Jiminy Cricket in the animated feature Pinocchio, remains the signature song of The Walt Disney Company more than 60 years later.  Harline died in 1969 and Washington, in 1976.

* Imagineer Fred Joerger helped realize Walt Disney's visions by crafting three-dimensional miniature models of Disney theme park attractions, as well as motion picture sets and props before they were brought to full-scale life.  He and Disney Legends Harriet Burns and Wathel Rogers comprised the original "model shop" when Walt began developing Disneyland.  Joerger also built miniature sets and props for Disney motion pictures, including Mary Poppins, Darby O'Gill and the Little People and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, for which he created intricate models of the submarine Nautilus.  Joerger's unusual knack for creating gorgeous rockwork out of plaster led to his reputation as Imagineering's "resident rock expert."  Among his rocky mountain high- lights:  the huge stones featured on the Jungle Cruise and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad -- in fact, most all the rockwork at Walt Disney World Resort for its 1971 opening, including the breathtaking atrium waterfall featured in the Polynesian Resort.

* Vice Chairman and Principal Creative Executive of Walt Disney Imagineering Marty Sklar has stood as a dedicated torchbearer of Walt Disney's philosophy since first joining the Company a month before Disneyland opened in 1955.  He has helped express and preserve Walt's spirit of optimism, happiness and hope for the future through attractions and special exhibitions in Disney theme parks around the world.  During his early years at Disney, Sklar not only learned Walt's philosophy first hand but metabolized and translated it into materials he wrote for the master showman, for use in publications, on television and in special films.  Today, Sklar provides leadership for the Imagineering creative staff, which delivers breakthrough entertainment concepts for Disney parks and resorts around the world.

* While Inspirational Artist Tyrus "Ty" Wong worked at The Walt Disney Studios only three years, between 1938 and 1941, his impact on the animated classic Bambi endures.  As legendary animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston point out in their book about the making of the motion picture, "He set the color schemes along with the appearance of the forest in painting after painting...  Paintings that captured the poetic feeling that had eluded us (artists) for so long... Ty Wong not only inspired the other visual artists, but he created a standard that was met by musicians and special effects too."

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