Hollywood’s beloved ‘pirate’ Johnny Depp surprised the audience here at the D23 Expo 2015, where he and “Star Wars” director George Lucas, were honoured with a Disney Legend Award for bringing a world beyond imagination onto the big screen.
The actor, popular as Captain Jack Sparrow of the “Pirates of the Carribbean” franchise, came onto the stage of the event in Anaheim on Friday, and left the crowd enamoured.
“I don’t know why I’m here,” Depp quipped after receiving the honour, adding that he “never really likes the word ‘fan’ because it implies that someone is above and someone is below”.
“I would say that you are my employer. Thanks for giving me this opportunity. I’m honoured to be a (Disney) legend,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lucas shared a trivia about his popular space saga “Star Wars”.
“Disney has given me a lot of inspiration through the experience I had with their movies, television and art. I refer them as catalogs. In fact, here’s a secret — Goofy (a cartoon character) was the inspiration for Jar Jar Binks,” Lucas said.
D23, a three-day biennial event, which is being held in Anaheim Convention Center, has attracted hordes of Disney fans who walk around the venue in costumes of princesses, superheroes, villains or even in a “Star Wars” avatar.
While giving a headstart to the expo with the award ceremony, Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, said the fourth edition of the event “is the biggest and the best one yet”.
Along with the Hollywood stars, seven other people associated with Disney, like veteran animator Andreas Deja, “All My Children” star Susan Lucci and the first Disneyland ambassador Julie Reihm Casaletto were also honoured for their contribution to the company’s journey to success.
Other awardees were George Bodenheimer, former executive chairman of ESPN; late Eyvind Earle, an artist who gave his vision a visual styling and backgrounds for the Disney classic “Sleeping Beauty”; Carson Van Osten, whose first licensing style guides are style used for some Disney Consumer Products; and Danny Elfman, who provided score for films like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”.
While Lucci said the best Disneyland ride based on her character would be a roller-coaster with many husbands, Reihm Casaletto remembered Walt Disney, the mind behind the whole entertainment company.
“Somewhere I know Walt may be looking down and smiling. He would be very proud as the company continues to spread the happiness and magic to the world,” Reihm Casaletto said.
Deja, who has time and again delved into the darker realms of animation by designing villains like Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast”, Jafar from “Aladdin”, and Scar from “The Lion King”, got emotional.
He recounted that one of the best compliments he had got was when one person walked up to him and said, “Thank you for drawing my childhood”.
They have already left an imprint of their work and now the awardees will have imprints of their hands in bronze displayed in the Disney Legends Plaza at the company’s Burbank headquarters.
A musical wire was also plugged into the event with Richard Sherman, a songwriter and music director, who even called actress Ashley Brown — known for her work in the Broadway production of “Mary Poppins” — to croon his new song “Kiss goodnight”.
The song brought forward a facet of the life of Walt Disney when he was poor and when his only source of joy was looking at fireworks.
James Monroe Iglehart, who is a part of Broadway’s “Aladdin”, also showcased his musical skills by rendering “Oogie boogie’s song”.
A musical tribute to the legends like Robin Williams, Frank Gifford and Blaine Gibson who left the world, was also paid at the event by singer Josh Strickland as he saluted them with a heartfelt rendition of “You’ll be in my heart”.