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Tag Archives: Disney Legend

April 2

April 2, 1899 – Sound and Camera Pioneer and Disney Legend Bill Garity is Born

“With his pioneering efforts in sound and camera techniques, he helped set Disney Studios apart from others, while his planning and supervisory expertise resulted in the building of a highly efficient Studio in Burbank.” – Disney Chief Archivist Emeritus, Dave Smith

On April 2, 1899, Bill Garity was born in Brooklyn, New York. After attending the Pratt Institute of Art in New York, he served with the Radio Research and Development sector of the U.S. Signal Corps during World War I. His work in radio continued to flourish when, after the war, he met and worked with Lee DeForest, a pioneer in the field of radio. The pair would work on the development of sound for the earliest films. As Garity was working on the Cinephone motion picture recording system in 1928, he met a young Walt Disney, who was hoping to elevate the animated art form. With Garity’s help, Steamboat Willie became a hit for the fledgling Disney Studios, and Disney bought the Cinephone system with an offer for Garity to come out to Hollywood to install it and train a technician to operate it. Garity officially joined the Walt Disney Studios in 1929 and stayed with the company for over 13 years, leading a department of 18 engineers. At Disney, Garity was instrumental in creating such innovations such as the multiplane camera, which earned the studio an Academy Award in the Scientific and Technical category; the team also invented Fantasound, a unique stereo system that was installed in theaters specifically for the animated feature film Fantasia. Garity left the studio in 1940 to pursue other technical ventures, and ended up serving as the vice president and production manager for the Walter Lantz Studios. He passed away on September 16, 1971, in Los Angeles California. For his groundbreaking technical expertise and ability to help Walt achieve his dream of the elevated animated film, Garity was posthumously honored as a Disney Legend in 1999.

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February 9

February 9, 1996 – Thomas Murphy Joins Disney Board of Directors

On February 9, 1996, Thomas Murphy joined the Disney Board of Directors. Murphy helped to build the company Capital Cities, working his way up the ladder until he was named chair and CEO in 1966. In 1985, Capital Cities merged with one of the network leaders, ABC; at the time, this was the largest merger of media companies, which was outdone ten years later when the company then merged with the Walt Disney Company. After this merger, Murphy was not only added as a member of the Board of Directors, but would also join the Executive Committee the following year.

January 13

January 13, 1927 – President of Walt Disney Creations S.p.A and Disney Legend Antonio Bertini is Born

“There is always a market. There is never a problem when you give a good product at the right price. And Disney is a very good product.”

On January 13, 1927, Antonio Bertini was born in Milan, Italy. He attended the University of Pavia, and while there he explored market research, a concept that was unfamiliar in Italy at the time, and eventually graduated with a Ph.D. in political science in 1955. Soon after, he joined the Lever Brothers company in Milan as a planning officer, putting his skills to use as he coordinated the operating, marketing, and publicity of the company’s four Italian factories. He joined Walt Disney Productions in 1960, after answering an anonymous ad in a newspaper, as the assistance to Major John William Holmes, the Italian sales representative. Bertini had almost immediate success; he was able to negotiate several new contracts with Italian licensees to create Disney-themed projects, ranging from toys to housewares, and was subsequently promoted to sales manager a year later. At the same time, Bertini was also asked to join the Board of Directors, and after another stellar year, Roy O. Disney personally named Bertini the president of Walt Disney Creations S.p.A. Bertini continued to expand Disney influence in Italy through the 1960s and 1970s, creating educational films for the country and creating over a $1 million in revenue; this success helped lead the way for Disney’s eventual success in the home video market through the 1980s. Bertini was also instrumental in creating a booming publishing division in Italy for the Disney books, comics, and magazines, rather than licensing out the characters to other publishers. After 30 years with the company, Bertini retired from Disney in 1990; he was honored as a Disney Legend in the category of Disney Consumer Products in 1997.

October 30

October 30, 1906 – Composer and Disney Legend Paul Smith is Born

On October 30, 1906, composer Paul Smith was born in Calument, Michigan to a musical family. The family later moved to Caldwell, Idaho, where Smith’s father taught music at the College of Idaho. Smith’s musical ability emerged at an early age, and his father nurtured this by teaching his son to play a variety of instruments, including piano and violin. Smith enrolled in the Bush Conservatory of Music in Chicago in 1925; after graduation, he taught at Elmhurst College and York High School. He then moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA and earned a degree in English. After graduating, he wound up at the Walt Disney Studios in 1934, and became a pioneer in music for motion pictures, scoring for animated features such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella, True-Life Adventure films such as The Vanishing Prairie and Perri, and live action features such as The Shaggy Dog and Pollyanna. Smith had over fifty credits to his name, and over the course of his career he scored eight Academy Award nominations, including one win for his work on the score of the film Pinocchio with Leigh Harline and Ned Washington. Smith retired in 1962 after almost thirty years with The Walt Disney Studios. On January 25, 1985, Smith passed away in Glendale, California. He was honored as a Disney Legend for his contributions to the Walt Disney Company in 1994.

October 16

October 16, 1998 – Twenty-One New Inductees Are Named Disney Legends

“That’s a whole lot of legends!”

On October 16, 1998, twenty-one new Disney Legends were honored in a special ceremony at the new Disney Legends Plaza at the Walt Disney Studios. The plaza was also dedicated on this day, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company. The honorees were an eclectic mix of those individuals who had a lasting impact on the history and success of the Walt Disney Company, and ranged from actors to executives. Among those honored were Disney Company managing director for England and Europe, Cyril James; company treasurer, Don Escen; former chairman of the Oriental Land Company, Masatomo Takahashi; film editor, Lloyd Richardson; first Alice actress, Virginia Davis; animator Bill Tytla; animator and director Wilfred Jackson; actress Kathryn Beaumont; animator and director Ben Sharpsteen; director, writer, producer, and narrator Jim Algar; merchandising executive Kay Kamen; former president of Walt Disney Enterprises of Japan, Matsuo Yokoyama; documentary film makers Al and Elma Milotte; actress Gynis Johns; actress Hayley Mills; actor Kurt Russell; documentary film maker Paul Kenworthy; director and producer Larry Lansburgh; composer Buddy Baker; film editor Norman “Stormy” Palmer; and actor Dick Van Dyke. Of those honored, James, Tytla, Jackson, Sharpsteen, Algar, Kamen, and the Milottes were honored posthumously.

September 2

September 2, 1919 – Actress, Dancer, and Disney Legend Marge Champion is Born

“The atmosphere was like a giant high school or college, as far as I was concerned. Mr. Disney, for me, was like a very friendly head principal.”

On September 2, 1919, Marge Champion, born as Marjorie Celeste Belcher, was born in Los Angeles, California. Champion had a talent for dancing at an early age, and trained under her father, Ernest Belcher, who was a noted ballet coach that taught the likes of Cyd Charisse and Shirley Temple. At the age of twelve, Champion was a ballet teacher in her own right at her father’s studio. Around 1933, a talent scout came to the dance studio, and asked her to audition for what would become Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; Champion was chosen to be the live-action reference model for the titular character. Champion would continue to be a live-action model for Disney animated features, including modeling the characters of the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio and Hyacinth Hippo from Fantasia. While working at Disney, she met animator Art Babbitt and married him in 1937, though they divorced in 1940. Champion was also an actress in films outside the studio, appearing in films such as Honor of the West and Show Boat, the latter of which she appeared with her husband Gower Champion, whom she married in 1947. Along with film appearances, the pair also choreographed a few Broadway musical reviews, including Lend an Ear. She and Gower Champion divorced in 1973; Champion continued her career, working with actress Marilee Zdenek to publish two books: Catch the New Wind and God is a Verb. Champion is a Trustee Emeritus of the Williamstown Theater Festival of Massachusetts, as well as a member of the Advisory Board if the Berkshire Theatre Festival. For her work in helping to bring the classic Disney characters to life, she was honored as a Disney Legend in 2007.

August 21

August 21, 2011 – The Second D23 Expo Comes to a Close

“The Ultimate Disney Fan Event”

On August 21, 2011, the second biennial D23 Expo had its final day. Featured at the Anaheim Convention Center, the final day featured 15 exhibitions and panels for Disney fans to peruse, including a panel about the evolution of Marvel comics by Chief Creative Office Joe Quesada; a conversation with Steve Pilcher and Tia Kratter, called The Art of Brave; and a special discussion with film preservationist Ed Hobelman and Imagineer and Disney Legend Tony Baxter, called MORE of the Wonderful World of Vintage Disneyland and Walt Disney World.