talks about the Disney Legends Awards
by Scott Wolf
Few people touch the lives of as many people as Jeff. He is the man
behind the Disney Legends Awards and in his position as Vice President,
Disney Worldwide Outreach, he helps to enrich the lives of those in need
around the world.
courtesy of Jeff Hoffman,
all others by Scott Wolf unless otherwise
He is kind, generous, and a uniquely special person and I am so grateful
to Jeff for taking the time for this interview.
Scott Wolf: What are the Disney Legends Awards?
Jeff Hoffman: The Disney Legends Awards program was established in 1987
to honor individuals whose body of work has made a significant impact on
the Disney legacy. We have honored more than 200 people including,
animators, voice talent, theme park designers, songwriters and
administrators. It is a group of really wonderful people, many of whom
worked with Walt and Roy, making this company what it is today!
SW: Was it your idea?
JH: This has been my program since the start! Fred MacMurray was our
first Legend. It started out as a way to promote the remake of "The
Shaggy Dog" when it aired as the Disney Sunday Movie. When Michael
Eisner found out about this proposed publicity stunt, he thought it
should be so much more and that is when The Disney University and I got
involved. We changed this one time stunt into the program that we have
today. So it wasn’t my idea, but it has been my baby for 20 years.
SW: What is the process for choosing who will be the recipients of the award?
JH: We have a selection committee made up of various individuals from
all parts of the company. We make the tough decision of who will
be honored each year. Currently Dick Cook chairs the selection
committee. Past chairs include Marty Sklar (of Walt Disney Imagineering)
and Roy E. Disney.
SW: Do you have any favorite memories of working with the Disney Legends
JH: Many of my favorite memories involve the hand print
ceremony where the Legend puts his or her hand prints and
signature in cement. In the early days of the program this
was done on the steps of the Studio Theatre but today they
are done in clay to be converted into bronze plaques for
Disney Legends Plaza.
(Pictured right: Jeff helps Sterling
Holloway immortalize his handprints in front of the Studio
Theatre. Sterling Holloway provided voices for numerous
Disney films including the voice of Winnie the Pooh, the
Cheshire Cat, and Mr. Stork in "Dumbo.")
JH: In 1989 when we honored the "Nine Old Men," Ward Kimball
told me to look the other way. When I looked back, he had
put a “sixth” finger on both hands that can still be seen
(NOTE: Walt Disney dubbed a group of his best animators the
"Nine Old Men," referring to what Franklin D. Roosevelt
called the nine judges of the US Supreme Court, even though
the animators were in their thirties and forties at the
Pictured left are the four remaining "Nine Old Men" that
were honored, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball (left of podium),
Marc Davis, and Frank Thomas (right of podium) .
Above is the infamous "six finger" handprints
of the wacky, yet ingenius Ward Kimball,
Above, Richard M. Sherman &
Robert B. Sherman,
the Sherman Brothers, sign the cement for the first
time before they had to redo it moments later.
JH: Another funny moment... but not at the time... was when
the Sherman Brothers had just finished their handprints and
a photographer stepped right in the middle of the cement and
we had to immediately redo it before it hardened!!
SW: I forgot about the
photographer that stepped in it until you mentioned it. I
still remember so vividly watching it happen and hearing the
gasp from everybody, and then my next thought was, "I'm so
glad that I didn't do that!"
Pictured right, the freshly
redone signatures and handprints of the Sherman Brothers,
songwriters of such classics as "It's a Small World,"
"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," and "Winnie the Pooh."
JH: For the Company’s 75th anniversary, we honored Annette
Funicello. I will always remember backstage when I was
speaking with Annette prior to the start of the
ceremony. She was in her wheelchair. She saw Mickey approach
her and she had a sparkle in her eye and then a tear!
Pictured left, Annette Funicello, who got her start in
Disney's "Mickey Mouse Club," reunited with Mickey Mouse
immediately after leaving her handprints in fresh cement.
Please enjoy these additional photos from
the Disney Legends Awards ceremonies.
Adriana Caselotti, the original
of Snow White in 1937s "Snow White and
the Seven Dwarfs," places her handprints
in the cement in front of theatre.
Michael Eisner (then CEO of
Disney) with Julie Andrews
("Mary Poppins") and Fess Parker ("Davy Crockett") when they
inducted as Disney Legends.
Three of the world's greatest
entertainers. Fulton Burley, Betty Taylor, and Wally Boag
all starred in Disneyland's original Golden Horseshoe Revue
for over twenty five years and provided voices for
As usual, Jeff is on-hand (at the very right)
to assist with the ceremony.
Kathryn Beaumont, voice of Alice
"Alice in Wonderland" and Wendy
of "Peter Pan," moments after
placing her handprints in clay.
(Photo courtesy of Allan & Kathy Levine)
Jack Lindquist (left),
Disneyland's first advertising manager and first President
of Disneyland, becomes a Disney Legend and shares a happy
memory with Roy E. Disney (right).
X Atencio, animator, Disneyland
writer and lyricist including "Yo Ho (A Pirates
Life For Me), sits proudly with his Legends
award eleven years after receiving it.
Here's Jeff with music legend
when he officially became a Disney Legend.
(Photo courtesy of Jeff Hoffman)
I am so
grateful to Jeff Hoffman for his interview and
for sharing his insight and memories of the
Disney Legends Awards.
More from Jeff:
Disney Worldwide Outreach
See other interviews