FROM 2007
talks about the Disney Legends Awards

by Scott Wolf

Jeff Hoffman

(Photo courtesy of Jeff Hoffman,
all others by Scott Wolf unless otherwise noted.)

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.

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 Awards?

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 today! 

(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 time.

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 voice
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 were
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 Disneyland attractions.

As usual, Jeff is on-hand (at the very right)
 to assist with the ceremony.

Kathryn Beaumont, voice of Alice of
"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 attractions
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 Elton John,
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

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