Grey’s Anatomy stars Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey, along with blackish leads Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson and the late Chadwick Boseman, were honored as Legends Friday to help kick off D23 Expo: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event.
The ABC stars and the lead of Black Panther, along with Frozen‘s Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, Imagineer Robert Coltrin, the late Robert Price “Bob” Foster (who procured the land for Walt Disney World), film producer Don Hahn, Imagineer Doris Hardoon and music producer Chris Montan were named Disney Legends for their “extraordinary contributions” to the studio’s legacy.
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Pompeo was celebrated first for her starring role in ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. Dubbed a superhero in scrubs by host Tamron Hall, Pompeo took the stage and began with an anecdote about her daughter Stella and how she caught her watching an episode of blackish last night.
“I said, ‘what is about blackish you love so much?’ She said, ‘it’s so relatable, mom.’ That’s the power of storytelling,” Pompeo told the crowd. “To be a storyteller and to work with the best storytellers in the world is quite a magical thing and we couldn’t do it without you. We tell the stories for you.”
Pompeo’s longtime co-star Dempsey, who also stars in the studio’s Enchanted movie franchise, choked up as he reflected on his 37 years in the business and the “incredible platform” that was provided to him by Grey’s Anatomy. For one, it helped him to launch the Dempsey Center For Cancer Hope and Healing. “Fame is not everything,” said Dempsey. “Sometimes it’s very empty. The most important thing is to be of service.”
Anderson talked about growing up in Compton, CA. and how Disney was “always in the background.” “Disney has always been a part of my life, my upbringing, my childhood and it has informed me and allowed me to be the entertainer and the man that I am today,” said Anderson, who wore a rose-colored suit for the occasion. “Disney has taught all of us to dream, and to dream big.”
Ellis Ross thanked Disney for giving the “ish” franchise a platform and thanked Kenya Barris for creating a show that “truly changed the landscape of modern television.” “It feels really legendary to advocate for and breath life into a joyful Black woman for eight years on a great show.” She also hopes blackish gives way to “more Black women-centered stories that reflect the truth and diversity of who we are in the world.”
Montan made a funny at the podium by asking the audience to name their five favorite Paramount songs (hint: there aren’t any) before asking them to recall all their favorite Disney tunes.
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Groff talked about how “Disney was my complete life as a kid” and how “as a young gay boy growing up in the late 80s early 90s in Pennsylvania, Disney VHS tapes were my primary source of escape and self expression.”
Bell said, “I’m sorry to every parent who has to listen to Frozen on loop. I feel you.” Gad hilariously called out the Disney employee who refused to hire him as a jungle cruise operator when he was 18. And Menzel said it was Disney tunes that she sung as a child that inspired her to pursue a career in music. She then crooned a few bars of “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
The ceremony wrapped with a tribute to Boseman. His brother/preacher Derrick accepted the award. “I wish he was here to receive it. Him not being here has been a point of immense pain for my whole family.”
After receiving their awards, each recipient was photographed with Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who opened the ceremony by promising “our biggest, most over the top D23 Expo ever.”
The Disney Legends Awards program is a 35-year tradition of The Walt Disney Company, which began when Fred MacMurray was honored in 1987.
The three-day, D23 Expo continues through Sunday in Anaheim.
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