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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 00:21 GMT
Hollywood honours Walt Disney
Disney at the BBC in 1951
Walt Disney was born on 5 December 1901
By entertainment correspondent Peter Bowes in Los Angeles

Hollywood is celebrating the life and career of one of entertainment's most influential figures.

Walt Disney, who would have been 100 years old on Wednesday, played a pivotal role in developing family entertainment - most significantly as a pioneering animator.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organisation which stages the Oscars, is presenting a special tribute at its Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills.

Disney is the Academy's most honoured individual. He is personally credited with 26 awards, 12 of which were for cartoons. In all, he received 64 nominations.


When you look back at Bambi and Dumbo - it's a certain kind of popular art

Woody Allen
Born on 5 December, 1901 in Chicago, Walter Elias Disney was to become one of the world's most beloved storytellers.

His Hollywood career spanned 43 years and the influence of Disney is felt today in almost every aspect of showbusiness.

The animator's constant craving for new ideas and fresh ways to bring fairytale magic to the big screen is legendary.

The Academy's Centennial Tribute will honour Disney as an all-round entertainment mogul - from studio founder and theme-park creator to the maker of live-action pictures and ground-breaking animated features.

The occasion has prompted a number of celebrities to offer their own tributes to the film-maker.

"His work was wonderful," said Woody Allen. "I remember being taken by my mother to see Pinocchio. I always liked Disney because there's a warmth in those cartoons."

Mickey Mouse is an enduring symbol of Disney
Mickey Mouse hit the big screen in 1928
However, Allen explained that as an adult, he found Warner Bros cartoon characters more appealing than Disney's lovable heroes. "They were not as funny to me when I grew up as Tom and Jerry or Bugs Bunny because the others were more violent and hostile and consequently funnier.

"The Disney ones were more bathed in goody two-shoes, please everybody mentality."

Mickey Mouse, Disney's most enduring character, was introduced to the world in the film Steamboat Willie - the first ever synchronized sound cartoon, which premiered in New York on 18 November, 1928.

The first full-length animated musical, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, came out nine years later.

A host of endearing characters followed in animated classics such as Bambi, Pinocchio, Fantasia and Dumbo.

Angelina Jolie provided the voice for Lara Croft in Tomb Raider
Jolie's favourite character is Dumbo
Each was to make its own distinctive mark on successive generations of children.

Angelina Jolie, who supplied the voice to the modern-day video game adventurer Lara Croft, said she had fond memories of one particular character.

"I like Dumbo. Everybody has a certain Disney movie that says something about you - maybe Dumbo was always laughed at for the things that are strange about him and he eventually was proud of that and that's what made him fly."

Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller will be among the participants in the Academy's tribute show.

The three surviving members of Disney's Nine Old Men, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Ward Kimball, will also make a special appearance.

The audience will be treated to rarely seen "behind-the-scenes" footage as well as rare cartoons and home movies.

"They are great examples of American art," said Allen. "When you look back at Bambi and Dumbo - it's a certain kind of popular art."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jo Episcopo
examines the cultural legacy of Walt Disney
See also:

16 Aug 01 | Business
Disney sued over Pooh royalties
17 Dec 97 | Americas
Walt Disney's widow dead
28 Mar 01 | Business
Disney to axe 4,000 jobs
25 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Fantasia's millennium makeover
24 Sep 99 | Middle East
Arab Disney boycott looms
08 Nov 01 | Business
Disney's profits slump
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