Actress Carrie Fisher, Marvel comics legend Stan Lee, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Hamill were among 10 members who joined the exclusive club of Disney Legends at the D23 Expo here today. While the names of all the honorees were previously announced, veteran actress Whoopi Goldberg was revealed as a surprise Disney legend at the prestigious ceremony hosted by the company's CEO and chairman Bob Iger. The event began with a short video, highlighting Disney releases such as "Beauty and The Beast", "Moana" and "The Jungle Book". The clip also featured shots of Disney's various theme parks. "We've got a lot to celebrate but there's even more to look forward to. For instance, our studio released an unprecedented stain of creative and box office triumphs, including 'Zootopia', 'The Jungle Book' and 'Moana', 'Captain America: Civil War', and of course 'Beauty and the Beast.' And, we released our first 'Star Wars' film, 'The Force Awakens'," said Iger. Singer Anika Noni Rose, a Disney legend herself, then graced the ceremony with her beautiful rendition of "Go the Distance", a song from 1997 animated musical fantasy comedy "Hercules". Winfrey, 63, was the first to be honoured as the Disney Legend. Sharing the story of a waiter she met recently, Winfrey said she was surprised to learn that he worked in his company for 45 years. "I feel the same way about my work with Disney since 1984, launching the Oprah Winfrey show. 'Every day, Disney, ABC7, let me be me'," she said. "A Legend is about the common experience we all hold and share," Winfrey added while accepting her honour. Kirby, the co-creator of Captain America, Fantastic Four, Avengers, Hulk, Iron Man and Black Panther, was honoured posthumously. His son, Neal, who accepted the award on the late comics writer's behalf, said, "I would like to extend special thanks to Stan Lee and his family. First thank you Mr Iger and Disney. I want to thank, my family, my friends and of course my father's fans, who stood by him and behind him for over several decades." Iger then introduced Kirby's friend and collaborator Lee, who has created thousands of characters and countless stories to become a cultural icon. Iger said Lee was not only blessed with a beautiful imagination but also had an unbelievable sense of fun and a twinkle in his eyes. An emotional Lee, who recently lost his wife, Joan, recalled how he fell in love with Disney and its creator Walt Disney as a teenager who loved to read. Lee said he saw the book Art of Walt Disney and saved pennies to buy it. "It drove me crazy, I wanted that book so badly. I saved my pennies and after a few months I bought the Art of Walt Disney. I loved that book so much. I loved Walt Disney so much. He was more than a man, he was an inspiration, something to reach for.
To think that today I am standing here in the House of Disney Legends, I thank you all," Lee said. Iger introduced Fisher, who died last year at the age of 60, as a Disney legend. Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd was expected to attend the ceremony but she unfortunately couldn't make it as the young actress is currently shooting. "Carrie has been an iconic part of the Star Wars franchise, as you saw, from the very beginning. We all miss her talent, her wit, and her friendship. This December, we will release her final film, 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'," he said. "We're fortunate to have worked with her. We're incredibly proud to call her a Disney Legend," Iger added. Lourd, in a letter that she sent to be read out, wrote about her and Fisher's obsession with Disney characters. "As far back as I can remember, my mom and I have been Disney fanatics. I was so obsessed with Ariel that I wanted to change my name," Lourd wrote. "She might have even loved it more than I did... Becoming part of the Disney family was truly an amazing moment for her. She secretly always wanted to be a Disney princess, so being a Disney princess and a Disney Legend would be her dream," Lourd wrote. Mark Hamill or Luke Skywalker to his fans was also introduced as a Disney Legend. He thanked 'Star Wars' creator George Lucas and paid tribute to his on-screen sister Fisher. "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth," Hamill said, adding "I have to thank George Lucas." Hamill said Fisher, who played the role of Princess Leia, was a cool sister to have. "The super cool space sis I have in Carrie Francis Fisher. I loved her. And we were like siblings. The good and the bad!," he said while remembering Fisher.