These Are the 10 Greatest Living Disney Celebrities
Who are Disney’s greatest living celebrities? Obviously, Disney has an opinion on the subject, as the company names a new batch of Legends every two years. Of course, Disney can’t list everyone, which means that a couple of surprising exclusions remain.
So, what I’ve done here is compile a list of who I believe are the most lasting stars, using one crucial qualifier. Here are the ten people I believe are Disney’s greatest living celebrities. *Ages as of 2/15/20 when article was originally published.
Tim Allen – 66
I have one main rule here. The actor must be at least 60 years old. Otherwise, their career isn’t long enough to justify a spot. So, a couple of iconic celebrities don’t quite qualify. Chief among them are Jodie Foster, Owen Wilson, and Johnny Depp, although a few others, many of them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, get ruled out this way.
Tim Allen is the first entrant due to his long history of anchoring Disney programming. Back in the 1990s, the Mouse House purchased ABC. In the process, Disney gained the most popular television show of the era, Home Improvement.
Of course, the company already had a strong relationship with Allen. In 1994, he’d starred in The Santa Clause, the number four domestic release of the year. He’d make two more of these films and later co-starred in Wild Hogs, a 2007 blockbuster.
Of course, the main reason that he’s on this list is that Allen will forever be known as the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story franchise.
Julie Andrews – 84
A child actor from a poor family, Andrews became the youngest performer ever to play before King George and Queen Elizabeth. She was only 13 at the time, demonstrating how long Andrews has worked as an artist. By the age of 19, she was already starring in West End plays, and Hollywood came calling soon afterward.
For Disney fans, Andrews is now and forever will be Mary Poppins, the magical nanny who is “practically perfect in every way.” To that date, the film was the greatest box office blockbuster in Disney history.
Of course, popularity was nothing new for Andrews by this point. She’d starred in a Rodgers & Hammerstein production of Cinderella. It aired on CBS and garnered more than 107 million (!) viewers.
From 1965-1967, Andrews would go to star in The Sound of Music, the number three movie in all-time ticket sales, and Thoroughly Modern Millie and Torn Curtain for Universal Pictures. At one point, they were the top two box office hits in the history of Universal. People loooooooove Julie Andrews.
Tom Hanks – 63
When Disney studio executives planned to make a movie about the company’s founder, they could only think of one person. Tom Hanks had to portray Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks for the film to have any credibility. And that speaks volumes about the legacy Hanks has built.
The celebrity is arguably the most revered actor in the industry today, yet also the youngest person on this list. He was born a couple of months after a famous voice actress we’ll discuss in a bit. Oh, and Hanks also provides the voice of Woody, the heart and moral compass of the Toy Story franchise.
James Earl Jones – 89
When Disney chose to remake The Lion King, everyone involved understood one simple truth. James Earl Jones HAD to voice the character of Mufasa once again. Anyone else would have seemed like sacrilege.
Similarly, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story featured the return of Darth Vader. Disney brought back James Earl Jones to do something that he’d never done before. He voiced Darth Vader in a Disney movie. Before then, his only official work in that role was on Star Tours – The Adventure Continues. He later repeated this film for a brief moment in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Between The Lion King and the Star Wars franchise, Jones states a claim to two of the most important intellectual properties (IPs) in the entire Disney library.
Samuel L. Jackson – 71
Speaking of which, Samuel L. Jackson may not seem very Disney with some of his earlier, swear-ier work. However, he’s spent the body of the last 12 years anchoring the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Jackson has starred in roughly half of the Marvel movies thus far. He’s managed this while also voicing a beloved character, Frozone, in The Incredibles franchise. And Jackson also matched Jones when he voiced Mace Windu again in Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.
During the 2010s, no actor has done more for Disney than Samuel L. Jackson. He’s the glue of the MCU.
Hayley Mills – 73
As a teen actress in the 1960s, Mills became one of the faces of Walt Disney Pictures. She played the iconic title role in Pollyanna, for which she won an Academy Award that doesn’t even exist anymore called a Junior Oscar. Mills delivered such an unforgettable performance that the term Pollyanna has stood the test of time as a descriptor for a cheerful, optimistic person.
Remarkably, Pollyanna isn’t the most famous role for Mills. The following year, she portrayed a pair of twin sisters trying to reunite their divorced mother and father. The movie, The Parent Trap, became one of the most famous films of the 20th century.
Walt Disney adored Mills so much that he once described her as “the greatest movie find in 25 years.” Who could argue with praise like that?
Angela Lansbury – 94
I’m not even sure which of two Disney roles defines Angela Lansbury’s career. She’s either the lovable witch in Bedknobs and Broomsticks or a genial teapot in Beauty and the Beast.
The actress endeared herself to Disney lovers all the way back in 1971 and then followed it 20 years later with the beloved Mrs. Potts. She then returned for a surprise appearance in 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns, nearly 50 years after her first lead role for Disney.
Paige O’Hara – 63
Speaking of Beauty and the Beast, the character of Belle is arguably the most significant Disney Princess of the modern era. Belle is erudite but practical, a dreamer willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family.
The heroism of the character shines through thanks to the vocal talents of Paige O’Hara, a Broadway singer who has embraced her Disney gig passionately. She did voice work as the character until 2011 and then returned briefly in 2018’s Ralph Breaks the Internet.
Impressively, the multifaceted O’Hara has also gained renown for her illustrations of Belle. Disney Fine Art has sold several of them on ShopDisney.
Kurt Russell – 68
During the 1960s, Hayley Mills piqued the curiosity of Walt Disney. However, the inventor of Mickey Mouse felt more strongly about Kurt Russell. As mentioned before, Walt Disney’s final two words that he wrote on a piece of paper were “Kurt Russell.”
With such a strong indicator of support, Russell became Disney’s go-to teen actor during the 1960s and 1970s. He starred in a series of comedies like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and The Strongest Man in the World.
Throughout the years, Russell has continued to work for Disney occasionally due to his odd connection to the company. In 2004, he starred as coach Herb Brooks in Miracle, and he played Star-Lord’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Russell will always be inexorably linked to the man who founded Disney, as Uncle Walt was thinking about the actor even at the end.
Dick Van Dyke – 94
The legendary sitcom actor joins Angela Lansbury as the two oldest living Disney celebrities of note. In Mary Poppins, Van Dyke acted like the viewing audience as someone totally smitten by the nanny.
Van Dyke’s character, Bert, proved so popular that the chimney sweep/jack-of-all-trades earned a tribute in Mary Poppins Returns. Famous playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda portrayed a lamplighter named Jack…who had apprenticed under Bert!
As a perfect touch, Van Dyke then made a cameo at the end of the film. He played another character from the first film, banker Mr. Dawes Jr., who had retired by this point. This bit of casting amused Mary Poppins fans, as Van Dyke had also portrayed Mr. Dawes Sr. in the original film. Of course, it was all primarily an excuse to allow the nonagenarian an excuse to show that he can still dance with the best of them.
Everyone on this list is phenomenal, but Mills, Van Dyke, and Andrews deserve special credit for making Disney movies what they are today. They carried the torch in the company’s early live-action filmmaking days.
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