With the impending release of Saving Mr. Banks and the recent stage production of The Jungle Book, songwriter Richard
Sherman has been busier than the Energizer Bunny. After a hectic schedule of
commuting back and forth to Chicago, where Jungle
Book debuted (with some new Sherman songs), he’s now negotiating an endless
number of promotional appearances for Mr.
Banks, the upcoming Disney movie about the making of Mary Poppins in which he’s portrayed by Jason Schwartzman. I was
happy to host a private reception for Richard last week where he charmed about
50 members of the AFI National Council who had flown in from all parts of the
country. Some of us lucky Disney fans have gotten to see Richard and his late
brother Bob in personal appearances they’ve made over the years, but for this
group it was a brand-new experience. Not surprisingly, he had them eating from
the palm of his hand as he told stories behind some of his most popular songs
and accompanied himself at the piano.
Actor Schwartzman surprised everyone by popping in to say
hello and was immediately recruited by Richard to join him in singing “Let’s Go
Fly a Kite.” Jason later told me that he never would have had the nerve to do
such a thing before meeting the ebullient composer, whose optimistic outlook
has left a lasting impression on him. He considers the experience of getting to
know him a great gift. I think it’s safe to say that many others (including me
and my family) feel the same way.
Richard and his wife Elizabeth were among the crowd who got
up early the previous Friday to cheer on Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter as he was
saluted with the greatest honor Disneyland can bestow: his name emblazoned on a
window on Main Street. Fittingly, Tony’s is positioned just above the Magic
Shop. Most visitors to the park are unaware that the so-called proprietors
listed on those second-story windows are real-life people who worked behind the
scenes to make Disneyland the happiest place on earth. Despite his 37 years on
the team, Tony remains ever-youthful and takes great pride in joining an
illustrious lineup of people who inspired and mentored him. Many living Disney
legends were on hand to applaud him, including Donald Duck’s voice artist Tony
Anselmo, Wendy and Alice voice performer Kathryn Beaumont, longtime head of
Imagineering Marty Sklar, automotive Imagineer Bob Gurr, and historian/archivist
Dave Smith, to name just a few. If you’d like to see a brief video wrapup of
the early-morning ceremony, courtesy of the Orange
County Register, click HERE.
Tony fashioned a replica of the Sleeping Beauty castle when
he was 12 years old and followed his dream to work at the Magic Kingdom, where
he rose through the ranks and became a leading voice in the creation of such
attractions as Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Indiana
Jones Adventure, the reinvention of Fantasyland and the transformation of Walt
Disney’s submarine ride into the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. He left his
strongest mark on Disneyland Paris, which is the main reason I hope to visit
that park someday. No one is more dedicated to preserving and extending Walt
Disney’s legacy than Tony. He deserves every accolade he’s been receiving this
year, and I know that the next chapter in his career will be filled with
excitement and innovation.
He and Richard Sherman are genuine Good Guys who make the
world a better place.