While 2018 brought along with it many joyous moments and incredible reveals, it also took with it beloved Disney figures. These individuals—whose variety of roles have shaped and enhanced our love of Disney—will be remembered fondly and will remain with us in spirit. Now, out of love, gratitude, and appreciation we’d like to share with you our 2018 In Memoriam.
Doreen Tracey was on the original Mickey Mouse Club which aired from 1955 to 1959, but lived on in syndication for long after. Tracey was born in London, England, on April 3, 1943, to a theatrical family. Her parents, Bessie Hay and Sid Tracey, had a vaudeville dance act known as Tracey and Hay. When she was four, her family returned to the United States where her father opened a dance studio in Hollywood. It was there that she learned to sing and dance, and, at age 12, Tracey auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club. During her tenure as a Mouseketeer, Tracey was also cast in Walt Disney Productions’ 1956 feature film Westward Ho the Wagons!, starring Fess Parker. Additionally, she went on to appear on the Mickey Mouse Club‘s “Annette” serial, and toured Australia with the Mouseketeers.
Following the Mickey Mouse Club years, in the 1960s Tracey continued her show business career, guest starring on several episodic television programs as well as touring American military bases in South Vietnam and Thailand with her own act. Tracey’s career took many different paths, however she always remained close to her Disney roots, maintaining longtime friendships with her fellow Mouseketeers. In the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, she co-starred with them in several Mickey Mouse Club reunion shows at Disneyland and at Disney conventions, last celebrating the show’s 60th Anniversary in 2015.
Fellow Mouseketeer Tommy Cole on Tracey: “Our Dodo, as we lovingly nicknamed her, always had a smile on her face. She never failed to make us all feel good, and we will miss her.”
Legendary sports broadcaster Keith Jackson, was known for his folksy manner and unique sayings during his 40 years of broadcasting College Football on ABC and ESPN. Jackson worked a wide variety of events for ABC’s Wide World of Sports as well as Major League Baseball, NBA and 10 Olympic Games. His down-home, baritone delivery was punctuated by such memorable phrases as:
- “Big uglies” (large linemen)
- “Whoa, Nelly!”
The sport he is most identified was college football and for years his voice on a telecast meant it was the day’s biggest matchup. His affection for the sport came from his youth. “When I was a boy, we didn’t have all this pro stuff,” he said in 2009. “All professional sports of any consequence were located in the big cities in the north, so those of us who enjoyed the game of football followed college football.”
In 1999, Jackson became the first broadcaster to be awarded the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Gold Medal, its highest honor. He was named to the:
- Rose Bowl Hall of Fame
- National Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame
- NSSA Hall of Fame
- Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame
- Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Jackson also received the Murrow Award for being a top leader in the communication industry along with the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award from the American Football Coaches Association.
Bob Iger on Jackson: “For generations of fans, Keith Jackson was college football. When you heard his voice, you knew it was a big game. Keith was a true gentleman and a memorable presence. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Turi Ann, and his family.”
The Lucasfilm family lost producer Allison Shearmur in January. She was a producer on Rogue One and Solo, along with many, many other films and TV projects, including the Bourne franchise and the Hunger Games series.
Lucasfilm on Shearmur: “Alli was just 54 at the time of her passing, an age that feels far too young for someone so gifted and giving, who had so much more left to do. We’re grateful for everything she brought to Star Wars and into our lives, which were all made richer and brighter through her. Her independent, positive spirit will live on in her beautiful children Imogen and Anthony, and with her husband Edward. We miss her deeply.”
Longtime TV producer Steven Bochco passed away after a long fight with leukemia. Bocho was a 10-time Emmy winner and produced iconic ABC shows such as Doogie Howser, M.D. and NYPD Blue. He was also behind the infamous Cop Rock.
Bob Iger on Bochco: “Our industry lost a visionary, a creative force, a risk taker, a witty, urbane story teller with an uncanny ability to know what the world wanted. We were long-term colleagues, and longer term friends, and I am deeply saddened.”
Veteran comic, voice actor, and children’s TV host, Chuck McCann passed away at the age of 83. His career spaned eight decades and covered a variety of movies, TV shows, commercials, video games and more. Disney fans will recognize his voice from several Disney Afternoon shows where he voiced a variety of characters: Duckworth, in DuckTales, Dumptruck in TaleSpin, and in recurring roles on Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, Adventures of the Gummi Bears, and New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh just to name a few. However, his most notable Disney role was actually in the parks as the voice of Dreamfinder in Epcot’s Journey Into Imagination.
Longtime Grand Floridian greater Richard Gerth passed away at the age of 92. Gerth always welcoming and wearing a smile. During his time at the resort, he worked as a greeter and also assisted brides on their wedding day. His impact on guests was so great that a Facebook Fan Page was created for him. He was loved by fellow Cast Members, too and was nominated for and became a recipient of the Disney Legacy Award.
John Stamos on Gerth: “This guy was just about as important as any attraction at Walt Disney World– Richard was there with a handshake and a smile that could get you through the day – and beyond. We’ll miss you Richard.”
Actress Barbara Harris,passed away in 2018 at the age of 83. Disney fans will recognized her from the 1976 version of Freaky Friday where she starred opposite Jodie Foster. Harris is also known for Nashville and Peggy Sue Got Married.
After 3 decades in the industry, Harris decided to retire from acting and focus on teaching instead. When asked if she missed her acting career, Harris responded: “Well, if someone handed me something fantastic for 10 million dollars, I’d work again. But I haven’t worked in a long time as an actor. I don’t miss it. I think the only thing that drew me to acting in the first place was the group of people I was working with: Ed Asner, Paul Sills, Mike Nichols, Elaine May.”
Harris was a founding member of The Second City in Chicago.
The Second City on Harris: “It all began with Barbara Harris. When lights came up for the very first time at The Second City on opening night in 1959, it was Barbara in the spotlight, a place she truly belonged.”
Broadway actress Carole Shelley passed away at 79. While she is best known for her work in the theater, Disney fans will know her best for her voice work in Disney animation, often playing poultry: Amelia Gamble, in The Aristocats, Lady Cluck in Robin Hood, and Lachesis—one of the Fates—in Hercules. She also played Fiona in Disney’s live-action film Jungle 2 Jungle. Outside of Disney she was Gwendolyn Pigeon in the original Broadway production of The Odd Couple and Madame Morrible in Wicked.
Gary Kurtz, the legendary producer of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, passed away at the age of 78. Kurtz first worked with George Lucas as a producer on the coming-of-age comedy American Graffiti, which became a massive surprise hit. It would receive several Academy Award nominations, including one for Kurtz and co-producer Francis Ford Coppola for Best Picture.
Following the success of American Graffiti, Kurtz joined Lucas as a producer on his next film: Star Wars. With a budget of $11 million, sci-fi epic went on to become the highest grossing film ever at the time of its release, garnering 10 Academy Award nominations—including one for Kurtz for Best Picture. He returned to produce The Empire Strikes Back, a decidedly bigger and more challenging film than its predecessor. After Star Wars, Kurtz produced The Dark Crystal and Disney’s Return to Oz, films that have become cult classics.
Penny Marshall passed away at the age of 75. Her most famous role was Laverne on ABC’s Laverne and Shirley. Disney fans will also recognize her from her cameo role alongside her brother, Garry Marshall, in Hocus Pocus. Marshall also found success behind-the-camera, becoming the first female director to lead a film that grossed more than $100 million with 20th Century Fox’s Big.
Bob Iger on Marshall: “So sad about the loss of #PennyMarshall who was so talented, warm, thoroughly authentic, and had a knack for making the world smile. She was our (ABC’s) Laverne and we loved her for that and so much more!”
Pixar mainstay Bud Luckey passed away following a prolonged illness. The animator was key in the design of Woody in Toy Story and went on to be a character designer for a bug’s life, Monsters. Inc, and Cars. He also found a secondary career as a voice actor voicing Rick Dicker in Incredibles, Chuckles the Clown in Toy Story 3 and Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh. His most personal project was the 2004 short Boundin’ which he wrote, directed, narrated, voiced, and sung.
David Ogden Stiers
While perhaps most recognizable for his role of Major Charles Emerson Winchester III in 20th Century Fox’s TV version of M*A*S*H, David Ogden Stiers was a true Disney virtuoso. He voiced Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast, Governor Ratcliffe in Pocahontas, Archdeacon in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Fenton Q. Harcourt in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Dr. Jumba Jookiba in Lilo & Stitch. He also had live-action appearances in Disney’s Iron Will and Jungle 2 Jungle.
Producer Craig Zadan was a mainstay of Disney Television. He produced Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Principal Takes a Holiday, Annie, and The Music Man for The Wonderful World of Disney, long before TV musicals became a mainstay. He took his skills to the big screen in 2002’s Chicago which won Best Picture while Miramax was under Disney ownership.
Ken Berry was known for his roles in TV’s F-Troop and Mama’s Family. Disney fans will recognize him for his lead roles in The Cat from Outer Space and Herbie Rides Again. He also hosted two episodes of the legendary The Mouse Factory.
The very private Steve Ditko may never have gotten as much attention as his co-creator Stan Lee, but his influence at Marvel was never forgotten. As co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, Ditko created two very different yet iconic characters.
Joe Quesada on Ditko: “Only a small group of individuals can claim that they have effected and redefined not just an industry, but popular culture worldwide. Steve Ditko was one of those few who dared to break molds every time his pencil and pen hit a blank sheet of paper. In his lifetime he blessed us with gorgeous art, fantastical stories, heroic characters and a mystical persona worthy of some of his greatest creations. And much like his greatest co-creation, Steve Ditko’s legend and influence will outlive us all.”
Stanley Martin Lieber, a.k.a. Stan Lee, loved the written word from an early age, and wanted to craft stories like those in his favorite books and films, which he consumed voraciously. Lee worked his way through a succession of jobs until the day he found himself an assistant at a comic book publishing company—Timely Comics. Here, Lee expressed his desire to write and create tales of his own. In the May 1941 issue of Captain America Comics #3, he got his wish. Readers would find a prose story in that issue, “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge,” sporting the byline of “Stan Lee.” A star was born.
Timely Comics morphed first into Atlas Comics and then into the name that would catapult it into legend and forever be synonymous with Stan Lee: Marvel Comics. As Editor-in-Chief, Stan “The Man” Lee made his voice the voice of the stories themselves. Writing virtually every Marvel title and working with such luminaries as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Gene Colan and John Romita, Lee began building a universe of interlocking continuity, one where fans felt as if they could turn a street corner and run into a super hero.
He is credited with co-creating iconic characters:
- The Fantastic Four
- Iron Man
- The X-Men
Today, it would be almost impossible to find a corner of the Marvel Universe that Lee didn’t have a hand in. He was named a Disney Legend in 2017.
Bob Iger on Lee: “Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created. A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.”