Review: ‘Coming 2 America,’ starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, KiKi Layne, Shari Headley and Wesley Snipes

March 4, 2021

by Carla Hay

Bella Murphy, Akiley Love, Arsenio Hall, Eddie Murphy, Shari Headley, KiKi Layne and Paul Bates in “Coming 2 America” (Photo by Quantrell D. Colbert/Paramount Pictures/Amazon Prime Video)

“Coming 2 America”

Directed by Craig Brewer

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional African country of Zamunda and briefly in the New York City borough of Queens, the comedy sequel “Coming 2 America” features a predominantly black cast of characters (with a few white people) representing African royalty, working-class Africans and Americans of various classes.

Culture Clash: An African royal, who is shamed for not having a male heir, finds out that he has an illegitimate American son, who is brought to Africa to be groomed as an heir to the throne.

Culture Audience: “Coming 2 America” will appeal primarily to fans of 1988’s “Coming to America,” but this sequel lacks the charm of the original movie.

Wesley Snipes, Jermaine Fowler and Leslie Jones in “Coming 2 America” (Photo by Quantrell D. Colbert/Paramount Pictures/Amazon Prime Video)

The comedy film “Coming 2 America,” which is the sequel to 1988’s “Coming to America,” is a perfect example of a movie that was not worth the wait. It’s a dull and disappointing mess that trashes or wastes the character relationships that made the “Coming to America” a crowd-pleasing hit. Co-stars Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, who were a dynamic duo in “Coming to America,” don’t have very many scenes together in “Coming 2 America.”

The new characters that are introduced in “Coming 2 America” are bland or obnoxious. An endearing romance/courtship that was at the heart of “Coming to America” is largely absent from “Coming 2 America,” which rushes a predictable relationship between a young couple who have almost no believable chemistry with each other. And “Coming 2 America” is filled with misogyny and racist stereotypes about black people, from a mostly white team of filmmakers.

The title of this dreadful and boring sequel shouldn’t have been “Coming 2 America.” It should have been titled “Shucking and Jiving in Zamunda.” That’s essentially what all the main characters do throughout this idiotic movie that takes place mostly in the fictional African country of Zamunda, not in America.

The “fish out of water” premise of culture shock that worked so well in “Coming to America” is muddled and mishandled in “Coming 2 America,” which was directed by Craig Brewer. This entire film looks like a tacky TV-movie instead of what it should have been: a cinematic triumph in comedy. (It’s easy to see why Paramount Pictures chose not to release “Coming 2 America” in theaters and sold it to Amazon Prime Video instead.) It doesn’t help that the movie’s musical score is schlocky sitcom music by Jermaine Stegall. Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield wrote the awful and lazy screenplay for “Coming 2 America.”

Murphy and Hall do their expected schticks of portraying various characters (some in prosthetic makeup), just like they did in “Coming to America.” It brings some mildly amusing moments that are fleeting and recycled. (The barbershop scene is back, and it’s not as funny as it was in the first “Coming to America” movie.) But these moments are not enough to save “Coming 2 America,” which is ruined by too many stale jokes that would’ve been outdated in 1988.

In fact, there’s almost nothing modern about “Coming 2 America,” except for some of the contemporary costumes. The song selections and musical numbers that are used as filler in this movie are straight out of the early 1990s, as if the filmmakers are trying to relive the music of their youthful days. And there are several celebrity cameos from African American entertainers, to distract from the movie’s silly plot. However, sticking a bunch of talented black people in front of the camera doesn’t make the writing and directing of “Coming 2 America” any less moronic and cliché.

In the beginning of “Coming 2 America,” Prince Akeem (played by Murphy) and his loyal sidekick/best friend Semmi (played by Hall) are living an uneventful life in Zamunda. Akeem and his American wife Lisa (played by Shari Headley)—who met, fell in love, and got married in “Coming to America”—are now celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary, as well as peace and prosperity in Zamunda. Semmi is still portrayed as a bachelor who has nothing better to do with his life but to be Akeem’s glorified lackey.

Akeem and Lisa have three children, all daughters: eldest Meeka (played by KiKi Layne), who’s in her mid-to-late 20s, is the only daughter with a distinct personality, since she’s the most assertive and outspoken of the three. Middle teenage daughter Omma (played by Bella Murphy, one of Eddie Murphy’s real-life daughters) and youngest pre-teen daughter Tinashe (played by Akiley Love) don’t have much dialogue in the movie. Their only moments where they get to shine are in some choreographed fight scenes.

Lisa’s father Cleo McDowell (played by John Amos) has expanded his fast-food McDowell’s restaurant business to Zamunda. McDowell’s blatantly copies McDonald’s, even down to having a “golden arches” sign in the shape of the letter “M.” This copycat gag leads to a not-very-funny segment in the beginning of the movie about how much McDowell’s imitates McDonald’s. Cleo quips, “They’ve got Egg McMuffins. We’ve got Egg McStuffins.” That’s what’s supposed to pass as comedy in this horribly written film.

Oscar-winning “Black Panther” costume designer Ruth E. Carter did the costumes for “Coming 2 America.” The costumes in “Coming 2 America” are among the few high points of the movie. Unlike “Black Panther,” which treated its female and male characters as equals, “Coming 2 America” is a parade of misogyny that makes the female characters look inferior to the male characters in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

The running “joke” in the film is that Zamunda is a socially “backwards” country with laws where women can’t be the chief ruler of the nation, and women can’t own their own businesses. The Zamundan culture is that women exist only to cater to men. Females can’t make any big decisions without the approval of the closest patriarch in her family. It’s sexism that could be ripe for parody, if done in a funny and clever way. But “Coming 2 America” bungles it throughout the entire movie, except for the end when a predictable decision is made to resolve a certain problem related to Zamunda’s sexist laws.

That decision is rushed in toward the very last few minutes of the movie. And it looks like what it is: the filmmakers’ way of pandering to feminism. However, this fake feminist plot development doesn’t erase all the ways that “Coming 2 America” marginalizes and “dumbs down” the women in the movie in a way that’s so foul and unnecessary.

“Black Panther” proved you don’t have to make black women in an African country look like they’re incapable of being smart and strong leaders. The “Coming 2 America” filmmakers try to rip off a lot of “Black Panther’s” visual style, but it’s all a smokescreen for the way “Coming 2 America” makes the African country of Zamunda (and therefore the people who live there) look like a very ignorant culture that’s behind the times.

In “Coming 2 America,” the “rank and file” black female citizens in Zamunda are just there to literally shake their butts in the dance routines; act as servants who are required to bathe or groom the royal men; or be preoccupied with marriage and/or motherhood. Akeem is shamed and ridiculed by a rival named General Izzi (played by Wesley Snipes) because Akeem has no male heirs. Izzi is portrayed as a cartoonishly buffoon villain who’s power-hungry and jealous of Akeem’s status as a royal heir.

In order to gain power in Zamunda, Izzi would rather form some kind of alliance with Akeem, instead of fighting Akeem. When Izzi storms the royal palace with an army of men, Izzi tells Akeem: “I came here for blood, but not the murder kind. Family blood, marriage blood.” Izzi suggests that Izzi’s son Idi (played by Rotimi Akinosho) marry Meeka, but Akeem rejects the offer.

Akeem’s widower father King Jaffe Joffer (played by James Earl Jones) thinks he’s going to die soon. And the king isn’t happy that Akeem doesn’t have a son. “The throne must pass to a male heir,” King Jaffe declares. Jones, who is a majestic presence in many other movies, has his talent squandered in “Coming 2 America,” which makes him look like a sexist old fool who doesn’t think any of his granddaughters could be worthwhile leaders.

Izzi tells Akeem that it’s too bad that Akeem doesn’t have a male heir, because Izzi think his daughter Bopoto (played by Teyana Taylor) would be a perfect match for any son of Akeem’s. And just like that, Semmi and a crotchety elderly man named Baba (played by Hall, who’s made to look like a tall, African version of Gollum) tell Akeem that he actually does have a son that Akeem didn’t know about for all of these years. Akeem doesn’t really believe it, until he’s reminded of something that happened when he and Semmi were in the New York City borough of Queens, during the time that the “Coming to America” story took place.

Meanwhile, King Jaffe announces, “My funeral should be spectacular. Let’s have it now, while I’m alive.” This was apparently an excuse for the “Coming 2 America” filmmakers to have one of several dance numbers in the movie as a gimmick to fill up time.

King Jaffe’s “funeral party” features Morgan Freeman introducing performances by En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa, who perform the 1993 hit “Whatta Man.” Also performing at the party is Gladys Knight, who is forced to embarrass herself in butchering her 1973 classic “Midnight Train to Georgia” because the filmmakers made her change the song to “Midnight Train to Zamunda.” At any rate, King Jaffe dies at the party (he falls asleep and doesn’t wake up), which is a good thing for Jones, because the less screen time he has in this garbage movie, the better.

After his father’s death, Akeem becomes king, but Akeem is now desperate to find a male heir. Akeem’s son (who is constantly called a “bastard” in this movie) was the result of a one-night stand that Akeem had in Queens. “Coming 2 America” then shows how this son was conceived. Akeem and Semmi, who were in Queens to look for a woman to marry Akeem, were at a nightclub, when Semmi spotted an American woman named Mary Junson (played by Leslie Jones) at the bar. (“Coming 2 America” uses flashbacks from “Coming to America” and some visual effects to recreate this moment.)

Semmi struck up a conversation with Mary and told her that he was working for an African prince who was looking for a bride. Mary takes one look at Akeem and doesn’t need any encouragement to hook up with Akeem. She invites Akeem back to her place. And as Akeem remembers it in the present day, Mary blew smoke from marijuana (which he calls “wild herbs”) in his face, thereby impairing his judgment.

Akeem describes Mary and his sexual encounter with her in this way: “A wild boar [Mary] burst into the room and rammed me and rammed me.” The sex is shown in a flashback in a very problematic scene, because it portrays Mary as someone who sexually assaulted Akeem. He definitely wasn’t a willing partner, by the way it’s portrayed in the movie, but it’s played off as something to laugh at in the movie. It makes Mary look like she’s so desperate for sex that she will incapacitate and rape a man.

And the dialogue in this sexual assault scene is just so cringeworthy. Before Mary attacks Akeem, she says to him, “I hope you like pumpkin pie, ’cause you goin’ to get a whole slice.” Mary can’t speak proper English in the movie because the filmmakers want to make her look as dumb and uneducated as possible.

It’s also downright sexist and racist to call a black woman a “boar,” which is an animal that is an uncastrated male swine. It doesn’t make it okay if another black person says this insult, just because he was paid to say it as an actor. It should be mentioned that two out of the three screenwriters of this crappy “Coming 2 America” screenplay are white. Had there been more black people on the filmmaking team, it’s doubtful that there would have been so many insulting and offensive portrayals of black people (especially black women) in this trash dump of a movie.

Portraying Mary as a desperate sexual assaulter isn’t the only problematic thing about this character. The entire character of Mary is problematic, because it’s all about reinforcing the worst negative stereotypes that movies and TV have about black women who are single mothers: loud, crude, stupid, broke/money-hungry and promiscuous. Mary (who doesn’t seem to have a job) calls herself a “ho” multiple times in the movie.

Akeem also calls Mary a “morally bereft” woman when he describes his memory of her. And when Akeem and Semmi inevitably go back to Queens to find Mary and the mystery son, Mary isn’t sure if Akeem is the father of her child. That is, until she finds out how rich Akeem is (Semmi accidentally drops open a suitcase full of cash in front of her), and suddenly Mary can’t wait to move to Zamunda and live in the royal palace.

The filmmakers go out of their way to make Mary as mindless and vulgar as possible. When Mary goes to Zamunda and she’s served caviar, she doesn’t know what this delicacy is and calls it “black mashed potatoes.” And in another scene in the movie, Mary shouts, “I am so hungry, I could eat the ass out of a zipper!”

Mary and Akeem’s son Lavelle Junson (played by Jermaine Fowler) is a good guy overall. But the filmmakers force a negative stereotype on him, by making him yet another black male who breaks the law. Lavelle and his Uncle Reem (played by Tracy Morgan, using the same shady clown persona that he usually has in his movies and TV shows) are ticket scalpers. Clearly, the “Coming 2 America” filmmakers wanted yet another ghetto stereotype of black people who commit illegal acts to make money.

“Coming 2 America” has a very racially condescending scene of Lavelle and Reem (who is Mary’s brother) at a corporate office on Lavelle’s 30th birthday. Lavelle is at this company (a firm called Duke & Duke) to apply for some kind of computer job. Lavelle tells Reem that he’s tired of having an unstable income from ticket scalping, and he wants to earn an honest living in a steady job. Reem thinks Lavelle is a dolt for wanting to get a legitimate job, and he asks Lavelle if he’s going to use his “white voice” in the interview.

In the interview with the firm’s racist scion named Calvin Duke (played by Colin Jost), Lavelle is subjected to a barrage of bigoted assumptions that are meant to make Lavelle feel inferior. When Calvin finds out that Lavelle was raised by a single mother who’s unemployed (she got laid off from her job), Calvin makes a snide remark: “They say that not having a dominant male figure at home is detrimental to a child.” There are some more racist insults (Calvin asks Lavelle if his mother is addicted to drugs or gambling), before the interview ends predictably, with Lavelle angrily telling Calvin he doesn’t want the job.

The thing is that even though the character of Calvin is supposed to represent white elitists who are racists, the “Coming 2 America” filmmakers do everything to make a lot of the movie’s black characters (especially Mary) the very degrading stereotype that racists like Calvin have of black people. And that’s why the movie’s job interview scene is very phony in its intentions to make it look like racists are most likely to be spoiled white rich kids. The reality is that people from all walks of life can be racists.

It turns out that Lavelle isn’t going to need a job because Akeem soon finds Lavelle (who’s scalping tickets outside of Madison Square Garden), introduces himself as Lavelle’s long-lost father, and tells Lavelle that his new identity is as a wealthy royal heir in Zamunda. Lavelle says he won’t move out of New York without his mother. And quicker than you can say “stupid comedy sequel,” Lavelle and Mary are in Zamunda. And this time, the Americans are the ones who are the “fish out of water.”

Lisa isn’t too happy that Akeem has a son that they didn’t know about until recently. However, she’s willing to forgive Akeem because Lavelle was conceived before Akeem met Lisa. Someone who is even less thrilled about Lavelle is Meeka, who sees Lavelle as a threat to any leadership power she hoped to inherit as a legitimate member of this royal family. The sibling rivalry scenes predictably ensue.

Meanwhile, Lavelle meets a hair stylist named Mirembe (played by Nomzamo Mbatha), who works for the royal family. She’s single and available, so you know where this is going. Mirembe changes Lavelle’s hairstyle from the Kid ‘n Play-inspired fade that he had in Queens to a short-cropped locks hairstyle that Erik Killmonger from “Black Panther” would wear, but with a rat tail braid in the back.

Mirembe says that she would love to open her own hair salon one day (her biggest inspiration is the 2005 movie “Beauty Shop”), but she’s sad and discouraged because the law in Zamunda doesn’t allow women to own their own businesses. Lavelle thinks this law is wrong and he promises her that when he has the power, he’s going to change the law. Lavelle and Mirembe are good-looking, but there’s no believable romantic spark between them, so their inevitable courtship is very boring.

The only thing that looks authentic between them is a meta moment when Mirembe and Lavelle have a conversation about which of the “Barbershop” movie is the best of the series, and how sequels usually aren’t as good as the original. Mirembe says, “This is true about sequels. Why ruin it?” If only the “Coming 2 America” filmmakers took that advice for this movie.

It should come as no surprise that the movie relies on the cliché of a love triangle. Now that Akeem has a male heir, Izzi ramps up the pressure for Bopoto to become Lavelle’s wife. Akeem is open to the idea after Bopoto does a sexy dance for the royal family while showing her ample cleavage. However, Bopoto is deliberately written as a submissive airhead. More than once in the story, Lavelle says he wants to be with an intelligent and independent-minded woman, so it’s obvious which woman he’ll choose in the love triangle.

Fowler has an appealing screen presence as Lavelle, but he’s hemmed in by a character that’s written as average and unremarkable. “Coming 2 America” is also very unfocused, since it can’t decide if the story should be more about the Lavelle/Mirembe romance or the Lavelle/Meeka rivalry. Truth be told, even though Layne plays Lavelle’s half-sister, her scenes with Fowler are more dynamic and have more energy than the scenes with Fowler and Mbatha. Layne’s considerable talents are underappreciated in “Coming 2 America,” because her Meeka character isn’t in the movie as much as people might think she should be.

Continuing with the fixation on early 1990s music, there’s another out-of-place musical number where people do a big sing-along to Prince’s “Gett Off,” led by Akeem’s servant Oha (played by Paul Bates). And there’s an atrociously written scene where Queen Lisa gets drunk with Mary at a party, and they start dancing to Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance.” This scene is supposed to make it look like Lisa is getting back in touch with her New York hip-hop roots.

But when they have Lisa and Mary repeat the lines, “Uppity bitch what?,” it just goes back to making the black women in this movie look like they have a ghetto mentality. It says a lot that the “Coming 2 America” filmmakers make the woman who is literally the movie’s black queen incapable of being completely dignified. They try to make it look like Lisa has been suppressing her “true” self as a trashy party girl, when Lisa was never that way in the first “Coming to America” movie. Almost all the black women in this movie are marginalized as either existing only in the story because they’re appendages to the men, as wives/love interests/sex partners, servants or daughters.

One of the signs of a creatively bankrupt movie is when it relies too much on celebrity cameos without bringing any genuine laughs. (John Legend sings during a mid-credits scene, and it’s a useless appearance that has no bearing on the movie’s story.) Trevor Noah makes a quick and inconsequential cameo as a TV newscaster named Totatsi Bibinyana of the Zamunda News Network.

Eddie Murphy, who is the main attraction for the “Coming to America” franchise, should have been a producer and/or writer of “Coming 2 America.” His company Eddie Murphy Productions helped finance the movie, but Murphy himself was not a credited producer responsible for the movie’s content and day-to-day operations. If he had been a producer or writer, Eddie Murphy could have brought better creative clout to this movie, which makes him do silly sketches that are way beneath his talent. The comedy and tone, including the slapstick scenes, are monotonous and unimaginative.

Lavelle goes through an initiation process that includes taming a tiger and a “circumcision” ritual that are ineptly written and filmed. As part of his “royal training,” Lavelle gets criticism from Semmi, who yells at him: “You walk like an American pimp!” Lavelle shouts back, “You dress like a slave from the future!”

Doing a high-profile, highly anticipated sequel such as “Coming 2 America” isn’t just about the paychecks. It’s about making good entertainment and a fairly accurate representation of cultures to make the story look relatable. And it should be about celebrating people, instead of making them demeaning caricatures that embody what racist and sexist bigots believe.

Amazon Prime Video will premiere “Coming 2 America” on March 5, 2021.

2019 D23 Expo: Disney Legends ceremony to honor Robert Downey Jr., James Earl Jones, Bette Midler, Diane Sawyer, Jon Favreau, Robin Roberts, and more

May 16, 2019

The following is a press release from D23:

Robert Downey Jr. and Bette Midler, along with such luminaries as Wing Chao, Jon Favreau, James Earl Jones, Kenny Ortega, Barnette Ricci, Robin Roberts, Diane Sawyer, Ming-Na Wen, and Hans Zimmer, will be honored as official Disney Legends during D23 Expo 2019 for their remarkable contributions to the Disney legacy. Hosted by Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger, the Disney Legends Awards ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, August 23, in Hall D23 of the Anaheim Convention Center.

“The Disney Legends Award is the highest honor we can bestow; it’s a recognition of talent, a celebration of achievement, and an expression of profound gratitude to the remarkable men and women who have made an indelible mark on our company and our creative legacy,” said Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “This year’s honorees have earned a place in our hearts and our history for their significant contributions in film, television, and our theme parks around the world.”

The Disney Legends Awards program is a 32-year tradition of The Walt Disney Company, and the first Disney Legend was Fred MacMurray (The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, The Happiest Millionaire), who was honored in 1987. The awards ceremony is just one of the dozens of spectacular events that Disney fans can enjoy during the threeday D23 Expo.

The 2019 Disney Legends Award honorees (listed alphabetically) are:

WING CHAO For 37 years at Disney, Wing T. Chao played a vital role in designing and developing exceptional and inspirational projects, worth over $12 billion dollars, at Disney parks and resorts worldwide. Wing served as vice chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for Asia Pacific Development as well as executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering where he oversaw master planning, architecture, and design.  Wing directed development teams consisting of Disney Imagineers and many of the world’s most renowned architects and designers, developed and built projects including resort hotels, parks, cruise ships, entertainment venues, water attractions, convention & exhibition centers, sports stadiums, restaurants, retail spaces, recreational complexes, office spaces, and two new-town communities at The Walt Disney Company’s
properties in California, Florida, Hawaii, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and other locations worldwide.

ROBERT DOWNEY JR. is a two-time Academy Award® nominee and Golden Globe® winner who has appeared in more than 80 films. Considered one of the industry’s most talented and respected actors, Downey has embraced both dramatic and comedic roles, including his Disney debut in the 2006 remake of The Shaggy Dog. After numerous standout performances, Downey then went on to help launch Marvel Studios with his celebrated performance as Tony Stark as Iron Man. His role has spearheaded the iconic blockbuster franchises Iron Man and Avengers, for which he’s starred in three Iron Man films, The Incredible Hulk (2008), Captain America: Civil War (2016), and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017); and four Avengers films, including the most recent, Avengers: Endgame (2019), which shattered box office records and became the largest ever film debut, bringing in $1.2 billion worldwide in its opening weekend. Downey will next star in the title role in 2020’s The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and is in pre-production on the third installment of the successful Sherlock Holmes franchise.

JON FAVREAU Jon Favreau started his career with appearances in film and television and has since become one of Hollywood’s most successful producers and directors. Jon’s first roles included appearances on TV shows such as Seinfeld and Friends, but his big break came with the Miramax indie film Swingers (1996), for which he wrote the screenplay, starred, and co-produced. His directing credits include Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), the live-action remake of The Jungle Book (2016), and this year’s reimagining of The Lion King. Jon also made appearances in several Marvel Cinematic Universe films as Tony Stark’s loyal bodyguard, Happy Hogan. As an executive producer for the Marvel Studios, John holds credits on such films as Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Iron Man 3 (2013), Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and Avengers: Infinity War (2018). He has also voiced characters for Disney television shows and feature films, including Hercules (TV, 1999), Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (TV, 2000), G-Force (2009), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (TV, 2010–13), and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). Jon is writing and executive producing the live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian for Disney+, which will premiere this November.

JAMES EARL JONES James Earl Jones started his acting career with television and film roles, including appearances in As the World Turns (1966) and Dr. Strangelove (1964). But the Oscar®, Emmy®, and Tony® Award-winning actor is well known for his iconic voice acting, beginning with the role of Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). This villainous vocal performance was reprised in subsequent Star Wars films, including most recently in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and TV shows like Star Wars Rebels (2014–18). His voice can also be heard in Disney Parks around the globe, including recurring vocal performances as Darth Vader for Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. Other Disney credits include ABC’s Recess in 1998 as the voice of Santa Claus, narrator for the Disneynature film Earth (2009), segment host for Fantasia/2000 (2000), and as the celebrity narrator for the Candlelight Ceremony at Disneyland. Audiences also recognize the actor’s basso profundo as that of Mufasa in The Lion King (1994), a role James would return to in The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride (1998), The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar (2015), and this summer’s reimagining of The Lion King.

BETTE MIDLER When the Disney studio set out to expand the breadth of its film production with Touchstone Pictures, it was Emmy®, Grammy®, Golden Globe®, and Tony® winner Bette Midler who helped lead the way to box office success for the new division. She appeared in a string of hit comedies including Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), Ruthless People (1986), Outrageous Fortune (1987), and Big Business (1988). Touchstone’s 1988 drama Beaches not only proved to be a smash with audiences, but it also included Bette’s platinum-selling rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Other Disney films followed, including Stella (1990) and Scenes from a Mall (1991), as well as a memorable vocal performance as the spoiled poodle Georgette in Oliver & Company (1988). Bette is well known to Disney audiences for her role as the witchy Winifred in the perennial Halloween classic Hocus Pocus (1993). She also starred in The Lottery (1989), a short film produced for the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) in Florida for guests of the park’s Backstage Studio Tour.

KENNY ORTEGA is a multi-award-winning director, choreographer, and producer. His first work with Disney was choreographing the TV special Disney’s Totally Minnie (1988), followed by Mickey’s 60th Birthday the same year, and he would go on to direct three episodes of Touchstone Television’s Hull High in 1990. In 1992, Kenny directed his first feature film, the beloved Disney musical Newsies, which was followed, in 1993, by the perennial Halloween favorite Hocus Pocus. In 2006, he helmed the Disney Channel smash hit High School Musical, and the success of the first film would bring him back to direct—and choreograph—the sequels High School Musical 2 (2007) and High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008). Ortega also produced and staged the High School Musical Concert Tours, as well as the Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers Best of Both Worlds Tour. His other Disney credits include directing the 2014 short The Making of Frozen, The Cheetah Girls 2 (2006), and most recently the international phenomenon Descendants (2015), Descendants 2 (2017), and Descendants 3, which will be released this summer.

BARNETTE RICCI Barnette Ricci started her career with The Walt Disney Company as a choreographer at Disneyland. In the late 1960s, Barnette created and directed Kids of the Kingdom before going on to choreograph and direct many parades, including Christmas parades, America on Parade, and the Main Street Electrical Parade. She worked on the grand openings of Walt Disney World, EPCOT Center, and Tokyo Disneyland and directed popular stage shows such as Golden Horseshoe Revue at Disneyland and the Diamond Horseshoe Revue in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort. Perhaps her biggest project to date is the creation of Fantasmic! Debuting at Disneyland in 1992, the production combines state-of-the-art special effects with live performers along the Rivers of America. The show continues a successful run at Disneyland, Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, and now Tokyo DisneySea. Following Fantasmic!, Barnette moved to The Walt Disney Studios as the vice president/show director of Special Events. After more than 40 years with The Walt Disney Company, Barnette retired in 2013.

ROBIN ROBERTS In 1990, Robin Roberts joined ESPN and would quickly become a frequent contributor to the network’s programming. In her 15 years at ESPN, she contributed to NFL Primetime and hosted SportsCenter and In the Game with Robin Roberts. Robin began making appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) in
1995, and in 2005 left ESPN to join the show full-time as co-anchor. Since joining GMA, the show has won four Emmys® for Outstanding Morning Program. For ABC, Robin has hosted In the Spotlight with Robin Roberts: All Access Nashville, as well as ABC’s red carpet coverage of the Academy Awards®, and has created original broadcast and digital programming for the network through her production company, Rock’n Robin Productions. In 2007, Hyperion publishing released Robin’s first book, From the Heart: 7 Rules to Live By. Among Robin’s many awards are the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, membership in the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, and being named one of Glamour’s Women of the Year.

DIANE SAWYER Diane Sawyer is an ABC News anchor, tackling some of the biggest issues of our time with original reporting, primetime specials, long-form interviews, and in-depth investigations. One of the most respected journalists in the world, she has traveled the globe delivering breaking news reports, and has conducted interviews with almost every major newsmaker of our time. Her primetime documentaries have won critical acclaim for shedding light on difficult and previously under-reported topics, including her reporting on the realities of poverty in America. Sawyer’s reporting has been recognized with numerous awards, including duPonts; Emmys®; Peabodys; the grand prize of the premier Investigative Reporters and Editors Association, an IRTS Lifetime Achievement Award; and the USC Distinguished Achievement in Journalism Award. In 1997 she was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. After more than a decade in television news, Sawyer joined ABC News in February 1989 as coanchor of Primetime. She was named co-anchor of Good Morning America in January 1999, and held the post until taking over the World News anchor chair in December 2009.

MING-NA WEN can currently be found saving the day as Agent Melinda May, aka “The Cavalry,” on the ABC series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ming is also known for her seven years playing Jing-Mei Chen on ER. Ming-Na Wen found success on the big screen when she appeared in the acclaimed Hollywood Pictures adaptation of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. Five years later, she would find animation immortality as the title star of the Disney classic Mulan, a role for which she would receive an Annie Award. Ming-Na returned to the role of heroic Fa Mulan in a slew of projects, including an animated sequel, videogames Kingdom Hearts II and Disney Infinity, on television’s House of Mouse and Sofia the First, and in the Walt Disney Animation Studios film Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018). Ming-Na has been well known to audiences for her television projects, including her voice work in Disney Channel’s Phineas and Ferb, Disney XD’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Milo Murphy’s Law, the upcoming six-part digital short Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, and a recurring role in ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat.

HANS ZIMMER has scored more than 160 projects which, combined, have grossed over $28 billion worldwide. Zimmer has been honored with an Academy Award®, two Golden Globes®, three Grammys®, an American Music Award, and a Tony® Award. In addition to his long list of credits, including notable projects such as Gladiator and The Dark Knight trilogy, Hans has had a great history with The Walt Disney Company. His early work for them includes additional music for White Fang (1991) and co-writing music for Cool Runnings (1993). His groundbreaking, Academy Award®-winning instrumental score for The Lion King (1994) was followed by many memorable projects,
including Crimson Tide (1995), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), The Rock (1996), Pearl Harbor (2001), King Arthur (2004), and Iron Man (2008). Hans is the guiding force behind the music of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, serving in various composing, editing, and producing capacities for The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Dead Man’s Chest (2006), At World’s End (2007), and On Stranger Tides (2011). Hans composed the music for this summer’s reimagining of The Lion King.

Honorees receive a two-foot-tall bronze Disney Legends sculpture that signifies the imagination, creativity, and magic they have brought to the Company. Disney Legends Award recipients will also participate in a handprint ceremony at the end of the event, and their bronzed prints will be displayed in the Disney Legends Plaza at the Company’s Burbank headquarters.

Admission to the ceremony will be on a first-come, first-served basis and is included in the price of a ticket to D23 Expo 2019.

Including this year’s honorees, a total of 288 Disney Legends have been named. Past Disney Legends include Tim Allen, Julie Andrews, Beatrice Arthur, Howard Ashman, Annette Funicello, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Jennings, Sir Elton John, Angela Lansbury, George Lucas, Steve Martin, Alan Menken, Hayley Mills, Fess Parker, Regis Philbin, Marty Sklar, Dick Van Dyke, Barbara Walters, Betty White, and Robin Williams. Beginning with the inaugural D23 Expo in 2009, thousands of Disney fans have been able to enjoy the Disney Legends Awards ceremony live.

Tickets for D23 Expo 2019 are available for $89 for one-day adult admission and $69 for children 3–9. Gold Members of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club can purchase tickets for $77 for a one-day adult admission and $59 for children 3–9. For more information on tickets and D23 Expo 2019, visit D23Expo.com.

About D23 Expo 2019 D23 Expo—The Ultimate Disney Fan Event—brings together all the worlds of Disney under one roof for three packed days of presentations, pavilions, experiences, concerts, sneak peeks, shopping, and more. The event provides fans with unprecedented access to Disney films, television, games, theme parks, and celebrities. For the latest D23 Expo 2019 news, visit D23expo.com. Presentations, talent, and schedule subject to change. To join the D23 Expo conversation, be sure to follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and use the hashtag #D23Expo.

About D23 The name “D23” pays homage to the exciting journey that began in 1923 when Walt Disney opened his first studio in Hollywood. D23 is the first official club for fans in Disney’s 90-plus-year history. It gives its members a greater connection to the entire world of Disney by placing them in the middle of the magic through its quarterly publication, Disney twenty-three; a rich website at D23.com with members-only content; member-exclusive discounts; and special events for D23 Members throughout the year.

Fans can join D23 at Gold Membership ($99.99), Gold Family Membership ($129.99), and General Membership (complimentary) levels at D23.com. To keep up with all the latest D23 news and events, follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.