The D23 Expo isn’t just about Disney announcing, confirming and hyping their upcoming slate of projects, it also features the Disney Legends Awards, which is essentially the studio’s version of a Hall of Fame for those who have made a significant contribution to The Walt Disney Company over the years.
The Class of 2019 features some big names including Jon Favreau, James Earl Jones, Bette Midler and Hans Zimmer, but without a doubt this year’s star inductee was Robert Downey Jr. Having recently retired from the role of Iron Man following the events of Avengers: Endgame, it came at the perfect time to honor the actor for his role in turning Marvel Studios from an untested upstart studio to the biggest brand in the movie business.
Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark saw his superhero alter-ego become one of popular culture’s biggest icons, as well as establishing Iron Man as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s flagship character. Having just been handed his Disney Legends award by Bob Iger, the 54 year-old admitted that he saw the irony in being honored by the company, as his first-ever visit to Disneyland back in the 1980’s didn’t turn out so well:
“Here’s a bit of trivia for you. The very first time I went to Disneyland I was transported to another place – within moments of being arrested. I was brought to a surprisingly friendly processing center, given a strict warning and returned to, if memory serves, one very disappointed group chaperone. I’ve been sitting on that shame for a while and I’m just going to release it here tonight.”
As for what led to his arrest, the answer doesn’t come as a surprise to those with a knowledge of Downey Jr.’s past:
“I would like to make amends to whoever had to detain me for smoking pot in a gondola without a license, and I don’t wanna further confuse the issue by insinuating that pot-smoking licenses for the gondola are in any way obtainable.”
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Quickly moving on to a more serious note after leaving the audience in fits of laughter, the actor went on to express how grateful he had been to spend over a decade as part of the MCU, while also definitively drawing a line under his tenure as Tony Stark:
“I’m delighted to be among such a rich and diverse group of humans, all seeking to reflect the many challenges of life through the lens of creative expression. For my part, playing Tony over many years, the thematic idea that technology can guide our species towards enlightenment or destruction, it’s been a really worthwhile and ongoing meditation. Honestly, it’s been a great gift… So here’s what I get to do: I get to remain a fan of the first inclusive and evolving cinematic universe ever, so far, and yeah, here’s to the future.”
Robert Downey Jr. may no longer be part of the MCU after the franchise’s biggest name sacrificed himself at the conclusion of Endgame, but based on the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, as well as his friendship with Tom Holland, it seems as if Iron Man will continue to cast a shadow over Marvel Studios’ output for years to come.