UPDATE: We just received word that the artwork by Billy Dee Williams mentioned in this blog will not be finished in time for the Expo. However, Billy Dee will still be appearing at the event to sign autographs and meet guests -- and celebrate the relaunch of Star Tours!
If you read the recent article in our AllEars® newsletter in which I "outed” myself as a Star Wars fan, it will come as no surprise to you to learn that I was super thrilled when I found out that actor Billy Dee Williams, better known as the charming rogue Lando Calrissian from the Star Wars films, was going to be attending the upcoming D23 Expo in Anaheim.
You can just imagine my further excitement, then, when the chance arose for me to join in yesterday on a conference call with Williams, who was set to talk about, among other things, the new artwork he has created featuring Mickey Mouse and the rest of the “Fab Five”, which will debut at the upcoming D23 Expo.
I remember reading some time ago that Williams was an accomplished artist – he has work hanging in an impressive number of nationally known galleries, including the Smithsonian! – but I didn’t realize how seriously he had returned to what was his first love in recent years.
In yesterday’s half-hour telephone interview, Williams talked about Star Wars, of course, but also about his relationship with Disney.
"I've always related to Mickey Mouse," he said, when asked how his affiliation with the D23 Expo came about. “Like everybody else, I’ve been a Disney fan all of my life. I’m pretty much amazed by all of it… like most people. It’s magical."
But how did he come to create something featuring Disney characters? I asked him. I could have understood if he had painted his character, Lando, and other Star Wars images, in tribute to the newly renovated Star Tours attraction... but Mickey? How did that happen?
“I went to the Disney archives a while ago, to see the history of Disney,” he explained. “I thought it would be a nice idea to do something with the characters that we could make into a litho. It’s a cute little idea – it’s a very simple piece.”
Williams described the work, which he did in acrylics and colored pencil, as a jazz presentation of the five characters – Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and Goofy – surrounding Williams himself.
“I was thinking of us as jazz musicians,” Williams said. When asked if he had a particular jazz tune in mind when he developed the artwork, Williams laughed and thought a moment. “Well, Minnie is singing… but, yes. ‘Take Five,’” he said, referring to the classic Dave Brubeck Quartet jazz instrumental.
The piece has been reproduced as a Limited Edition lithograph that will be available exclusively to D23 attendees for $99.95, which will include an autograph. Williams will be at the Expo for the unveiling of the work, and will also be available to pose with fans and sign autographs. (Note: Separate autograph tickets for Williams will be available for purchase for $40.)
"I'm looking forward to the Expo," Williams said. "I can’t imagine anyone not having a good time at Disney.”
The man whose 3-1/2-year-old grandson sometimes call him "Grandpa Lando," will be at the D23 Expo to pose for photographs with fans, and to sign autographs, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, August 19, at the Coolwaters Productions booth in the Collector’s Forum.
(Note: an image of the lithograph should be online in the next day or so -- I'll update
this blog post when it's available.)
The previous post in this blog was Untamed! Lunch with an Animal Specialist at Sanaa.
The next post in this blog is My New Happy Place…A Cabana on Castaway Cay.