The very sad news has just come across the wire that legendary newsman and television anchor Walter Cronkite has died today at the age of 92. Cronkite, who served as the anchor of the CBS Evening News for 19 years from 1962-1981, was a constant presence throughout the historical events of the late 20th century; he was there for everything from the Kennedy assassination to the Apollo moon landing to Vietnam and beyond. He was an iconic presence during my childhood, and his avuncular authority was a staple for an entire generation of news viewers.
For Disney fans, he’s best known for two things. He provided the magnificent narration for EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth from 1986 to 1994, and he was the original host of The Magic of Disney Animation at the Disney-MGM Studios from 1989-2003. Appearing in the preshow film Back to Neverland alongside a real-life and animated Robin Williams, Cronkite spoofed his serious image while providing a look at the animation process.
An old-school print journalist who went from reporting on World War II to anchoring the first steps of man the moon, Cronkite was one of a kind. I’ll leave you for now with a quote that he provided for the back cover of Richard Beard’s 1982 book, Walt Disney’s EPCOT: Creating the New World of Tomorrow:
This universality of Disney carries on after his death, and continues in projects that he had put on the drawing board before he died. Epcot Center is a case in point – bringing together representatives of international industry, international commerce, and the governments of other countries in a permanent world’s fair. It perpetuates that theme of his that we are indeed one people.
UPDATE: I’m embarrassed that one of Cronkite’s Disney contributions slipped my mind, especially considering that it’s one of my absolute favorite things… pretty much anywhere. Cronkite served as the host of Holiday Illuminations, the special seasonal version of EPCOT’s nighttime light show which ran from 1994 to 1999. The finale of that show, Let There Be Peace On Earth, can still be heard with some of Cronkite’s narration intact as the holiday tag at the end of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth:
Also, Orlando Attractions Magazine has posted some nice behind-the-scenes photos of Cronkite’s work on Back to Neverland.