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Karen Dotrice Disney Legend at the Disney Legends Plaza
Image by Castles, Capes & Clones
Karen Dotrice (Film & Television)
With her blonde hair and blue eyes, Karen Dotrice lit up the screen in such Disney motion pictures as "The Three Lives of Thomasina" in 1963, "Mary Poppins" in 1964 and "The Gnome-Mobile" in 1967. And Walt Disney, or "Uncle Walt" as Karen knew him, appreciated her English roots.
She recalled, "I think he (Walt) really liked English kids. He was tickled pink by the accent and the etiquette. And when I was being very English and polite, he would look proudly at this little charge who had such good manners."
Born in Guernsey, The Channel Islands, November 9, 1955, to a family of prominent stage actors, Karen grew up knowing people of repute, including her Godfather, multi-award-winning actor Charles Laughton. Laughton and Karen’s father, Roy Dotrice, first brought the four-year-old to the stage to perform in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Bertold Brecht’s "The Caucasion Chalk Circle".
While performing in that production, Karen was spotted by a Disney scout and soon after, arrived at the Disney Studio in Burbank with her family in tow, minus her father who was portraying "King Lear" on the London stage at the time.
She recalled, "My dad was in England the whole time I was over here (in the United States) with my mother and sisters. I didn’t have my Daddy figure around, so I called Walt, ‘Uncle Walt.’ He took me and my family under his wing, every weekend, flying us in his plane to Santa Barbara or to his home in Palm Springs."
Karen first appeared in "The Three Lives of Thomasina" and in his book "The Disney Films," Critic Leonard Maltin observed her performance as Mary MacDhui. He wrote, "Young Karen Dotrice won over everyone …" So much so, that she was cast as the juvenile lead Jane Banks in the Oscar-winning "Mary Poppins," followed by the role of Elizabeth in "The Gnome-Mobile" with Walter Brennan.
By 1968, she had returned to England and went on to appear in such features as "Joseph Andrews" in 1976 and "The Thirty-Nine Steps" in 1978, for which she received accolades for her lead performance as the English aristocratic love interest opposite Robert Powell. The performance won a nod from the Evening News British Film Awards, as well, which named her best female newcomer.
She also played Lily in the popular English television series "Upstairs, Downstairs" in 1971. Other television appearances include the miniseries "Napoleon and Love" in 1974 and "She Fell Among Thieves" in 1978, which appeared on PBS’s Mystery!
Karen returned to the United States in 1980, and four years later, after playing Desdemona in "Othello" on Broadway, she retired from acting to focus on motherhood. Karen Dotrice appeared in the ABC documentary "Walt Disney: Man Behind the Myth," which debuted September 16, 2001.
The bio comes from the Official Disney Legends Home Page – legends.disney.go.com/legends/index
Disney California Adventure Re-Dedication Ceremony
Image by Castles, Capes & Clones
Taken on June 15, 2012 during the Re-Dedication Ceremony in Carthay Circle on Buena Vista Street, Disney California Adventure (Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, CA)