Billy Dee Williams talks Mickey Mouse, Jazz and his Disney Artwork

Update August 11, 2011: Billy Dee Williams will be attending the D23 Expo to greet guests and sign autographs, but his artwork will not be ready in time for the event. I am leaving this article otherwise intact.

Billy Dee Williams is a busy man. His acting career spans over 50 years, with two films from the original Star Wars trilogy in the middle of that. He also is an accomplished artist who calls his paintings “abstract reality”.

Williams will be debuting a jazz-inspired Disney piece of artwork for the D23 Expo, which includes his own favorite Disney character – Mickey Mouse.

While he’s most known for his acting career, Williams went to college on a scholarship for fine art and design. “Painting has been a part of my life – all of my life” said Williams. He was even nominated for a Guggenheim Award in his late teens.

A trip to the Walt Disney Archives to learn about Disney history spurred an idea to create what he referred to as "a little painting that we can make into lithos". This is the first time he's created artwork in collaboration with Disney.

Williams’ D23 artwork will be online for viewing in a few days and features the Fab 5 of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto as jazz musicians. When asked what jazz song he imagined them playing,  Williams replied, "Minnie is singing in the painting..so, 'Take Five'".  He said he's "always related to Mickey Mouse".  The original art is in mostly in an acrylic medium, and there will be a limited edition print on sale at the D23 Expo for $95.95.

Williams also talked about his Star Wars character, Lando Calrissian, and how much was based on himself. "Oh, it's me, I think. Much of the character is me. I think I'm a rather charming kind of guy".  He then continued with a laugh, " Plus, I was pretty handsome in those days".

Near the end of the call, Williams summed up his life and career: "My whole existence has somehow revolved around the arts, that's pretty much what my life has been about and I'm pretty happy about that".

Billy Dee Williams will be signing autographs on August 19th at the D23 Expo in Anaheim  from 11am – 1pm.  Autograph tickets are $40, and the photo op $30.00. If you purchase his artwork, the autograph is included in the price.

Much of the D23 schedule is now online, you can view it and purchase tickets here.  A one day ticket is $40 for D23 members, and $47 for non-members. A three day ticket costs $115 for members, and $136 for non members.