LOS ANGELES – It didn't take long for the big eyes, the big smiles and a little dose of shyness to kick in.
As soon as Elspeth "Beanie" Mar, Aniyah Rigmaiden and Anthony Roy Jr. stepped out of their chauffeured, black SUV on Friday to cheers from the cast of "A.N.T. Farm" and a slew of onlookers, the three youngsters from Sacramento's Caroline Wenzel Elementary School knew they were special.
And special they are. Almost four weeks ago, the three friends were eating at school when Anthony, 7, noticed that Aniyah, 6, seemed to be choking. Beanie, 6, saw it too and immediately knew what to do.
She had recently watched an episode of the Disney Channel's "A.N.T. Farm" featuring a scene about the Heimlich maneuver, and she quickly got behind Aniyah, wrapped her arms around her friend's waist, made a fist and gave a quick upward thrust. Out popped a piece of apple, very possibly saving Aniyah's life.
The three humbly returned to class, but Beanie's teacher heard about the incident and notified the principal, who called the kids' parents – and soon the story about their good deed went national.
So on Friday, the trio was lauded outside Stage 10 of the Hollywood Center Studios, where "A.N.T. Farm" is taped. On a red carpeted platform in front of a gaggle of photographers, they each hugged members of the show's cast, accepted hero medals and were feted with Mickey Mouse caps and ears and stuffed Mickeys. Then the master of ceremonies, Radio Disney personality Ernie D, said the words that every child yearns to hear: You're going to Disneyland.
"I'm really excited," the precocious Aniyah said several minutes later. Her teary-eyed mom was a few steps away, overwhelmed.
"They deserve every moment" of the celebration, said Crisa Triplet, 29. "For someone 6 years old to save my daughter's life, I'm just lost for words right now. All the tears that are coming out are just tears, tears, tears of joy."
Anthony was also in heaven, particularly as he attentively eyed the show's lead actress, China Anne McClain, playing patty-cake with Aniyah. Asked what he had learned from the episode earlier this month, he replied, "That saving someone's life can (lead) to new and better things."
His mom, Amber Burleigh, 27, said she is extremely grateful for all the attention and Disney's efforts. "It's been quite an experience," she added.
Beanie was the most circumspect of all, exhibiting a bashfulness that belied her take-charge actions the day she performed the Heimlich maneuver on Aniyah. Asked how she felt about the celebration, she said, "Shy." Her mom and dad were beaming.
"I think she's learned to do the right thing, and sometimes you get rewarded for making the right choices," said Amy Peterson-Mar, 40, as her husband, Steve Mar, looked on.
After the festivities, Aniyah, Beanie and Anthony were given a tour of the "A.N.T Farm" studio, and watched as a scene for the show's upcoming second season was taped. They and their parents were to be treated to a day at Disneyland today.
One of the show's producers, Dan Signer, said there was no particular motivation for including a scene about the Heimlich maneuver in one of his first-season shows. It was just one of many storylines written into scripts that constitute a slice of life, he said.
"We do a lot of crazy gags and stunts on the show," added Signer, who has a 6-year-old of his own. "Kids are smart and they know what's a crazy gag and a stunt, and what looks real.
And that they're able to sort of tell the difference and glean information from the show and learn from the show, and apply it in a real-life situation, just impresses me beyond belief."