"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious
and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." -- Walt Disney
I cannot believe I have this guest pass in my possession. Yes friends... after years of showing visiting friends the adorable Walt Disney Studios from outside of the gates, I finally was invited inside! Just a week after Eugene's visit, a friend invited me to lunch at Walt Disney Studios! Now, y'all... I was excited enough to be invited to lunch, let alone at Walt Disney Studios! But to experience what got to experience that day was, well... just keep reading :)
We arrived early for lunch, and were told to just "hang out" until my friend could take her break. Having never been on the lot before, I took the opportunity to explore Legends Plaza on the north end of the lot. Legends Plaza is a large square anchored on one end with the Legends statue (featuring Mickey's arm holding a star-tipped wand on top of a scroll) and at the other with the Partners statue (featuring Mickey and Walt holding hands). Each of the columns surrounding the courtyard contains plaques honoring each of Disney's Legends, recognizing individuals who have had an extraordinary and lasting impact on the Disney empire.
(Note in the above picture that the seven dwarves are featured prominently on the building in the background. These statues are HUGE, and very symbolic. At the time that "Snow White" was created, Disney Studios was losing money and was flirting with bankruptcy. They hoped and prayed that "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" would be successful... and it was! The film grossed over $8 million, and held the title of highest grossing motion picture until "Gone with the Wind." The dwarves today "hold up" the Team Disney building to symbolize the power of their first full feature animated film. You can read more fun facts about the dwarves here.)
Also featured on the plaza is a statue of Roy Disney with Minnie Mouse as pictured above.
After my friend was released for her lunch break, we made our way further into the lot to have lunch in the commissary. On the way, we passed the delightful Pluto's Corner - pretty much catty-corner to the commissary. Because I'm a nerd that researched the studio before visiting it, I knew this site well. The street sign pictured above is actually a prop from a pseudo-documentary called "The Reluctant Dragon." This adorable 1941 was produced by the studio as an entertaining way of showing off the studio and giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on there. The street sign above was created as a prop for that movie - the street names and locations are all real, but the signs aren't pointing towards the direction of where the locations are actually located. It's a great looking prop - so great that the studio decided to keep it up after filming.
Such attention to detail! Notice the three paw prints near the hydrant -
it would seem our friend Pluto stopped to mark his corner!
Also near the commissary is one of the original buildings from the studio's former Hyperion Avenue studio location in Hollywood. The 1935 bungalow was selected as one of the buildings that Walt wanted to hang on to, so it was moved from Hollywood to Burbank when the studio lot was created between 1939-40.
As interesting as the Hyperion Bungalow is, however, it is not the oldest building on the lot. On the other side of the studio lot is a small, unassuming building that houses Disney's Digital Studio Services. This building, built in 1937, is another of the original Hyperion buildings and is the oldest of them on the lot.
My friend had to leave us for a while to attend a meeting, so she dropped us off at her building to visit the Walt Disney Archives while we waited. This was SO COOL! Pictured above is one of the animator's desks, with Walt warmly greeting you to take a peek :)
Near the animator's desk is an original sketch of Steamboat Willie, as drawn by Walt Disney himself.
The "Little Man" project was also on display. These were so cool. The figures and busts of little men were created by engineers and architects to test form and motion. Some of these had tiny gears inside that allowed the figures to move their jaws and blink their eyes using tiny wires to control them. This project was the precursor to Disney's Animatronic marvels, the earliest of which you can see at the Tiki Room in Disneyland. There were so many other antiques, film props, and Walt Disney personal memorabilia on display in this room. I took a ton of pics, but in the interest of brevity, I'm not posting all that here. You'll have to take my word for it!
My favorite moment, however, came as a complete surprise. As we were leaving the archives, one of the cast members allowed us to hold and photograph one of Walt's many Oscars! I never thought I'd be holding an Oscar in my lifetime, friends... let alone Walt Disney's. Did you know Walt Disney is one of the most, if not THE most, winning artists/entertainers in Oscar history? He personally won 32 of these statues, and accepted several more under the studio name. I spent a good 5 minutes with this Oscar. It was seriously cool.
Outside of the archives is one of my favorite pieces of animation history - the multiplane camera created and used for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." This picture doesn't do the camera justice - this thing is gigantic! This invention was revolutionary for animation as it allowed animators to capture depth in a 2D drawing. While not actually multidimensional, the camera did allow animators to capture different layers of the scene at different speeds. This was possible by moving things closer and further from the camera. The camera was housed at the top of the device, with as many as seven planes set up beneath it.
After our archive tour, my friend gave me a quick tour of the studio's Animation and Ink & Paint buildings. Did you know that a series of tunnels connected these, and other, buildings on the studio lot? Me either! These were apparently created to allow employees to move freely between the buildings in inclement weather. I know what you're thinking... it never rains in LA. But keep in mind that early animation was all done by hand. Each cell was hand drawn and hand painted, and these were delivered from the ink & paint building to the animation building one at a time to keep them in pristine condition. Rain or other weather would have ruined these cells, and stopping production for weather would have been costly. The tunnels were very interesting, but very creepy. I can't imagine being down there by myself or after-hours.
We spent the rest of our visit touring the actual stages and studios on the lots. In the interest of not making this even longer, I'm going to hold off on posting those pictures for now. I took better pictures of same when I went back to the lot just a month later, so I'll post about those then. (Yes, I got to go back. Squee!) In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look at the Walt Disney Studios! I am so immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this place! I'm a blessed girl to have such great friends take me on such amazing adventures!
Until next time...