Ned's Note: Greetings, VF members and guests to the site! In this issue of ShrunkenNed's Jungle Tidbits, guest columnist and VF Premium Member Austen has agreed to share his experience with D23 and a tour of the Walt Disney Studios and Archives. Hope you enjoy - I know I did!
Hey everyone, Austen here! ShrunkenNed has invited me to share my experience and adventure of touring the Walt Disney Studios and Archives with all of you. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell you my story and what I got to experience, so here it is- the long version. Enjoy!
We started off by pulling into the Studios, which was very easy to find, and parked in the Zorro parking lot. From the Zorro parking lot you have to walk a little ways past a couple sound stages, to a little area that has a Studios store, which is currently being remodeled. I was very surprised they let us walk there by ourselves. Security is very tight all over the Studios, and a security guard followed us on the tour. We then checked in with D23, and went into a little room where we were able to buy pins and other various merchandise. After that, they told us to wait in the Hyperion Room until our Guide arrived. So we were sitting in there, and Josh Turchetta, from D23’s Armchair Archivists, came in and said he will be coming with us on the Tour. So our actual Guide came in, and told us the history about the Hyperion Room. This is the original Hyperion Room, where Walt Disney worked with his animators. They moved it to the Studios not too long ago. Inside this room were several desks in the middle and pictures of Walt with people like the Sherman Brothers and many other recognizable celebrities.
The Hyperion Room We then gathered our stuff, grabbed a water bottle, and started the tour. We saw the only Disney Company flag, and the famous Dopey Drive/Mickey Ave street sign. All the streets have this type of sign, right? Wrong. This was actually used in a movie, it’s just a prop!
At The Intersection of Mickey Ave and Dopey Drive After walking another short distance we came to the Theatre and Animation buildings. The Theatre was having a showing of Winnie the Pooh later that day. We made a left and entered the famous Animation building. I was not expecting what I found in here- a very long hallway of nothing but offices on both sides. Walking past these offices was actually pretty cool, because they were various companies that said stuff like: “So & So productions”. Between each double glass door was original pictures and sketches of movies like Aladdin, Dumbo, and others. We walked to the end to find a staircase that led to Walt’s office. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let us go up it. (I probably would have passed out if they did!) Then we came back halfway, walked downstairs, and took an underground tunnel that led to the Ink and Paint Department.
The Disney Animation Building After coming out of that amazing building, with all the different departments organized in such a way where productivity is the main goal, we ventured down the street a ways. We walked next to the Shorts building, where Snow White came to life, and we saw the famous Water Tower. We stopped at Stage 2 (which is named after Julie Andrews) to find out Mary Poppins and The Princess Diaries was filmed inside. Across the street from Stage 2 is Stage 1, where many famous movies were made, including parts of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Stage 1 on the Disney Studio Lot Walking some more, our Guide explained various buildings and history, and Josh jumped in every picture he could. (Josh is hilarious! Very fun guy to be around.) Although we never actually walked on a Sound Stage, some of us lagging behind (on purpose…) got to look in one. They were taking the set that was used for Brothers and Sisters apart, because the network didn’t pick it up. And just like you hear from Hollywood, the actors really don’t know it has been cancelled until they show up for work, and everything is gone. They told us that Criminal Minds just finished filming at the Studios last week. Companies such as Universal also use the Disney Studios, because Disney’s sound stages are the largest in Hollywood. However, Disney uses others too.
We then came into a building to find it was the Archives. In the lobby we saw various costumes like Alice’s dress and the Mad Hatter’s outfit in Alice in Wonderland, and a Pirates of the Caribbean costume. They had a special section called “Hats Off to Disney”, where we saw Captain Jack Sparrow’s hat, a helmet from Rocketeer, and the top hat Robin Williams wore in Flubber, along with many others. We then walked into a room to the right, and went inside the Archives, to find Dave Smith standing there waiting for us. He talked about various things, and brought out the very first Disneyland ticket ever sold, and one of Walt Disney’s Academy Awards. We were allowed to hold them both. Just like all the actors say when they are presented with an Academy Award, they really are heavier then they seem!
Yes, Folks, That's Ticket #000001
Objects I saw in the Archives included thousands of books, the Chronicles of Narnia Wardrobe, other awards, and Walt’s forged Red Cross papers, along with cases and cases of awesome props and objects used in movies. Being a Disney collector this was heaven for me, I just wish I had more time to explore everything.
We then left the Archives, and entered the Legends Plaza, where we saw hundreds of handprints from all the Disney Legends. This was so nostalgic, because some of these amazing people passed, and to be able to put your hands on their prints was really cool. They had a few statues we took pictures with, then we headed in the Michael D. Eisner Building, where the Seven Dwarfs hold up the roof. (And let me tell you- those Seven Dwarfs are HUGE on that building!) How that building is constructed is very cool, because the lobby inside is outside- your under the roof, but there are 4 huge open doorways that let light and a breeze in. Inside were tile mosaics of Walt and Roy. Directly behind this building is the hospital Walt passed away in. I’m not one to believe in superstitions or anything, but it’s almost like Walt is beside you the whole time.
The View From Legends Plaza So our Tour comes to an end and we walk back to the Hyperion Room. We are then released and free to travel back to the Zorro parking garage. This was probably the most amazing 3 hours I have ever spent. Every Disney fan should do this, especially since D23 is offering this Tour. You never know if it will be cancelled in the future, so I’d jump at the chance now.
If you’re interested in seeing all 130+ pictures that I took, they are all posted on my blog.
If you have any questions, would like some more information about something, or for me to explain something further, feel free to ask. I tried to soak in and learn as much as possible.
Thank you for taking the time to read this! And thanks ShrunkenNed for letting me share this incredible experience.
You're welcome, Austen! Thanks for sharing your adventure with us! - SN