Last week, we looked at the genesis of the Walt Disney Studios in Part One of our two part series on Disney's magic factory. Today, we wrap things up as we take a tour of the facility which makes the silver screen sing.

Like a small midwestern town, the Burbank studio is laid out along a rational grid of streets. As you travel north along Mickey Avenue, the Animation Building is on the east side of the street and the Hyperion Health Club, Commissary, and the Roy O. Disney building (1976) are on the west side. At the end of the street is the Michael Eisner Building.

Hyperion Health Club

The Frank Wells Building.
Soundstages and the Backlot

The capabilities of the Disney studio were expanded, as live-action films became part of the production mix by the construction of soundstages and a backlot. Stage One was built as part of the original project. The live-action sequences in Fantasia with conductor Leopold Stokowski were filmed on Stage One. In 1949, Disney added Stage Two. Jack Webb paid for the project so that he could film the Dragnet television series. The Mickey Mouse Club was also filmed here. It was one of the largest sound stages on the West Coast. Stage Three was built in 1954 and was specifically designed for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It featured a huge water tank. The Studio continued to expand in 1958 with the addition of Stage Four. By 1988, that building was divided and Stage Five was born.

The Disney brothers also owned property south of Riverside Drive.
Walt was constantly receiving letters from fans asking if they could tour the studio. Walt knew that animation process was not the most exciting thing for visitors so he began to develop something grander. He started toying with the idea of an amusement park adjacent to the studio. He felt there was a need for a three-dimensional environment in which guests could interact with the characters.

Early concept for a park across from the Disney Studios

The concept of a Mickey Mouse park continued to evolve until it outgrew the available land and eventually resulted in Disneyland being built in Anaheim (You can read more about how the idea for Disneyland was born in our article: Where's The Window). Part of this property was sold and is currently under the Ventura Freeway. The remaining land became home to the Feature Animation and the ABC Buildings.

Roy E. Disney Animation Building

Virtually No Limitations
The Disney Burbank Studio is a rare example of a Hollywood movie production facility that is still relatively intact. Walt was able to design the facility with virtually no limitations. None of the other major Hollywood studios were built with such a singular vision.

While the back lot has given way to new office buildings, every new act of construction enhanced or embellished what was there before. For Disney today, many of the back lot functions have been moved to the Golden Oak Ranch near Newhall, which will be discussed in detail later.

All of this attention to detail would become a double-edged sword. Some artists would say that the plush new facilities lacked the intimate nature of the Hyperion Studio and made it difficult to interact with Walt and others. That interaction was central to the early success within the organization. The lack of contact was cited as one factor that led to a labor strike that started on May 28, 1941.

The old animation building.
We invite you to join Sam and MiceChat at the Huntington Gardens in July
Presented by the Los Angeles Region Planning History Group in cooperation with the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West Huntington Library and Gardens

Saturday, July 9, 2011 at the Huntington Library and Gardens

  • David Sloane, Professor, USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development
  • Hassan Haghani, Community Development Director, City of Glendale
  • Vaughan Davies, Principal and Director of Urban Design, AECOM
  • Neal Payton, Principal, Torti Gallas and Partners

Cost is $40; for students with valid student ID, $20

Fee includes coffee and pastries, lunch, parking, and day pass to the Huntington

Seating is limited; please RSVP to:
Alice Lepis, Secretary (preferred) or at 818.769.4179 no later than
Tuesday, July 5, 2011