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C33 Visits the Walt Disney Studios and The Disney Archives


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  • C33 Visits the Walt Disney Studios and The Disney Archives

    Hey there MiceChatters! So as the title says, I was given the chance to take a personal tour of The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California (right by where I was born!) and visit The Disney Archives.

    We arrived in Burbank around 3:45. I've driven past this gate many times... but never gone in!

    One of the entrances to the Walt Disney Studios.

    The Walt Disney Studios!

    We got through the gate without issue and parked. Here, I was offered a different angle on the familiar ABC building...

    The ABC Studios.

    Looking at the soundstages, I couldn't help but be reminded of the Disney MGM Studios. Ironic, since the MGM Studios were designed after these buildings, not the other way around.

    Stage 4.

    Stage 2.

    The guard shack at the Buena Vista entrance (which we had just come through)

    We proceeded onto the lot. The Disney factor is evident throughout; at no time would you think you were at just any studio lot.

    A Mickey Mouse topiary, as the flag is retired for the day. In the background is the Disney comissary.

    The Hyperion Bungalo

    We had some time to kill, so we entered this building...

    Which is half Employee Center, and half...

    The Walt Disney Studio Store (sign).

    While it obviously can't compete with the sheer size of the World of Disney stores in Anaheim, Orlando and New York, it is really a prime example of what every Disney store should be.

    The Walt Disney Studio Store.

    First off, the store is very well themed. From the carpets to the cieling, there are Disney characters and paraphernalia. There are several large murals, including my personal favourite which show characters from Oscar to Stich hanging out at the studio. There are TV screens around the store showing clips from classic Disney films. There is TONS of merchandise, including many items from Disneyland, Walt Disney World, World of Disney and the ESPN Zone. There is a section for DVDs, including a big Disney BlueRay display, which includes many films not neccesarily under the Disney banner (such as Pulp Fiction, Amelie, Star Wars, to name a few) as well as TV show box sets. There is Goofy Candy Company candy and hot cocoa mixes. There's a music section, featuring movie soundtracks, Disney Channel-artist albums and more. There's a huge book section, featuring all sorts of books dealing with the movies, theme parks and so on. There's lots of Pirates Merchandise, as you would expect, as well as Nightmare Before Christmas and High School Musical. There are many items specifically branded to the Walt Disney Studios. There are glasses, mugs, kitchenware items (I thought of MouseGears at Epcot). There is a section for pins, including limited editions (usually at an edition size of 500) only available at the studio store. There are collectables, like watches, models and big-figs. There are posters. There are stuffed animals, pencils, pens, keychains...

    You get the idea. We spent almost $200 just off of impulse buys. It's really too bad that the selection at my local Disney Store (which features roughly the same square-footage) doesn't even come close, in merchandise or theming. I've spent more money at this point at one-trip to the studio store than I ever have at the Children's-Place-owned Disney Store. Children's Place, pay attention!

    Anyway, I've gotten a bit off track. We met up with Jeff Kurtti (IMDB, Amazon) who was to be our tour guide. Unfortunately, the man who had invited me there, Jeff Sherman (son of Robert Sherman, IMDB) could not be there as his flight back to LA from a trip had been delayed. A huge public thank you to Jeff for the opportunity, I am forever in your debt. We proceeded on.

    Jeff, who is a fellow (and self-described) Disney Nerd, shared several interesting facts about the history of the studio. For example, many of the buildings were actually moved and refurbished from the previous Hyperion studio location, as it was cheaper than building new ones.

    We passed the famous Mickey Avenue sign...

    Mickey Avenue.

    Dopey Drive.

    ...which, as it turns out, is not only fake, but innacurate. It was errected for the movie The Reluctant Dragon (available on DVD as part of a Disney Treasure set here), and buildings it points to, while real, are NOT in the directions it signifies. It is still kept though, as a piece of history and a keepsake.


  • #2
    C33 Visits the Walt Disney Studios and The Disney Archives, Continued...

    We continued on to a couple of buildings you may recognize. First a quick jaunt through the Animation Building...


    I didn't take any pictures inside (I tried to be discreet with my picture taking) but as you would imagine the walls were adorned with lots of sketches, drawings, posters, pictures and cells.

    We passes Ink & Paint...

    Inking & Painting.

    And then we stopped in the courtyard infront of the Team Disney...


    Michael D. Eisner Team Disney Building.

    Team Disney Burbank.

    Team Disney Burbank.

    Team Disney Burbank.

    The courtyard in front of the bulding (which used to be a reflecting pool, but it was removed due to leakage) contains the handprints of all of the Disney Legends award winners. Jeff said he knows who will be recieving the award this year, but he wouldn't tell me...

    The courtyard also contains a giant version of the statuette the award winners recieve. The sculpture (which also presides over the entrance to Disneyland Paris- and I was there when it was unveiled!) was sculpted by Andrea Favalli, a good friend of mine. Andrea is a telented artist (and former Imagineer) who just recently became a father. Congratulations to him!

    Moving on...

    to the Frank G. Wells building.

    The Frank G. Wells Building.

    Which contains A) a Starbucks (but it was closed. Darn!) and B) The Walt Disney Archives.

    The Walt Disney Archives. Sorry for the blur.

    There are many interesting exhibits, such as one on Goofy...

    ...and another in honor of Epcot's 25th Anniversary. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of it, but it contained many original models from the American Adventure, Kitchen Kabaret, as well as many others signs, buttons, maps and other items from the parks history.

    Just the lobby alone could take you an hour to fully take in. In addition to the displays, there's the water tank from The Prestige, original artwork, and...



    ORIGINAL, #1, MultiPlane camera, custom designed and built for the production of Snow White.

    THE original Multi-Plane camera, not just some reproduction!

    Okay, this is where the pictures stop. I did not take, or even attempt to take, any pictures once inside the archives. While I was not expressedly forbidden from taking photos, access to the Archives is a rare thing and I did not want to press my luck.

    But I will describe to you as best I can much of what I saw, and let your imagination do the rest.

    We first entered the library room (the wooden door in the two pictures before the Multi-Plane camera one). It was a small room, about the size of an apartment. Across one large wall was nothing but bookshelves, containing books detailing the history of Walt and the company. Atop the bookshelves were models, including characters from Fantasia and Pirates of the Caribbean (the ride).

    There were also several large tables, for those doing research. There were several display cases filled with artifacts covering the other walls. One of them was filled with nothing but Donald Duck food items (from way back when). Here's some of the other stuff I remember:
    • The actual, original Wordrobe from the Chronicals of Narnia. Close inspection of the wardrobe shows that, at the request of the director, the carvings actually depict the story of The Magicians Nephew, the prequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which tells the story of the creation of Narnia.
    • The Aztec medallion necklace from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
    • Dick Tracy's wrist radio from Dick Tracy, as well as a special rubber replica the stunt men wore.
    • A small model of Walt's Lilly Belle train.
    • Walt's personal camera and projector.
    • An Oscar for The Living Desert.
    • Many other items, including papers and photographs from Walt's life. One was a script with Walt's comments on them, and then the actual grease pencil he used to make those comments.
    • Many original records and albums from Disneyland Records.
    Jeff gave me a chance to look around. What I described was just a tiny portion of the items just contained in that one room. We then went to one of the office doors in the room, and I was introduced to...

    David Smith, founder and head archivist of The Disney Archives. There he was, just sitting there in his office. Of course he was! This was the Disney archives, his place of work, where else would he be? I was somewhat stunned to be meeting a genuine Disney legend; we shook hands and were introduced.

    Dave is, among other things, author of the book Disney A to Z: An Official Encyclopedia.

    Here's some more info on Dave from the Disney Archives Website.

    And here's an article by Dave about the creation of The Disney Archives.

    It is thanks to Dave and his staff that the history of this great company has been preserved, when it would otherwise have been literally just thrown out (more on that later).

    We left the library room and went upstairs. This room was a relatively new section of the Disney archives, where they keep the larger items that aren't just papers and photos.

    We were introduced to Rebecca Cline, assistant archivist at the archives. Here's a sampling of some of the stuff that was on display:
    • A helmet from Tron
    • Lindsay Lohan's helmet from Herbie Fully Loaded
    • The stone version of Mr. Tumnus from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Which and the Wardrobe, which was hand carved and is irreplcacable.
    • Susan's costume from the film, used in the earlier scenes.
    • Toys from Babe's in Toyland.
    • Props from The Prestige, such as the Bird Cage (and it's mechanical contraption) and the diary.
    • Props from 101 and 102 Dalmations, including some (fake) dalmation puppies and a beautiful dress worn by Glen Close in the film.
    • Costumes from Shakespeare in Love.
    • A model of Pete's Dragon (which I, much to my embarassment, incorrectly identified at The Reluctant Dragon)
    • Boots worn by Hilary Duff in Lizzy Maguire.
    • An actual Disneyland Mailbox from Main Street USA.
    • An actual Devil from (the now closed) Mr. Toads Wild Ride at Walt Disney World.
    • The little bear (I forget his name) anamatronic (with his teddy bear) from The Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland.
    • An actual suitcase belonging to Walt Disney.
    • Props and models (such as the bell from the Charlotte) from National Treasure.
    There was also every book you could possibly imagine on Disney and the Disney Theme Parks (as well as several of Jeff's, which he was happy about). On another wall was every DVD of every Disney movie you can think of, including the Disney Treasures sets and Disney BluRay discs. Then there was every CD you can think of, including movie scores, Disney Channel CDs and the Musical History of Disneyland set.

    As we were looking around, a man walked in. He was carrying a model, perhaps a foot and a half to two feet tall, of Will Rogers. I immediately recognized it as being from the American Adventure attraction at Epcot. The archivists were intrigued, because this statue was a greenish-copper color, and the other models they had from that attraction (many of which were on display in the lobby downstairs) were white.

    The model had been found in the Disney Prop shop. Now here is an excellent example of stuff which otherwise would have gotten thrown away, as mentioned above. The Disney Prop shop is currently closing, to make way for another soundstage, and they had given the archives just one month to take what they wanted. Everything else would be either sold or thrown away. This model, which even featured a minature leather lasso, was safe.

    Rebecca also told us of when she had recenly been to Disney World, and they had been allowed to take the props that are being removed from The Haunted Mansion for the refurbishment, such as the bride from the attic scene. They also mentioned something to be added during the refurb which I have not heard discussed anywhere online...but I'm not telling what it is.

    Sensing we were enjoying ourselves, Rebecca went back into an employees-only section of the room and came out with some things for us to look at.

    One of the items was Annette Funicello's original cowboy boots (which her name written in them) from The Mickey Mouse Club. Another was Dick Van Dyke's straw hat from Mary Poppins.

    We sat on the couches and chatted for a while, talking about the Theme Parks, the upcoming NFFC convention (Jeff apparently used to be the go-to guy to do a presentation if somebody dropped out at the last minute. Speaking of the convention, which is next month, Disney Archivist Dave Smith will be there presiding over one of the panel discussions). We talked about the removal of the Wand at Epcot, the Haunted Mansion refurb (as mentioned above), and even a bit about the Disney online world.

    Oh, appearantly the Carousel of Progress is to be removed soon (or so they had heard). This has come up many times before, so maybe the CoP is safe for now, but then again, maybe not. Only time will tell. Rebecca did say that if WDW decides to get rid of it, The Archivists will be there to save as much as they can for future generations.

    We thanked Rebecca for her time and started to leave. She suggested I check out the display on Epcot downstairs which she had put together. With that thought in mind, I asked her: "Say, do you have anything from Horizons?"

    She dissapeared for a moment. Then she reappeared, carrying a small plastic baggy. In it were several original props from Horizons... exactly where in the attraction they were each from is not coming to mind now, but it was very cool to see pieces of this now Yesterland attraction.

    We walked back downstairs and Jeff bid us adieu. It had been a fun time at thw Walt Disney Studios, as we walked back through the lot and too our car. It was a truly once in a lifetime experience- but hopefully one day I'll be back on that lot, I just feel a certain touch of destiny about it.

    Perhaps I'll also get a chance to visit the Magic of Disney Animation building (the one that looks like a film strip that you pass by on the freeway). If I do, I'll be sure to tell you guys all about it.

    I hope you all have enjoyed this little trip to the Walt Disney Studios. I'd like to thank all of the Disney people who made this possible and who took time out of their days to show me around. It was a truly magical experience I will never forget.


    • #3
      Re: C33 Visits the Walt Disney Studios and The Disney Archives

      I loved this report!
      You're so lucky you got to poke around the archives!
      And that Disney Store looks awesome!!
      Good morning, son
      In twenty years from now
      Maybe we'll both sit down and have a few beers
      And I can tell you 'bout today
      And how I picked you up and everything changed
      It was pain
      Sunny days and rain
      I knew you'd feel the same things...



      • #4
        Re: C33 Visits the Walt Disney Studios and The Disney Archives

        That is so cool that you got to go to the archives. It's great that your sharing your trip with those of us who probably will never get near it. Thanks.


        • #5
          Re: C33 Visits the Walt Disney Studios and The Disney Archives

          How amazing. Thanks so much for the report.


          • #6
            Re: C33 Visits the Walt Disney Studios and The Disney Archives

            Thanks for this great report, C33! I was in tha oooold animation building years ago and it brought back some great memories.


            • #7
              Re: C33 Visits the Walt Disney Studios and The Disney Archives

              Ok... totally, completely and greenly jealous.... But how cool and wonderful that you got to actually do this!!! Thanks for sharing your adventure with the rest of us!

              Help me get more security in Pingvinivlle! Click here!

              Originally posted by AGhostFromThePast
              all you need to know about the mommy stick is.. out of all the bad things that could happen to you... it's right between wetting yourself and death.


              • #8
                Re: C33 Visits the Walt Disney Studios and The Disney Archives

                great pictures and trip report. i had the pleasure of going to the disney studios, my friend and i got to go since we are disneyland CMs but we never did go into the store. i am still kicking myself for that one. ill have to go back soon.


                • #9
                  Re: C33 Visits the Walt Disney Studios and The Disney Archives

                  Thanks everybody!


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