|By Michael J. Kouri|
Today we have a very special guest joining us to tell us all about 21 Royal Street, Disneyland's newest, high end happy haunt, the talented Michael J. Kouri. Michael is a published author of over 50 books on a wide variety of topics including history, the paranormal, collecting and Disneyana. Micheal visits Disneyland often and will be one of our "special" Disneyland reporters. I know you're going to love Michael's review of 21 Royal Street inside New Orleans Square and without further ado, here's Michael...
Being the historian I’ve become while researching, writing and publishing hundreds of articles and nearly sixty books, I was recently thrilled when given an exciting opportunity to attend a “Sneak Peak” into the new exclusive dinning room known as 21 Royal Street at Disneyland. Some of the cast members I’ve interviewed for my book The Ghost of Walt Disney & Me (released on Halloween Day in 2014 and available exclusively at ICGHOSTS.COM) all believe this space to be haunted by Walt and Roy Disney, and a few other spirits, too. I’d been invited to investigate the suite many times before it was transformed into this new exclusive dinning establishment, which is a magnificent addition to Disneyland’s private Club 33.
While inside I was treated to a sampling of the wines and foods now being offered to the elite members of the Disneyland Resort's exclusive Club 55, and Club 33 and their guests who will dine there in the near future. At first glance, the room looked much the same as it always has, except that the new, brighter blue paint brings the whole suite a larger-than-life feel, perfect for entertaining those who desire being surrounded by antiques, and collectibles reflecting the lifestyle of Disneyland’s creator and dreamer, Walt Disney.
Truth be told, the food wasn’t bad, though the very tiny portions seem perfect for the seven dwafs but shockingly tiny for a man of my size [6’3”] and for the amount of money one has to fork over to do so was a bit shocking! The decor is traditional Disneyland elegance, yet with a sort of 'cartoony' look–just as the new entrance door and the interiors are in the new Club 33 and it’s Jazz lounge which seem more like props from the Walt Disney Studio backlot prop-house. Yet 21 Royal Street’s rooms are cozier, prettier, and boast a pleasant. Homey, loving, atmosphere, not quite as elegant as say Buckingham Palace, <wink> but the interiors feature an underlying elegance similar to the Plaza Inn restaurant. The original delicate moldings on the ceiling and walls are still there along with beautifully designed and Imagineer painted murals just as Aurora, Cinderella, Belle or Snow White would want in their castles. Each of the scenic paintings depict some of the highlights in New Orleans Square including the gorgeously pristine Southern Colonial façade of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, the Bayou of a New Orleans swamp complete with cranes and other exotic wild life. Others show the Mark Twain Steamboat and the castles in Europe that inspired Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, and Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World.
The waiting area would have originally been the living room of the Disney Families private apartment, which has been used as the Disneyana Gallery, and the Disney Dream Suite, initially decorated by Emile Kuri and Lillian Disney intended to be the private apartment for Roy and Walt Disney and their families before Walt’s untimely and shocking death in 1966, when the project was abandoned.
The marvelous intricate patterned parquet wooden flooring, crown moldings, and special built in cabinets within the private space have been enhanced with antiques, marble topped buffets, reproduction wallpapers of a days gone bye era, crystal chandeliers, bronze statues, Tiffany styled art glass, examples of Lillian Disney’s favorite Kings Crown Cranberry Glass and Edna Disney’s porcelain knick knacks. There are numerous reproductions of fine antique furniture befitting European royalty. The Grandmother clock for example, with its rounded dome, crème colored paint and hand rubbed gold leafed accented cabinet is a fine example of those found in European homes of the 17th—19th centuries. Grandmother clocks like this one were typically found in drawing rooms of an estate or castle, whereas the larger Grandfather clocks would dominate the entry hall. This particular sweet minute scaled grandmother clock is quite similar to one that Walt and Lillian owned and displayed in their Homes, which they’d purchased on one of their many trips to Europe, which I remembered seeing and commenting on when I visited Lillian Disney at her Holmby Hills home in the 1980’s.
The antique reproduction settee, upholstered in Walt Disney’s favorite French Blue damask, the French style Walnut armchairs with their petite-point backs and seats, along with the Walnut dinning chairs are just as beautiful as the hand carved imported Italian carrera marble fireplace mantle—a steadfast reminder of what would have been included in the Disney family apartment. The fireplace mantle and intricate moldings always fascinated me, especially when I interviewed Emile Kuri, and he told me that he and Lillian Disney, had decorated that apartment along with Club 33 back in the 1960’s. The mantle and some of the decorations were previously enjoyed by millions of Disneyland tourists and guests when this space was the Disneyana Gallery back in the 1990’s before the entire suite was transformed into the Disney Dream Suite in time for Disneyland’s 50th anniversary.
The wine list at 21 Royal Street is stellar and as exclusive as the gold plated flatware, and glass plates. When one dines at Club 33 you don't actually get to eat on the highly decorative dishes, instead the servers gracefully remove the Club 33 charges and in 21 Royal Street, their clear glass 22 carat Gold rimmed plates (a 21 Royal Street logo serves as the center decoration also in a gold decal) and replace them with their common china. The wine and water glasses are standard restaurant glass, too. But to be able to dine in what was to become Roy Disney's family apartment, (he would have shared with Walt's family in a much larger scale than Walt's firehouse studio apartment) was a thrill to behold and being one of the very first people (commoners yet an Annual Pass Holder) was also a thrill for me.
When you’re standing outside and looking up at the front of the suite, with it’s double staircase and gorgeous hand wrought iron railings, and look at the open balcony towards the right of the building, you’ll notice two sets of initials that have been polished in shiny brass. The initials represent Walt and Roy Disney. Today this balcony serves as the prime spot for elite members and dignitaries of Disneyland to enjoy Fantasmic with it’s bird’s eye view of the show on the Rivers of America below.
There are many magical features inside of 21 Royal Street including a magic mirror that the Wicked Queen in Snow White would die for. When commanded, the magic mirror not only speaks to guests, but with a little bit of Pixie Dust, lights the candles on Lumiere’s special candelabra.
In order to dine in this elegant dinning room, one must be a Club 33 or Club 55 member, and have the need to share the experience with groups of 14 or more. Since the new Club 33 is much smaller (they lost one of their dinning rooms, the former Trophy Room) which was transformed into the new and improved kitchen to supply food and refreshments for Club 33, the Jazz Lounge and 21 Royal Street, which sits above the Blue Bayou restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
One doesn't have to physically be on a site to haunt it, especially when they spent the last part of their lifetime dreaming, developing and creating it. But Walt Disney did walk the land where his namesake resorts now stand in Anaheim, California and Orlando Florida and there’s no telling what he’d think of his amusement empire today. Why wouldn't he want to hang around and see how many millions of people enjoy his dreams each and every day.
If you'd like to learn more about Michael and his talents, be sure to listen to Show #6 of the Disney Avenue Podcast which you can find here.
Michael J. Kouri is the published author of over 50 books on a wide variety of topics including history, the paranormal, collecting and Disneyana. He has appeared on national and international radio and television shows with his unique work. You can also hear Micheal's interview on the Disney Avenue Podcast here. For more information visit his website ICGHOSTS.COM.