Thursday, February 11, 2016

Take a Tour of Walt's Office

By Daisy Sparks




One of the benefits of being a D23 Gold Member is being able to attend some of their premium events. And when the chance comes to be one of the first to get a peak into Walt Disney’s old office suite, you take that opportunity as quickly as possible. After saving the date on the calendar and diligently waiting for the tickets to become available, the day finally came. On January 29th, it was time to head to Burbank for a visit to the Walt Disney Studio. Today, I'd like to take you along with me for a personal tour of Walt's office, and what a tour it was...








There are usually no public tours or access into this working studio except for special events like this put on by official company entities like D23. After getting clearance at the gate, I found parking and happily stepped onto the Walt Disney Studio lot. There were a limited number of tickets to about 50 people. There were some people who drove from San Diego, Northern California and some even flew in from Chicago, Kansas and Florida. We were all excited to be the first public group to be able to tour Walt Disney’s office suite. On our way to the the office suites, we passed by this famous sign. It was actually made as a prop for The Reluctant Dragon movie and remains as one of the most popular spots on the lot...









As we made our way to the Animation building, we were divided into smaller groups. We arrived at the office suite, “3H”, the specific location or address of Walt’s office...








We learned that Walt’s office remained untouched for about a year after he died. It was then that Disney Archivist Dave Smith was brought in to inventory and pack up the office. Dave took many photographs and accounted for every item down to how many brads were on the desk. The detailed inventory would play a vital role in the restoration of Walt’s office. You hear learn more about this in Keith Mahne's Disney Avenue Podcast interview with Dave here. As we entered the office suite, our small group was asked to put our purses and jackets in a holding room. It is a very controlled environment and can only hold a very small amount of people in the intimate space. One of the first things you notice as you enter the suite is this Olympic Torch... 










The torch was given to Walt Disney as he was chairman of the Pageantry Committee for the Winter Olympics in 1960 (Squaw Valley, Ca). Walt produced both the opening and closing ceremonies.  Turning the corner you get a glimpse of this tiny reception area...




 



Everything in the room is original with a couple exceptions. The first is that the desk had been saved. The Disney Archives had the photos so they could reproduce the receptionist desk... 









This showcase is original, as well as the trophies, with the exception of the special Academy Award on the top of the case. The original Oscar statue with 7 smaller ones that was presented to Walt for Snow White. The original award is housed at the Walt Disney Family museum in San Fransisco. Everything else is real and placed exactly where they once occupied the space...








We watched a short film presentation about the restoration of Walt Disney’s office suites. It was neat to see some behind the scenes. The Disney Archives had to build and reconstruct much of the actual space to recreate the original office location. After Walt’s office was inventoried and packed up in the late 1960s, a variety of companies and people occupied this particular space. Like many working studios, the space was leased out to anyone who needed it and paid the rent. The last tenant was Cherry/Wind Productions. It was the working office of producer Mark Cherry (Devious Maids, Desperate Housewives) up until about a year ago...









The restoration was a tedious process. Thanks to the detailed photos and inventory efforts of Dave Smith, the Disney Archivist meticulously assembled Walt’s offices as it looked in 1966. Finally we entered the Formal Office... 









While Walt’s office has been on display in various locations through the years, I think to see it in its original location and environment is very special. To know that this is what it looked like when Walt occupied this actual space was a little overwhelming. If only the desk could talk...













There were lots of ashtrays everywhere. You noticed it on the desk, the coffee tables and right by all the chairs...










Here is the famous piano that the Sherman Brothers would come in to play their latest creations. I bet the piano could tell lots of great stories as well...










The Disney Archivist informed us that this piano had to be custom designed to fit into the tight space, as well as fit into the office decor. The books on the shelves were meticulously placed back in their correct order as detailed by Dave Smith’s catalog and photos. Nothing on the shelves behind the piano are out of place and they are all original items...








The sofa in the next photo is a reproduction. The original went missing a long time ago. When the office was on display at Disneyland for many years, the area where the couch is would have been the place where the glass wall would have been. Where the sofa is placed would have been where ropes or a barrier would be in place. Disney Archives had to rebuild the wall and reproduce the sofa to re-create this space... 








Here are some other photos of things that made up Walt’s formal office...












The next room was Walt’s informal office. This was a working office where he would meet with his Imagineers to discuss things in production... 








You can see this space was more informal with the work table to hold several people. It was designed at this height so that plans could be rolled out on top of the table and people could easily carry on a discussion. Notice how worn the sofa is, too. The furniture, knick-knacks, and even the papers are all original items...














One of the most interesting things is the hidden kitchenette that was part of the informal office. The wood panel would slide open to reveal a very modern kitchen of that time period. It was usually stocked with Walt’s favorite items like cans of chili... 









I did ask about the cans that were in the cupboards as shown in the photo. They are not the original. The Disney Archives went through the effort of reproducing the items that would have been on the shelf during Walt’s time. The labels are also reproduced to be accurate for the time period. One of the interesting items in Walt's informal office is this map of Disneyland. The small red plaques you'll see in the photos below stand for projects that have been completed and the yellow ones are of things to come...









This particular yellow note in the photo below was interesting as it pointed to 1001 Future Ghosts of the Haunted Mansion. When the Haunted Mansion opened in 1969, all Disneyland press materials spoke of 999 Happy Haunts that resided in the mansion.... 






 

One last interesting item to note in Walt’s informal office was this photo of actor Ed Wynn. According to the placard by the photo, not only was he a good friend but sort of a good luck charm for Walt... 









In total, we spent maybe 30 minutes touring the suite. It was really exciting to be in the actual place where Walt Disney worked and created Disney magic. I wanted to try and take everything in but I was also feeling a little overwhelmed at the history and significance of Walt’s office suite. As we left through this hallway, I was trying to look at all the different photos of Walt. We kind of felt a bit rushed at this point but I did notice that the framed photos were of Walt in a working environment... 








The Disney Archives did a fantastic job of restoring 3H. They do hope to offer more tours in the near future but it is a "premium" opportunity. Even just to walk onto the Walt Disney Studio lot was a great experience... 








We were able to shop at the company store and then we all made our way to the Tam O’ Shanter, a nearby restaurant that was a favorite hangout of Walt and other Studio employees, for a fun meal to end our D23 Gold Member event. At the very end of the event, we were all given a D23 picture frame with a photo of Walt standing in his office...









My fellow D23 Gold Members at this event all had different reasons to attend but most of us agreed that being able to see where Walt worked was a highlight of being Disney fans. It’s good to know that the Walt Disney Company values its rich heritage and wants to share it with others. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour and learned some things about Walt Disney’s work environment. Thanks and praise is certainly owed to the very first Disney Archivist, Dave Smith, for thoroughly and carefully cataloging Walt Disney’s office suites all those years ago. Because of his hard work and dedication, Disney fans like you and me can now experience this special place where magic has definitely filled the air.




******






Daisy Sparks grew up in Southern California and Disneyland was a regular part of her life. While in college, she started working at Disneyland as a Main Street Merchandise Host. Her "college job" led to 12 adventurous years working with Mickey Mouse. She was a trained Magic Demonstrator, Hat Writer and was even signed off as a Disneyland Monorail Ride Operator. Daisy loved every minute of it while she held various management positions in Merchandise, Business Operations and Attractions. 

Daisy is married to her college sweetheart, David (a former Jungle Cruise Skipper). David solicited Daisy's Duck's help in memorable engagement proposal that took place at Disneyland's Club 33. Daisy left Disneyland in May 2001 to raise her two daughters. She continues to visit the Disneyland Resort multiple times a week as a Guest. Daisy particularly loves the Disneyland heritage because of all of the little details and stories that make it "the happiest place on earth."

You can read more about Daisy's Disneyland adventures over on her personal blog at DisneyDaze .

You can find all of Daisy's articles here.

No comments:

Post a Comment