This past Sunday, I had the privilege of attending the Saving Mr. Banks event at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. When I discovered that tickets were on sale, I got a hold of them as soon as possible because I knew this would be a once in a lifetime experience. According to the website, the event would include the viewing of the Saving Mr. Banks film as well as a self-guided tour on the studio lot. Of course, the self-guided tour was within a strict boundary, yet it still gave everyone the opportunity to experience the lot in the way that suited them best. The night was extremely worth the while and truly did show magic from within the Walt Disney Company.
As my cousin Mia and I ventured towards the studio, I became extremely nervous. I had so much anticipation to pass those gates as see where all the magic happened that I started talking so much in the car I fogged up the windows. So anyways… we arrived on the main street outside the gates of the studio and saw a large line of cars already waiting to enter. Instructions had previously been emailed out stated that the gates to guest visiting would not open until 5:30 PM. As time progressed and the gates opened, we finally reached the main gate where a security guard check our parking pass as well as checking us off a list which included all the guests that had registered for that night. We found a great parking spot and headed up to the Frank G. Wells building which included check in, photo opportunities and a refreshment counter. Castmembers and security made sure that everyone knew where they were going. They were very helpful in the flow of guests walking about. At check-in, guests received their tickets from will call and were handed three important items. The items included a rubber bracelet that showed that one was allowed into the theater, a map for the self-guided tour and a voucher to receive the newly released 50th Anniversary of Mary Poppins DVD. After that was conducted, guest were allowed to wander about in the waiting area. There were many things to do such as take photos with the carousel horses from Mary Poppins. There was also a station for one to explore iPads that spotlighted the Saving Mr. Banks book which gave a behind the scenes look of how both films were made. Castmembers also made note that this book could be downloaded on iTunes. Another thing that I enjoyed in the room was the large array of replicated movie premiere posters. Classics such as Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty lined the walls. Once check-in was concluded, guests made their way towards the lobby of the building to explore artifacts that were on display from the movie. There were several costumes lined up that had been worn in the film. And to note, there was a prop from the Broadway production of The Lion King.
Guests were now heading down towards the theatre and we were able to walk down Minnie Avenue. While walking down the road, I noticed that the lot was decorated for the holidays. It was neat to see all the lights. As we turned onto Dopey Drive, Mary and Bert were awaiting our arrival. We had a nice chat and took photos with both of them. They were excited for us to see the movie. One of the highlights of my night was meeting Mickey Mouse whom was set up right in front of the of the original animation building. It was a surreal moment. Meeting Mickey Mouse and being at the same place that Walt Disney drew and talked about him all the time; I was so giddy. After posing for photos with the lovely Mickey, steps away was the theatre. A lovely photo of Snow White was placed out in front on top of the building’s wall. To me, that symbolized the start of Walt’s career in changing the ways of animation. Security checked to see if we had our bracelets on and from there they let us in. In the little lobby, there were two glass cases on each side that housed real archived artifacts from the Mary Poppins premiere as well as other notable historical pieces. I enjoyed the fact that the author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers, had written a letter to Walt in response to the film. After reading it, I knew that to her, her work was very important. We then proceeded to find our seats and wait for the film to start. Upon the start of the film, guests were shown the highlights of the red carpet premiere of Saving Mr. Banks that had occurred earlier in the week. It was another surreal moment to be in the same location of the movie premiere as well as sitting in the theatre that film made its debut in. Someone jokingly stated that they were sharing a seat with Tom Hanks. As for the film goes, all I will say is that it extremely well developed in the story line and it is sure to bring tears. Go see it when it comes out in theatres!
The film ended and the tour began. We headed back over to the animation building and guests were able to explore three of the levels. Level one included artwork along the hallway, which gave the history of animation. Sketches to final film cuts aligned the wall and gave a real sense of time as one continued down the hall. The second level displayed photos about the history of the Walt Disney Company. Many photos of events such as the grand opening of Disneyland and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse gave great insight on all the things that the company did. The last stop in the animation building was the third floor. As labeled in the map, it was the highlight of the building because it housed the replication of Walt Disney’s office. Upon entering we could see the set up in which he proudly displayed his work. Tons of awards and little Disney characters lined his office. Photos of himself as well as him (Tom Hanks) with others lined the wall. There was even a lovely photo of Disneyland on the wall. The next room was a set up as a storyboard room in which parts of the story were sketched out and posted along the walls. This was a way for the producers to see if the flow and structure of the film was going the correct way. On the wall was replications of Mary Poppins scenes in the sequence in which they occurred. Lastly, there was another photo opportunity in front of a large Saving Mr. Banks poster.
While walking outside to our next destination, Mickey Mouse was set at Pluto’s corner, which meets at the street of Mickey Avenue and Dopey Drive. I most definitely took a photo with him. We then proceeded to Stage A which included the setup of sound recording. There were props and replicas with sketches from the film and at the same time, there was a screen showing behind the scenes clips from both of the films. Since this was the music spot, there was piano set out with the plaque of the Sherman Brothers star on the walk of fame in Hollywood. Outside Stage A was Walt’s limousine. It was a very nice car and showed the true style of that era. Down the street, a little was Stage 2. This was the prop setup for P.L. Traver’s office in the film. There were many little details within the room. It made me realized that she had a lot to her personality. There were also things in the room that attributed to her change in the film, but I would not want to spoil that for you. This room was very small so it was a quick wall through.
The last part of the tour was Legends Plaza. This is the location which houses the hand prints of those that were inducted as legends as well as plaques for those that were unable to give their hand prints. People were running around to find their favorite legend and compare handprints. I did notice that I did not see any of the inductees from the 2013 ceremony at D23. In the courtyard, it housed three different statues. The first being the icons Partners stature of Walt and Mickey holding hands. The second was Roy Disney and Minnie Mouse sitting together on a bench and lastly the symbol of the legends statue. My favorite part was the large building that was being held up by the seven dwarfs. Dopey even had his Santa hat on! The architecture of that building was stunning.
The tour officially ended at 10:30 PM for everyone. We headed back to the main building that we came from and handed in our vouchers to receive our DVD copy of Mary Poppins. We said our thanks and headed home. This event at the Walt Disney Studios was so magical. I would totally relive it over and over. Not only did we get to see the film before most of the public, but we were all able to experience the location where true magic began. I saw so many people crying throughout the entire night because it meant so much to them. One of the castmembers stated that this was the second time in 90 years that the studio was open to the public in this manner. The last time was for the Princess and the Frog. Overall this was a truly remarkable experience. Something that I will never forget.