This last weekend I got to experience a great event done by the D23 team! It was my first event of D23, besides the Expo, that I’ve experienced. And, though, I’ve been to the studios before, I was looking forward to the tour of it.
This was a great event, filled with a lot of information and a couple of surprises. Most of the 2.5 hours were walking around the soundstages and buildings of the lot. But, one thing we got to do was get a walk around of the Disney Archives itself.
Okay, here’s the rundown:
We drove to the gate and got to park at the lot next to the Studio Store and Commissary. Check-in was at the Hyperion Bungalow, as well as a small setup of D23 merchandise for purchase. I did grab the sets of patches that have appeared in the fan club magazines – a big plus for me to go to the event. We also proceeded into the Studio Store for a look around.
Then it was time for the tour. We proceeded with Justin, the tour guide, Paul, a volunteer, and Derrick, the security guard. I wanted to name these guys as they were great tour leaders. I could tell they really enjoyed taking us around and loved the studios as much as us.
The first stops were the old animation buildings, now used for various offices. Some of the history I learned from these stops is how much of the old Hyperion studio was physically transported to the lot to make up the new studio. Other highlights were how Walt wanted the overall studio to look and feel in order to have it be a pleasant place to work at. I have been on other studio tours before and can tell a difference with Disney’s and the other studios’ lots. Another interesting feature of the old studio buildings is the utilidor system that let people transport animation cels back and forth between buildings. It was so that any outside conditions wouldn’t interfere with the progress of the animated films.
Next, it was onto the soundstages. We mostly went by the more historic buildings, such as the Julie Andrews soundstage – Stage 2 – so dubbed because of it being where they filmed Mary Poppins and Princess Diaries. History was given to how the stages came to be. Originally there was just the one, but as more and more need for live action shooting came about, more stages were made. And they are still around to this day. Much of them were even used in the building of Disneyland. The last stage we went by was Stage 3. But, not only did we get to walk by it, but in it as well! They were constructing the set for Body of Proof, but because it wasn’t being used for filming yet, we could go through! It was a rare treat for any of the tours! It was interesting to see how simple the sets were, and how much detail is really left out when we see it on the small screen. The historical significance for Disney fans is that it was used for 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’s giant squid scene.
Next was more of the back lot. We walked by what used to be the western town, and even where a small water and forest area was made for anything that was being filmed in that environment. Much of this area is has now become buildings, such as the prop department. Also contained in this area is the facade buildings usually used in television production.
Finally on the tour were a couple of key company buildings. The first was the Frank G Wells building which houses the Disney Archives. In the lobby there were a couple of exhibits. The first being a few costumes from a few movies and TV shows. Also on display was an exhibit on the various miniatures and models used in figuring out production of rides and movies. I got a kick out of seeing the Black Hole models and props, and Captain EO’s ship. Inside the Archives we were surprised to see the recently retired Dave Smith! He came by to present the Archives to the various tour groups. He even presented a few artifacts from the early days of Disney. I got a picture of the July 17 Disneyland press ticked and parking pass, but what I didn’t get pictures of was the original script of Steamboat Willie, as well as an original background from the same production. But, it was a highlight to have seen such rare items. I did get a picture with the Oscar statue given for one of the True Life Adventure films. It’ll probably be the closest to winning one.
The Archives were full of great items to see and soak in. Unfortunately there was not a lot of time to see it all, but on display was the wardrobe from Chronicles of Narnia, a few personal items of Walt’s, and movie props from Pirates of the Caribbean, Enchanted, and Black Hole, just to name a few things in the room. One wall was filled, and I do mean filled, with books from the long history of Disney publications. This entry into a studio exclusive area was worth the tour alone. As we exited, we received a special D23 patch for the tour.
But, the time was not over yet! We proceeded over to the Legends Plaza and the Team Disney building. In the Legends Plaza there were a great many hand prints from those who had received the award in the past. On one end was the Partners statue, but with a chance to get up close and personal, unlike at the parks. On the other end was a life size statue of the Legends award. On the side was a statue of Roy and Minnie, found at the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World. It was fun to walk around and see the various hand prints and how each person’s differed. Ward Kimball’s fit his goofy personality. Our tour guides even informed us of a hidden mouse on the Legends statue that was not Mickey. After roaming around the plaza, we went under the rotunda – an executive restaurant in the Team Disney building. On a couple of walls were tile portraits of the brothers Disney. Justin, our guide, finished with a little more about the legacy of the two brothers. It hit me that, though Walt was such a visionary, I don’t know if he fully knew the impact that his legacy and company now have. But, he had some kind of foresight to keep pressing forward.
This was a great tour full of trivia of history and walks on hallowed Disney ground. It was surprising to see Dave Smith, as well as to get glimpses of so many buildings usually hidden from the public. It seems that this will be an annual event, and I recommend taking this tour. My parents even joined D23 just so they could come on this tour with me! They had a blast, and I did too! So, if you’re not a member of D23, but a huge fan, this is not to be missed and membership is required. If you haven’t made your way to this tour yet, I hope you get a chance to the next time it comes around!
Until next time, have a marvelous day!