Walt’s Appartment

As Disneyland was being constructed, Walt Disney wanted a place that he and his family could stay and watch all the activity. Walt had a special apartment built on the second floor of the Main Street Firehouse. The elegant apartment was private and hidden from the rest of Disneyland, it was the perfect place for Walt to do quiet work, or enjoy with his family. Continue after the page break for a wonderful look into Walt’s home away from home…

Only known picture of Walt inside apartment

 The apartment is was very small, but was fully operational. It had a small bathroom, with a shower, along with a small kitchen unit. The furniture design was in a “Firehouse” look, with reds, and whites, decorating the room. The original decorator of the apartment was Emil Kuri, a set designer for many Disney films, and also the decorator of Main Street, itself. Walt didn’t allow any pictures of him or his family inside the apartment except for one photograph that was featured in an issue of National Geographic Magazine, which I am lucky enough to own.

Apartment Patio Past

Apartment Patio Present

 The apartment also featured a quiet patio. Lillian Disney often used this patio for her afternoon tea, or to entertain guests. The patio was also decorated accordingly with white wicker furniture that covered the deck. The patio was very private as vines surrounded the wood patio, blocking any observers from the street.

Walt’s desk

The day Disneyland opened, Walt watched from his apartment window as the crowds poured through the gates. Mouseketeer, Sharon Baird was there and explains:

“On the opening day of Disneyland, we (Mouseketeers) were in Walt Disney’s private apartment above the Main Street Fire Station when the gates of the park opened for the first time. I was standing next to him at the window, watching the guests come pouring through the gates. When I looked up at him, he had his hands behind his back, a grin from ear to ear, I could see a lump in his throat and a tear streaming down his cheek. He had realized his dream. I was only twelve years old at the time, so it didn’t mean as much to me then. But as the years go by, that image of him becomes more and more endearing.”

View from inside the apartment

Much of the original furniture has been removed. Although, Disney designers have tried to remain faithful to it’s original look, presently a light is kept on near the window as a tribute to his creation of Disneyland and a reminder that Walt is always there in spirit.

Some more photos of the famous apartment:

Walt’s shower with jets to help soothe his old polo injury

Walt’s Throne

 Now for a short video about the apartment with Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller, enjoy:

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Memorial Day…Thank You

To all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives so that we may be free…THANK YOU!!! God Bless You and God Bless AMERICA!!!
Memorial Day Poem by Michelle Keim
As we stand here looking
At the flags upon these graves
Know these flags represent
A few of the true American brave

They fought for their Country
As man has through all of time
Except that these soldiers lying here
Fought for your country and mine

As we all are gathered here
To pay them our respect
Let’s pass this word to others
It’s what they would expect

I’m sure that they would do it
If it were me or you
To show we did not die in vein
But for the red, white and blue.

Let’s pass on to our children
And to those who never knew
What these soldiers died for
It’s the least we can do

Let’s not forget their families
Great pain they had to bear
Losing a son, father or husband
They need to know we still care

No matter which war was fought
On the day that they died
I stand here looking at these flags
Filled with American pride.

So as the bugler plays out Taps
With its sweet and eerie sound
Pray for these soldiers lying here
In this sacred, hallowed ground.

Take home with you a sense of pride
You were here Memorial Day.
Celebrating the way Americans should
On this solemnest of days.

Walt Disney’s Last Filmed Appearance

Many people believe that Walt’s last filmed appearance was when he was discussing EPCOT and the Florida Project. I’m told the picture above was Walt’s last time being photographed in Disneyland. Continue after the page break for a short video on Walt Disney’s last filmed appearance…

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Roy O. Disney

Many things have been said about Walt Disney and his accomplishments. Behind those accomplishments was a steady, measured, dedicated and brilliant man: Walt’s older brother Roy. While Walt was the creative man, Roy was the one who made sure the company was financially stable; Roy and Walt both founded Disney Studios as brothers and I believe without either one the Disney Enterprise would never have become what it is today. Continue after the page break for the wonderful life of Roy O. Disney…

Roy was born to Canadian Elias Disney and German-American Flora Call Disney in Chicago, Illinois. Roy served in the US Navy from 1917–19; a year later his brother Walt tried joining the US Army, only being refused due to being under age. Roy was later discharged from military duty after suffering an injury, and became a banker in Los Angeles. In 1923, Walt moved to Hollywood, joining Roy, together founding the Disney Bros Studio. Roy and Walt ordered and built kit houses from Pacific Ready Cut Homes (a Los Angeles company) and in 1928, they built their homes side by side on Lyric Avenue. Their homes were slightly customized and enlarged, and do not exactly match the original homes featured in the Pacific Ready Cut Homes catalogs.

While Walt was the creative man, Roy was the one who made sure the company was financially stable; Roy and Walt both founded Disney Studios as brothers, but Walt would buy out most of Roy’s share in 1929 and, unlike Max and Dave Fleischer of rival Fleischer Studios, Roy was not a co-producer. Roy became the company’s first CEO in 1929, although the official title was not given until 1968. He also shared the role of Chairman of the Board with Walt from 1945 until Walt dropped the Chairman title in 1960 so he could focus more on the creative aspects of the company. After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, Roy’s role in the company naturally expanded and he postponed his retirement to oversee the construction of California Institute of the Arts and what was then known as Disney World, and later renamed it Walt Disney World as a tribute to his brother. Roy became the president of Walt Disney Productions on December 15, 1966, and remained so until 1968.

Roy was married to Edna Francis, born January 16, 1890, death December 18, 1984, from April 1925 until his death; their only child Roy Edward Disney, was born on January 10, 1930. Throughout his life, Roy rejected the publicity and fame that came with being Walt’s brother. He was extremely camera shy, and a passive individual resulting in few public photos being in existence.

After Walt Disney World opened in October 1971, Roy Disney finally retired. In early December of that year, he complained of a “spot” over one of his eyes and was scheduled to visit his optometrist for a new eyeglass prescription. He was discovered in a dazed condition, collapsed, next to his bed by family members; he died from a seizure. His interment was located in Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery.

Many tributes have arose to honor Roy’s leadership in the company. A statue of Roy O. Disney seated on a park bench beside Minnie Mouse is located in the Town Square section of Main Street, U.S.A., at the Magic Kingdom. A duplicate is located outside the Team Disney building at Disney’s corporate headquarters in Burbank, California. There is a third statue at the Tokyo Disneyland theme park. Roy O. Disney was the father of Roy E. Disney, who died on December 16, 2009. There is a Roy O. Disney Suite on the top floor of the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. The suite is one of the two largest suites of the hotel.

Those of us who love Walt Disney World owe an immense debt of gratitude to Roy O. Disney. He was a selfless man who in turn needs to be given the proper gratitude. In a letter to his niece in 1969, Roy wrote “ . . . we miss Walt very much around here. I only wish he had been given another ten years to reap some of the rewards of all the labor of forty years before. Certainly all that this company is today is rightfully attributed to Walt’s ideas and drive.” Roy Disney’s will, determination and selflessness to see Walt’s vision come true was amazing. Thank you Roy for creating one of the most magical places on the planet and making this piece of history possible:

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Marc Davis

Animator, artist, Imagineer are just a few words used to describe Disney superstar Marc Davis. Marc dedicated his creative genius and his life’s work to helping Walt Disney realize his dreams, ranging from perfecting the animated story to creating the world’s first theme park, Disneyland. About his years at Disney, Marc once said, “I rarely felt confined to the animation medium. I worked as an idea man and loved creating characters, whether they be for animation or any other medium.” Continue after the page break for more on the great Marc Davis…

Marc is probably best known as the creator of some of Disney’s most memorable animated women, including Cruella De Vil in “101 Dalmatians,” Maleficent in “Sleeping Beauty” and Tinker Bell in “Peter Pan.” When once asked to choose a favorite among his bevy of grand Disney dames, he replied, “Each of my women characters has her own unique style; I love them all in different ways.”

After high school, he enrolled in the Kansas City Art Institute, followed by the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco and Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. While studying, Marc spent hours at the zoo drawing animals, which became one of his specialties. His story drawings for “Bambi” are still considered some of the finest studies of animal characters ever created at Disney Studios.

Marc joined Disney in 1935 as an apprentice animator on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and moved on to story sketch and character design on “Bambi” and “Victory Through Air Power.” Over the years, he animated on such Disney classic features as “Song of the South,” “Cinderella” and “Alice in Wonderland,” as well as shorts, including “African Diary,” “Duck Pimples” and “Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom.”

He later transferred to Disney’s design and development organization, today known as Walt Disney Imagineering. As one of Disney’s original Imagineers, Marc contributed whimsical story and character concepts for such Disneyland attractions as the Enchanted Tiki Room, It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion and The Jungle Cruise.
After 43 years with the Studio, Marc retired in 1978, but continued to lend his expertise to the development of EPCOT and Tokyo Disneyland. He and his wife, Alice Davis, who designed costumes for Audio-Animatronics characters featured in Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World and just received a window on Main Street next to Marc, have been long-time supporters of California Institute of the Arts, which was founded by Walt Disney.

Sadly, Marc Davis passed away on January 12, 2000, in Glendale, California. That same month the Marc Fraser Davis Scholarship Fund formally was established at the California Institute of the Arts. His dedication to Walt’s dream and the amazing work he left is inspiring. Davis was regarded as one of the top talents ever to work in the animation medium and one of Disney’s all-time greatest animators and Imagineers. 
Now for a video featuring Marc Davis explaining his most famous Disney creations:

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Making of: New Orleans Square

“Disneyland has always had a Big River and a Mississippi sternwheeler. It made sense to build a new attraction at the bend of the river, and so New Orleans Square came into being – a New Orleans of a century ago when she was the ‘Gay Paree’ of the American frontier.” said Walt at the dedication of his brand new New Orleans Square. Being that I’m from the actual New Orleans I have a special appreciation that my unique city enthralled Walt to add a part of it in his park. The city of New Orleans influenced Walt tremendously and continues to do the same to the company he created today. Continue after the page break for a closer look at the creation of New Orleans Square

First, I would like to show you a short clip of one of the last times Walt was on film enjoying his park on July 24, 1966 (Walt died later that year). Walt and New Orleans Mayor Victor Schiro officially opened New Orleans Square and it was the first time since opening day in 1955 that a new land had opened. It was also the only area at the park named after a real city where guests continue to enjoyed shopping, dining and music.

New Orleans definitely had a lot to do with Disney’s history. For starters, Walt and his wife Lillian loved to go antique shopping and Royal Street here in New Orleans has some of the BEST antique shops in the world. In fact, Walt came up with the idea for Audio-Animatronics from a mechanical bird he purchased here in New Orleans while shopping with Lillian. Also, after flying over the swamp lands in Florida where Walt Disney World is today, Walt touched down to refuel here and found out about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (that’s really not an influence but I found it interesting). Former New Orleans Major Victor Schiro announced Walt Disney had been made an honorary citizen of New Orleans and Walt joked the addition, at a cost of $18 million dollars, cost as much as the original Louisiana Purchase. The Disneyland parades were even influenced by New Orleans Mardi Gras floats and its the only “land” in any Disney park to be themed and named after a city.

New Orleans Square is found exclusively at Disneyland, though a similarly themed area can be found within Tokyo Disneyland’s Adventureland. Based on 19th-century New Orleans, it was the first new land to be added to Disneyland after the park’s opening and covers roughly three acres. The land was opened to the public on July 24, 1966 with New Orleans Mayor Victor H. Schiro participating in the dedication ceremony. A reporter for a New Orleans newspaper wrote that “it’s the next best thing to being there.” Sadly, this was Walt Disney’s last major public appearance at Disneyland before his death in Dec. 1966.

The name “New Orleans Square” is a bit of a misnomer, since the area does not resemble a square so much as an intricate series of “streets” that weave around shops, restaurants like the famous Club 33, and Walt and Roy Disney’s apartments were to be above the very first Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. It also includes the only overnight accommodations in the park open to the public, the Disneyland Dream Suite, stays at which are often a prize offered through various promotions.

On opening day, hosts Ronald Reagan and Bob Cummings referred to the New Orleans flavor at the edge of Frontierland as the famous “Firehouse Five” played Dixieland jazz to guest’s delite. Walt actually created “Dixieland at Disneyland” that debuted at the Carnation Gardens on October 1, 1960 and featured some big name entertainers including Louis Armstrong. Satchmo (Louis Armstrong) who was born in New Orleans, performed in 1961, 1962 and 1964-1967. In 1968, he recorded an album called “Disney Songs the Satchmo Way” that brought the uniqueness of New Orleans music to Disney songs. Also, Louis Prima who was the voice of King Louie in “Jungle Book” was also born in New Orleans. 

 The list of influences that the city of New Orleans had on Walt and the Disney company could go on and on. New Orleans Square is just another part of the wonderful world Walt created and I’m proud that he chose my city to be apart of his kingdom. I can’t wait for the next time I get to walk down it’s beautiful streets and courtyards, but until then I’ll just have to settle for the real thing!
Now lets have a look at the making of New Orleans Square:

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Disney Documentary Hour: Shoot for the Moon

Today I would like to return to our Disney Documentary Hour segment. In 1995 the BBC made a documentary about the creation of Disneyland Paris’ version of Space Mountain, called “Shoot For The Moon”. It was a fascinating 44 minute program, following Tim Delaney and his team in bringing Jules Vernes’ “From The Earth To The Moon” book to life. The documentary shows the whole development of the attraction, from conception, to construction, up to testing and fine tuning leading up to the final version of the attraction. One of my favorite parts of the film is when a problem arises with the attraction close to opening and we see Tom Delaney speaking with Marty Sklar, who was one of the top Imagineering executives at the time, and we see how they eventually work it out. Continue after the page break for a wonderful, behind the scenes look on how Disneyland Paris’ Space Mountain came to life…

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Marvelous to Mediocre: ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, or just Alien Encounter for short, was a “theater-in-the-round” attraction co-created by George Lucas and located in the Tomorrowland section of the Magic Kingdom found only at Walt Disney World Resort. It was a darkly humorous science-fiction experience that used binaural sound to achieve many of its effects and it was simply a MARVELOUS attraction! Sadly, it has been replaced by Stitch’s Great Escape! For all of you who love the original attraction continue after the page break and let us reminisce…

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter opened briefly for previews on December 16, 1994, on the site of the former Mission to Mars attraction, but was ordered closed on January 12, 1995 for retooling by then CEO Michael Eisner. It opened officially on June 20, 1995 as part of the Magic Kingdom’s New Tomorrowland. It closed permanently on October 12, 2003 and was replaced by the more “kid friendly” Stitch’s Great Escape!, which uses much of the same technology and set pieces. Although it was short-lived, it developed a cult following, myself included, among Disney fans.


Unlike the Stitch-themed replacement show, much of Alien Encounter took place in total darkness while the attraction operated on the guests’ non-visual senses. Most of the effects came from individual units mounted on the shoulder restraints behind audience members’ heads. The most common effects were binaural cues which came from the highly separated speakers arranged next to each ear. These speakers bolstered many of the other effects with foley, creating unique effects like positional audio from the monster, and created general atmospherics to keep the audience tense, including the murmuring and screams of other audience members, pink noise, and heartbeats. The theater’s circular design allowed these positional audio effects to be particularly effective, as it prevented individual guests from perceiving that their experiences were not unique.

Attraction Chair

Alien Encounter was proposed for Disneyland as well for the project “Tomorrowland 2055”, as part of the “Disney Decade”, started by Michael Eisner. It was to be installed in the space that housed the attraction Mission to Mars. Also proposed to join “Tomorrowland 2055” were The Timekeeper, which was to take over Circlevision 360, and also Plectu’s Fantastic Intergalactic Revue, a musical revue which was to land where America Sings once was located, but due to budget cuts from the Disneyland Paris opening, “Tomorrowland 2055” was scrapped.

Michael Eisner from Alien Encounters TV Special
Prior to the attraction’s opening, Disney released this one hour special, with no advanced notice to the public, and only in 5 major cities. While watching this clip try to remember the quotes you are about to hear were delivered by Disney CEO Michael Eisner and program narrator Robert Urich with straight, matter-of-fact, totally serious cadence and inflection. I find this special goes a little to far to try an get people excited about a new “attraction”. I don’t know about you but it just doesn’t seem to Disney-like to me. Check it out:

A little intense huh?

In essence, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter did exactly what it was created to do… entertain guests over 12 years old. As parents ignored these warnings and executives watched children exit in tears, the ride was quickly toned down and turned into a decent, mediocre attraction. 

Disney needs more attractions aimed at older kids if they want to compete with the likes of Transformers, Spiderman, pretty much everything Universal. Even Disney cast members wish Alien Encounter was still entertaining guests as I quickly found out while we walked past its old location on a Keys to the Kingdom tour. Did Alien Encounter belong in the Magic Kingdom? Probably not. Does Alien Encounter belong on a Disney property? My answer is absolutely YES; Hollywood Studios/ Downtown Disney are you listening?!?!

If you feel like taking a walk down memory lane then here is the full ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter :

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