My Tour of Walt Disney's Office Suite - Part 1 (Formal Office)
One of the benefits of being a D23 Gold Member is being able to get a chance to attend some of their premium events. So when the chance to be one of the first to get a peek into Walt Disney's office suite came up, I quickly put it on my calendar and diligently waited for the tickets to become available.
On January 29th, I made a drive up to the Burbank and made way to the Walt Disney Studios. There are usually no public tours or access into this working studio except for special events put on by official company entities like D23. After getting clearance at the gate, I found parking and happily stepped onto the Walt Disney Studios lot.
There were a limited number of tickets to about 50 people. There were some people who drove up from San Diego, drove down from 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.
As we made our way to the Animation building, we were divided into smaller groups. The office is located on the third floor of this building.
We arrived at the office suite, “3H”, the specific location or suite of Walt’s office. We were shown into a small holding room where we met Walt Disney Archive Director, Becky Cline. She gave us some background about how the restoration of Walt's original office suite came to be. She told us that Walt’s office remained untouched for about year after he died. It was then that Disney Archivist, Dave Smith was brought to inventory and pack up the office. Smith took many photographs and accounted for every item down to how many individual paper clips were on the desk. The detailed inventory would play a vital role to the restoration of Walt’s office.
After the Walt's office was inventoried and packed up in the late 1960s, a variety of companies and people occupied the 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 Marc Cherry (Devious Maids, Desperate Housewives) up until about a year ago.
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.
The restoration was a tedious process. Thanks to the detailed photos and inventory efforts of Smith, the Disney Archivists 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 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 play their latest creations on. I bet the piano could tell lots of great stories.
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 Smith's catalogue and photos. Nothing on the shelves behind the piano are out of place and they are all original items.
This sofa in the following 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 the 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.
There was this framed photo of Walt in the lobby area where he is holding this animation device called a praxinoscope.
One of my favorite things I saw was this framed Walt Disney image. It is actually the original art work that graced the Times cover in 1954.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in the next couple of days. I'll be sharing my tour of Walt's Informal Office.