D23: Disney Studios and Archives Tour

Over the past weekend (November 5), I had the extreme pleasure of touring the Disney studios and visiting the archives. What a treat. Big thanks to D23 for offering such a wonderful and rare glimpse behind the scenes at the inner-workings and history of the studios. As a fan and student of Disney films and history, I have seen many of these landmarks and locations in the various bonus features and specials on the studio’s storied history. From the Dopey and Mickey street sign (actually just a prop leftover from The Reluctant Dragon shoot) to the famous animation building, it was exciting to visit and actually see these locations in person. The two and half-hour tour was a wonderful mix of legend and lore that both added to the myth of the studio while at the same time revealing the realities of a working studio. How sad to think the rich history of the animation building no longer houses the Disney animation team. While the building itself pays homage to Disney animation in its halls, the rooms are used for production offices.

The real treat came towards the end of our tour. Inside the Frank G. Wells building, we were able to visit the Disney archives hosted by none other than Disney historian and Archive founder Dave Smith himself. What a treat it was to see some historical Disney memorabilia as presented by Dave himself – including the first Disneyland ticket sold and the original script for Steamboat Willie. We even got to hold one of Walt’s Oscars!

Our tour came to an end in the Disney Legends Plaza just outside of the Team Disney Burbank building – the famous Eisner-era structure featuring the Seven Dwarfs. Here we saw the hand prints and plaques celebrating some of the most famous names in Disney history. There are also replicas of Blaine Gibson’s Partners and Sharing The Magic statues from the Disney parks. The only disappointment was not visiting the Feature Animation building located across the street under the huge Sorcerer’s hat.

The overall experience was extremely gratifying. To see and touch a little part of Disney history is something you don’t get to do everyday. I can’t thank the kind folks at D23 for offering such a wonderful experience to members lucky enough to get tickets. If you are a member, I would highly recommend getting tickets if you can. You won’t forget the experience. It’s special events like this that truly make D23 a worthwhile investment.

And after touring the happiest studio on earth, it was off to Disneyland the next day!