Touring Walt Disney’s Office: Part 1

A couple of months ago, my marriage to Patrick paid off in a big way when his cousin invited me on a private tour of Walt Disney’s newly refurbished office suite on the Disney lot in Burbank. Although we’d seen some of its contents displayed at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios over the years, I was excited to see the complete office re-created in its original location on the lot, almost exactly as Dave Smith found it when he created his now-legendary catalog of every single item in it, down to the Kleenex box! The suite is only open to Disney cast members, studio visitors, and the occasional D23 Gold Member tour.

Patrick’s cousin John Bengston is the foremost authority on the filming locations of movie greats Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, and this gets him invited to a lot of nifty events. One of his friends is an executive at the Walt Disney Company, and he generously allowed John to bring me along to lunch at Disney’s executive dining room, The Rotunda, and a private tour. We were joined by the owner of a preeminent collection of historic Hollywood photographs and one of the writers of The Lion King. Needless to say, I didn’t even try to make conversation at lunch!

The Rotunda is located atop the Michael Graves’-designed and rather over-named Team Disney – The Michael D. Eisner Building, a.k.a. The Seven Dwarfs Building. The pergola on the right is part of Disney Legends Plaza. (I have a complete tour of the Disney Lot here, if you’re curious!)

 photo WaltsOffice 229_zpsnz9fm9bf.jpg

You can see one of the windows of Walt’s office suite on the top floor here…

 photo WaltsOffice 1_zpsxxkwxwtv.jpg

We checked in at security and were let up to the top floor, where our host was to meet us in the elevator lobby. Check out this view from one of the conference rooms up there!

 photo WaltsOffice 2_zpscqwkbil1.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 4_zpsu6etccxf.jpg

Access to the executive dining room in The Rotunda is limited to those at the Director level and above. I tried, Dear Reader, to get permission to photograph The Rotunda for you. I even took my patented “Ask a different cast member, get a different answer” approach, but no luck. Somehow, this person was able to shoot inside The Rotunda, though, so if you’re interested in the interior, check out that report. She even ordered the same meal I did!

Or just close your eyes and imagine you’re inside a Michael Graves teapot. If you remember what the interior of the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel looked like before its blandification… it’s like that!

After lunch we ambled over to the old Animation Building (which is now offices rented out to various production companies). Walt’s office is actually a suite of five rooms, all behind these doors.

 photo WaltsOffice 182_zpswfbhz0nr.jpg

Immediately on the left when you enter is a room that is now used for a rotating display of artifacts. We’re going to work our way through the suite clockwise, so we’ll get to that room last.

 photo WaltsOffice 178_zps20p714ak.jpg

A niche holds a model of Blaine Gibson’s Partners statue for the Hub at Disneyland, which has subsequently been re-created at all but the Chinese Disney parks.

 photo WaltsOffice 179_zps0fp8yev4.jpg

The doorway at the end of the hall leads to Walt’s secretary’s nook. To the immediate left, out of frame, is a small security office where we were instructed to leave our bags. A guide from the Disney Archives joined us to lead the tour.

 photo WaltsOffice 176_zpsdtkolmek.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 19_zpsu38xve5o.jpg

I was excited to discover the original Millard Sheets painting of Sleeping Beauty Castle, done for United Airlines. We picked up a reproduction at Van Eaton Gallery’s Disneyana auction, last year.

 photo WaltsOffice 10_zpsyqqjalka.jpg

I gotta be honest with you. I was so preoccupied with snapping hundreds of photos that I only listened to the tour with one ear. So I apologize that I don’t have more descriptions and trivia to go with all these photos. Also, because it was an unstructured, private tour, the guide didn’t seem to have a spiel like you’d get on a D23 tour. She’d give a brief description of the purpose of each room and then ask if we had any questions. One other bummer was that the stanchions were still up from the previous weekend’s tour—apparently private tours normally have more run of the place than D23 tours, or at least the chance to get stanchion-free shots!

As I recall, most of the things in Walt’s secretary’s nook are not original, and several came from the set of Saving Mr. Banks.

 photo WaltsOffice 11_zpsvrasqkfg.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 12_zps5cbn06yr.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 13_zpscnmrcqwx.jpg

However, they do have Walt’s original appointment book on display. I turned the photo right-side up so maybe you can read it better!

 photo WaltsOffice 18_zps5rhhxcdp.jpg

Full disclosure: I turned this photo right-side up too!

 photo WaltsOffice 17_zpsdgnml9a7.jpg

These are reproductions of Walt’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Oscars. The originals are at the Walt Disney Family Museum.

 photo WaltsOffice 16_zpsdybimtfl.jpg

These awards are real, though!

 photo WaltsOffice 15_zpss15x44yt.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 9_zpsarcrn9rm.jpg

Walt’s Formal Office

Because I took sooooo many photos, I’m breaking this report up into a few parts. This part will focus on Walt Disney’s formal office, the place where he received visitors. Although both offices were partially re-created together at Disneyland years ago, they’ve mostly been on separate coasts for the last decade or so. It was very cool to see them back together, and how they flowed into each other.

When you enter, the seating area and piano are on the right. This is THE piano, the one Richard Sherman would play for Walt on Friday afternoons. You hear that story a lot, the one about how Walt would tell Sherman simply, “Play it,” and he’d launch into Walt’s favorite song, “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins. But it gets me every time. And this is the place!

 photo WaltsOffice 23_zpsgr5ufcyr.jpg

Back in the corner, above the sofa (and unfortunately out of decent focal length for my lens) is THE mechanical songbird Walt & Lillian picked up in New Orleans, which ignited Walt’s passion for what eventually became AudioAnimatronics!

 photo Walts20Mechanical20Bird_zpsacvefy9f.jpg

Another one sits on the coffee table.

 photo WaltsOffice 36_zpsnjouvxzy.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 29_zpsniim3qne.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 27_zpsl7c5bksh.jpg

Looking back toward the entrance…

 photo WaltsOffice 71_zpsyxkxw0yf.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 70_zpsbz45tzfh.jpg

I can imagine Walt hollering through this door at his secretary, Tommie, when he needed something!

 photo WaltsOffice 48_zps0fg9nr3i.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 37_zpsgj3edhex.jpg

An antique praxinoscope, the successor to the zoetrope.

 photo WaltsOffice 39_zpsodkvknmj.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 53_zpsefj4okki.jpg

On your left as you enter the office is Walt’s formal desk.

 photo WaltsOffice 40_zps51aktr7i.jpg

I spy… Mary Poppins.

 photo WaltsOffice 24_zpsscljmkla.jpg

His daughter’s bronzed baby shoes!

 photo WaltsOffice 25_zpseogxdheo.jpg

A model of Walt’s plane.

 photo WaltsOffice 42_zpscut2erxo.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 43_zpsahvsw10x.jpg

Tommie rang this bell every day at 12:30pm to remind Walt it was lunchtime!

 photo WaltsOffice 55_zps5l8bucjv.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 46_zpsfearsnu6.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 41_zpsobyglhar.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 28_zps3jeximwk.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 45_zpsszvhxezh.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 26_zps5vtdrkwy.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 50_zpsha2imn1j.jpg

I give you… The Curtains! You know, just in case you’re trying to replicate Walt’s office at home…

 photo WaltsOffice 56_zpsadnlrq0v.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 30_zpsyevoo7bo.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 51_zpsxez4gwk9.jpg

I adore these portraits of Diane and Sharon. It reminds you how much Walt doted on them, in contrast to his sometimes stern demeanor with employees.

 photo WaltsOffice 31_zps2bjhoeji.jpg

Let’s see what Walt was reading in those days…

 photo WaltsOffice 32_zpssiebthwv.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 52_zpsg84ouhhq.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 59_zpsxi0rvio8.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 60_zps6vwpounj.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 33_zpse0cvc3ht.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 61_zpsx7ty1zb6.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 35_zpsryiy34f8.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 34_zpsvcp7wtm8.jpg

A Mousecar Award…

 photo WaltsOffice 57_zpsmvmnpvgt.jpg

….and The Little Mermaid!

 photo WaltsOffice 58_zps4z9tqmg8.jpg

 photo WaltsOffice 47_zpsaycnuvzm.jpg

Next time: Stepping through this door into Walt’s Working Office!

 photo WaltsOffice 121_zpscw7dihl4.jpg

No tags 2 Comments 1
2 Responses
  • Jennifer
    October 3, 2016

    Eeek this is amazing! I can’t wait for the other installments!
    Is everything in the office original, besides what you mentioned? Example, are those all Walt’s books on the bookshelves?
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Carrie
      October 3, 2016

      So glad you enjoyed it! Yes, from what we were told, everything in there is the real deal. Several of us asked about the book specifically. Stay tuned… Part 2 is going up tomorrow!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *