A D23 Event: Walt Disney Studios Tour and Archives

Checking in at the D23 Walt Disney Studio Tour
Checking in at the D23 Walt Disney Studio Tour

For any true Disney-phile, your bucket list must include a tour of the Walt Disney Studios.  It is a fun and unique experience that will give you insight into the magic in a way you’ve never seen (unless you’ve been on the tour before).  Through D23, there have been many more opportunities to visit these hallowed grounds, either on the tours themselves or screening events held on the studio lot.  The tour itself is great!  Not only do you get to peruse the different sound stages but you get to visit the different Disney departments, hear tales about the movies and stars that have inhabited the grounds, and of course, shop.  Make sure you have some walking shoes on because there are no tram stops here!

We began and ended our day at the D23 bungalow – a conference room located near the entrance where you check in and can purchase D23 exclusive merchandise including pins, shirts, and other memorabilia.  They even had D23 Walt Disney Studio Tour pins available so be sure to get one of these gems as you can only purchase them on the tour!  This is where we met our tour guide, Melody, whose name matched her voice for sure.  She took us from iconic building to iconic building, sharing with us information about each place.  From the newly-restored Hyperion Theater, to Walt’s original office location, to the Team Disney Building (no pictures please), to the classic water tower, to the Frank G. Wells building which housed some of the best visuals on the tour.

I'd like to thank the Academy for getting to come to the Disney Archives...
I’d like to thank the Academy for getting to come to the Disney Archives…

That’s because this is where the Disney Archives are stored.  One of my favorite parts of the tour was getting to visit with Dave Smith.  Being “retired” he isn’t always on the lot, but the time I happened to go, the company was preparing for the Treasures of the Disney Archives exhibit at The Ronald Reagan Library and Dave was there, helping to pick out which treasures should go over.  He showed us some remarkable stuff including a find they just recently discovered – the original script and notes from Steamboat Willie!  He pulled out an actual Academy Award won by Walt and we all got to take pictures and pose with it.  There was even an original background painting of Steamboat Willie for us to look at.  The shelves were lined with printed material from all over including every Disneyland Line ever published (the cast member newsletter for Disneyland).  On top of the shelves and in the cabinet were maquettes used in different Disney animated features.  Truly a treasure trove for any Disney fan!

The original notes and drawings that inspired Steamboat Willie
The original notes and drawings that inspired Steamboat Willie

It was also really interesting to see the Disney Legends area in front of the Team Disney building.  The Legends statue is beautiful and the detail poured into it is quite remarkable.  In the same area are the “partners” statues.  In the plaza you can actually pose with Walt and Mickey and even Roy and Minnie. It was like walking through time as you see the different people memorialized in the walls of the plaza – true Disney legends who brought and continue to bring the magic to life.  We ended the day with shopping – of course.  Back at the bungalow conference center, we perused the pins, pens, patches, and other memorabilia and made our purchases.  They had a nice selection of items any Disney fan will love.  They also have on the campus an actual Disney Store.  There are some (read VERY few) unique items specific to the studios, but unlike Mickey’s of Glendale, this is actually a Disney store.  You’ll find much of the same layout and items you would in any other Disney store on the planet.  The pin selection they normally had was completely sold out (probably by the last tour group that went through) so I missed out there.  Still, to get to be part of the magic even if only for a day was a thrill!

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