Funny, during my first “career” there, Walt’s apartment was sealed off, like holy ground. No one, but no one, got to go in there (cleaning crews from time to time, I imagine). For years, you could only “see” the apartment through National Geographic photographs taken during a rare moment in Walt’s life. So when I was asked to actually go open the apartment, air it out and set up with catering—to say I was intimidated is an understatement.
Today the apartment looks much as it did in Walt’s time, with many items donated by Lillian (Walt’s widow) following his death: Victorian furnishings, Walt’s favorite hot dog cooker, and a Victrola in the corner. At the window is a hurricane lamp that was always lit when Walt was in the Park. Today, it remains perpetually lit as a reminder of the eternal presence of Walt’s spirit.
Funny story: In the beginning, Walt had a fireman’s pole installed in the apartment so he could slide down into the station when he wanted to (always a big kid). That ended the day a curious child decided to shinny UP the pole!
In the years just preceding Walt’s death, he was having another apartment constructed over the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in New Orleans Square. Construction stopped when Walt died and for years it was just shut up, then used as random offices. Finally it was finished and opened as a gallery celebrating the work of Walt’s artists. Then a couple of years ago, the gallery was closed and the apartment converted to a suite. Not sure exactly how they are operating it now, if anyone can purchase a night or two to stay or if it’s just by contest or invitation or how. But you can see where it is from the street as the initials WD and RD are woven into the ornate wrought iron railing on the balcony.
MMS: Is there a similar apartment in the Sleeping Beauty Castle (like the one at WDW Cinderella Castle)?
MMS: Are there park areas that visitors are not allowed into? If so, which of them have you seen? (Like behind the scenes operations or special rooms in buildings like the apartment, etc.)
MMS: Are there really feral cats on the property to keep rodent population down?
MMS: Are there really Cast Members who pose as Guests to help other Guests out & improve their experience? Like, last time we were at WDW, a gentleman at Disney’s Hollywood Studios just happened to appear and offer us his map while we were standing there looking lost & deciding where to go next.
MMS: Is Disneyland earthquake-proof? Have you been there during a quake?
MMS: This blog is devoted to educational aspects. Can you think of anything specifically educational within Disneyland? Aside from the obvious, things the average person might not be aware of?
Also, Disneyland has a long history of community involvement, offering community service awards every year. They also have a strong connection with the local CHOC (Children’s Hospital of Orange County) Hospital. I believe Walt may have been on the board at one time.
MMS: Can you give me some “trivial tidbits” – little-known facts about Disneyland, funny bits of information?
- Disneyland was built in a year and a day. Ground was broken in July of 1954 and the Park opened to guests on July 17, 1955.
- Main Street USA is designed using a forced perspective, with the upper halves of the buildings smaller than the top (5/8 scale) to lead the eye toward Fantasyland and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle…Walt’s original “wienie.”
- The petrified tree in Frontierland was purchased by Walt on a trip with Lillian. He bought it “for her” as an anniversary gift, but always intended it to go in his park. I’m sure he was delighted when Lillian donated it.
- One pathway out of Fantasyland leads past a wishing well with a nearby waterfall, on the ledges of which stand Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, carved in marble. These statues were gifts to Walt from a famous Italian sculptor (sorry I don’t know his name).
- The hitching posts in Frontierland (old ones at least) were found by Walt in Jackson’s Hole, Wyoming.
- There’s a great little book called Disneyland Detective, by my friend Kendra Trahan (National Fantasy Fan Club) that is chock full of these tidbits. I believe she’s done a Walt Disney World version too.
- Stand on the side streets on Main Street, USA, especially by the Market House, and you’ll hear a variety of noises coming from the “businesses” there: gargling, singing, and so on.
- In the Market House there’s an old phone with a “party line” you can listen in on.
- We have the talking trash can too, as well as a group called the Trash Can Trio that is a lot of fun. Musical cast members who play, well, the trash cans!
- Toontown is replete with gags everywhere you look: mailboxes that talk, manhole covers that do the same, doorbells with surprise buzzers. Try everything for delightful surprises. Also the central park in Toontown features musical statuettes reminiscent of the old Silly Symphony days. Mickey’s and Minnie’s houses are also full of fun surprises. Toontown’s backstory is that it is where all the Toons live, so it has a Hollywood Hills, 1930s aura with a whole lot of silliness thrown in. There is a mini-city all in Toontown with a musical clock that does a show (on the hour, I think) and if you look closely at the windows up above, you’ll see homage paid to Walt’s old Laugh-o-Grams business in Kansas City.
- Don’t forget the windows on Main Street, dedicated to the many people over the years who helped make Disneyland what it is. Always being added to. Many others have also been lauded on buildings throughout the Park. [Read about the Sherman brothers' recent honor at the Disney Parks Blog.]
- Sleeping Beauty’s Castle bears the Disney family shield.
What makes Disneyland most special to me is that Walt’s handprints are all over it. This is where he lived and breathed and dreamed. There is not a square inch of that Park he did not touch or influence in some way, even though some of it has changed since his passing. I recall talking to a guest from France one night when I worked at The Disney Stores who told me he had been to both U.S. parks. Most people would say they like Walt Disney World best because of its size, but this man said, “I prefer Disneyland!” That delighted me, so when I asked why, he briefly searched the air for the right words and then said, “Eet ees more—how you say—magique!” That about says it all for me too.
MMS: Eet most definitely ees magique! Thank you, once again, Peg Rose, for taking us on a virtual vacation to The Happiest Place on Earth!
SCHOOL SUBJECT: Art
SKILL LEVEL: Middle Grades
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