Maggie and I indulged ourselves in early 1995 by making an extra trip to Disneyland in January to attend the first Annual Passholders Event, a promotional event where they closed the park to the public for the evening. I call it an "extra trip" because we always went down there in January for the National Fantasy Fan Club's Kick-Off Convention and their Disney collectibles sale, and so a second trip without having to worry about the business was a real treat. It was a magical night for many reasons, but most of all because we won one of the big prizes in the Trivia Contest. Our prize was dinner for two in Walt's apartment over the firehouse in Disneyland. We wanted to make the dinner extra special so we asked to have our dinner during the week of the 40th Anniversary of Disneyland and the National Fantasy Fan Club Annual Convention in July 1995. That dinner was a memorable experience, to be sure. I've described it here as best I can. And, yes, we took lots of pictures and I've posted some of them below where you can download them.
We were so excited that evening that we arrived to check in at City Hall almost 45 minutes early and were kept waiting for what seemed like a very long time. Finally, a Cast Member arrived and told us the apartment was ready, and she led us around the corner of the firehouse, through the Cast Member door that's between the Firehouse and the Emporium, "backstage" as they say, and around to the back of the building where a steel staircase took us upstairs. We had a server named Naomi wait on us, and a Club 33* chef named Tim who designed our meal based on information we'd been asked to provide when we made our reservations some months prior.
The meal started out with a Waldorf Salad, which was sculpted into the form of a small bird. See the picture below - it was gorgeous! The walnut and apple concoction sat on a bed of pineapple which, in turn, sat in a nest made from marinated shredded celery. Maggie's entree' was medallions of beef, served with a medly of steamed veggies. Mine was slices of roast chicken breast on a bed of linguini, with grilled veggies. Dessert was a mixture of creamed raspberries and blackberries in a thick chocolate cup in a pool of raspberry syrup. We were pampered through the whole meal. Tim explained everything we were served, detailing all of the ingredients and how each dish was prepared. He flattered us by graciously asking our opinions of his efforts, and we weren't just being polite when we told him how marvelous everything was.
Naomi was the perfect hostess and had a wealth of knowledge about the history of the apartment. She showed us the apartment and the little patio that is on the roof between City Hall and the firehouse. She explained that the lamp in the window of the apartment was always left on in memory of Walt. Then she asked if we'd noticed that the old firetruck downstairs had been wheeled outside. Naomi told us that they would traditionally do that when Walt, his family, or guests were in the apartment to reduce the noise from the people going through the Firehouse and that they had done it for us, too. It was just one more special courtesy they'd extended that tickled us to death.
Getting back to the subject, the apartment is where Walt would often spend the night as he was building and expanding Disneyland. Its quite a drive from Walt's house in Holmby Hills to Anaheim, and legend has it that he liked to poke around the park early in the morning before most of the employees arrived. The iconic picture on the left shows Walt strolling through the castle gates one such morning. The Gallery and Disneyana shop offers posters and memoribelia featuring several famous pictures of Walt wearing casual clothes strolling through the park during such times. In any case, it is obvious the apartment was a facility that let him be in the park whenever he needed to be there, and do so without getting mobbed by fans and autograph-seekers. Sometimes other Disney family members and guests would also spend the night there. I had a chance to speak to Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, about it once and she said that one of her most vivid memories of the apartment is the roar of the Jungle Cruise boats' motors and we certainly understand why. The sound is unmistakeable as there's apparently a point in the ride where the boats all stop for a moment and then loudly accelerate away that's right out the back door.
The apartment is fully decorated and filled with furniture, as you can see below, and the Company has added some flouishes in Walt's memory. It has a couch that converts into a bed, and another couch that can also be slept on. The furniture is all top quality. Some of it is obviously more for fashion than for function, but it makes the room very comfy. Being in the collectibles business, the antique floor-standing music box caught my attention immediately. It's about 4 feet high and gorgeous. And I spent a lot of time examining the several pictures of Walt's family that adorned the walls. I haven't seen many pictures of Lillian and the girls in the park. The amenities are limited, of course. There is a small wet-bar in a closet against the back wall, and the bathroom around the back has a small shower. There's a doorway in the back that leads to a secluded patio on the roof of the structure between City Hall and the Firehouse. It looks like just the place to get away from the heat and the noise of the crowds on a hot summer evening, and I bet Walt spent a lot of time out there.
Disneyland has redecorated the apartment since our visit in 1995, but it's still filled with many of the same photographs of Walt and his family.
*NOTE* Club 33 is a members-only private dining room over the Blue Bayou Restaurant in Disneyland's New Orleans Square. Members consist of Disney VIP's, the legendary animators, corporations, and the well-to-do. Membership is several thousand dollars per year, and each meal costs about $75.00 the last time I heard (which is almost 20 years ago now). Wine and spirits are additional, of course. However, that price apparently does include admission to the park - Such a Deal!
Just click on any of the pictures below the pictures to see large versions.
Disneyland has removed the Disney Gallery from its perch over Pirates of the Carribbean in New Orleans Square and has created the apartment Walt had planned to build there before he died in 1966. The park now offers overnight stays in the apartment for special guests and as prizes in some promotions. Although I have many fond memories of The Disney Gallery, I have to say, what a treat it would be to spend the night in Disneyland!
More About Walt Disney in Disneyland
In the summer of 1996, there was a special exhibit in Disneyland called the Animation Celebration. It contained a host of special displays on the history of Disney animation, with lots of cels, drawings, and concept art. However, one special part of the exhibit was the recreation of Walt's two offices in the Studio.
Walt Disney's Working Office
This office is where Walt would go to actually get things done. It is here that he would return at the end
of the day to catch up on his mail and to read new scripts. The exhibit was elaborately decorated down to the last detail,
including photographs of the view from the windows so when you looked at the exhibit you would see what Walt saw when he
Walt Disney's Formal Office
See the pictures of Walt's two daughters, Diane and Sharon? I thought that was a nice touch. I also
noticed the models of the Studio planes that were prominent in both offices. Walt was famous for his love of trains, of
course, but he traveled by plane frequently as well. For instance, there was the legendary
trip Walt and several animators took to
South America on a mission for the US State Department in August 1941, just before Pearl Harbor ushered The United States into World War II. And
so I'm sure Walt was proud of the company planes. If you want to learn more, check out the movie "Walt & El Grupo" which
tells the whole story and includes clips from newsreels and home movies Walt and some animators took during the trip. It had been
on Netflix for a time, but seems to be gone now.
If you're a fan of Disney films, please check out our collection of
Disney Animation Art that features the works of some
of the best artists in the history of the Walt Disney Studios. In addition, for fans of Walt Disney who
want to know more about Walt himself, I hope you'll take a look at the page on my book,
Walt Disney: The FBI Files. I
sort out the truth from the fables and try to show how although Walt was immensely talented, he was neither
a deity nor a demon. You're invited to check out our special page for Disney Fans,
where you'll find lots of great Disney websites to explore and enjoy. And, of course, we want you to know that
we specialize in Toy Story Toys and Collectibles
This page was last updated on September 16, 2015.