A look inside Walt Disney’s apartment

| June 24, 2009

In the life of a true Disney fan there are moments.  Your first time at a Disney theme park, your first time seeing the castle, your first peek backstage.  For some fans, luck smiles on them occasionally and they get to do things that a lot of people don’t get to do – dinner at Club 33, a stay in one of the “Dream” suites.  But every now and again, an extraordinary opportunity presents itself.  That’s what happened to me and five of my friends this afternoon.

I’ve been in Southern California for the past week with my family – enjoying the parks, San Diego, Huntington Beach and the rest of the sites around the area.  Today, we had a chance to be among the very first groups to ever take a tour behind the scenes at Disneyland.  This is something being set up by the Disney Institute as a special program not for sale to the general public.  I was very excited about this – very few people have been backstage at Disneyland and this was a rare and special treat for me, and the 40 podcast listeners who signed up to join us.

I’ll save the details of the tour for another blog, as well as for next week’s show.  I also won’t go into great detail right now about how it came to pass that I was invited to see Walt Disney’s apartment on Main Street in Disneyland.  For now, it’s enough to say that I was invited, along with 5 other friends and I’m still reeling from the experience.

To enter the apartment we were taken backstage just alongside the firehouse on Main St.  We walked behind the guest relations building to a stairway that led up to the patio that overlooks Main St.  This used to be a VIP viewing area for the parade, but thanks to a large tree that grew to block the view, it’s no longer used for that.

From there you enter a very small Foyer.  Directly ahead of you is Walt’s bathroom (more on that later), and to your right – the apartment.  Now, if the apartment looks like it was decorated by your grandmother, keep in mind Walt’s affinity for ‘turn of the century’ decor (Main St USA is a great example).

Of the pieces currently in the apartment, only two are ‘original’ to Walt.

The music rolls for the player above are also original to Walt and are concealed behind the day bed he used to sleep on.

On the wet bar are a set of cups and a jar bearing the name “Tom and Jerry”.   Apparently, this was a drink (I’m assuming it was non-alcoholic) that Walt loved.

The shower is also ‘original’ to Walt.  Walt had it built with multiple shower jets as he had an old Polo injury and the multiple jets provided him relief when the pain flared up.

Behold…Walt’s throne!

As legend has it, the lamp in the window was how cast members in the early days would know if Walt was in the park – if the lamp was on, the boss was in town.  Since his death, the lamp has been left perpetually lit.  I’ve seen that lamp many times from the other side of the window – I had to take the picture of the lamp from ‘the other side’.

To say that this is the highlight of my “Disney fan” life would be pretty accurate.  Very few get to see the apartment and that I was able to share this with some of my friends made the experience all the more special.  I only wish I could have brought everyone from the tour up with us to see it.

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  • Dave Parfitt

    Thanks for sharing this Pete. This would have been a religious experience to see. Your comment about Walt’s Grandmother decorating the place was exactly what I was thinking. I think you could plop Walt’s apartment right into the opening scene of the “Carousel of Progress”.

  • BillM99999

    Wow, great story, Pete! I agree with Dave; the pics made me think CoP, especially the sofa.

  • zendisney

    Enjoyed reading the blob and seeing this photos. Wowzeers! What a rare opportunity. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.wdwinfo.com/disteam/corey.htm Corey Martin

    Cool pictures. I wish I could say I wasn’t jealous. I really wish I could.

  • Kelsie

    Loved the story and pictures!

    I agree with Corey, I’m seriously jealous!

  • 1000th happy haunt

    I’ve been to Walt’s apartment twice. Once when a friend won a trip for the 50th Anniversary Celebration at Disneyland, and once during the Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic Tour. But neither time we were allowed to take pictures. Thanks for that.

    And Tom & Jerry has both brandy and rum.

  • dis13

    Great pictures. Thanks for sharing. As Corey and Kelsie have said, very, very jealous.

  • disneygrl36

    I was lucky enough to see Walt’s apartment as part of Backstage Magic with Adventures by Disney. It was probably my favorite part of the trip. It was a moving & overwhelming experience for me to be where I knew Walt had actually spent so much time.
    I wish we had able to been take pictures like you did. They did take a group shot of us in the apartment which I treasure (even though my nose is red in the picture since I shed a few tears).
    Thanks for sharing.

  • ajleone

    I did a quick Google search and came up with this for a Tom and Jerry.
    Tom & Jerry Punch

    1 Cup. Dark Rum
    1 Bottle (750 ml) Brandy
    6 Eggs*
    2 Cups Sugar
    4 Cups Hot water, milk, or coffee

    Seperate egg in two bowls. Add Rum & Brandy to the yolk and beat together until frothy. In th other bowl beat the egg white until it peaks then add sugar and bet until stiff. Fold into the liqour mixture. Pour into a coffee mug and top with the water, milk or coffee.

    Just thought it was interesting.

  • Kathy Werling

    I am so happy that you got to do this. Only the true Disney fan would appreciate what you got to do!!

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  • disneyholic family

    how totally cool!!!!
    thanks for taking the time to share your experience and pictures with us Pete!!

  • gallicdenis

    Thanks for sharing this bit of Walt’s life. I can totally relate. A couple of years back we visited the sites in Marceline, Missouri that Walt often talked about — the train station, the “Wishing Tree,” a replica of the barn that he and his younger sister Ruth played in, and, of course, the house that he and Ruth painted much to the consternation of his father Elias. I would think that a visit to Walt’s apartment would be, pardon the expression, a religious experience.

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  • Grandma J

    I also had a chance to visit Walt’s apartment and a couple of things come to mind:
    1. You were taken in through the back entry, not the front door. I know the back door is pretty with the stained-glass panels & all, but that’s not the front door. The front door is on the other side of the apartment and leads you directly into the living room – (the little kitchenette is on your right as you enter the living room). There’s a proper, old-fashioned door-bell on the front door – the kind you twist to make it ring.
    2. I was told that Lillian, Walt’s wife, originally decorated the apartment.
    3. I’m not sure why you said only two pieces in the apartment are original. My understanding is that nearly everything in the apartment was used by Walt and his family. However, they have changed out some of the photos on the walls. Both Lillian and Walt used to sleep in the apartment because their home was in Brentwood (quite a commute in the 50′s). Above the day-bed Walt slept in was a picture of his mother and over Lillian’s bed hung a picture of her mother. (Sweet, n’est-ca pas?) Those pictures are no longer there, among others.

    Your photos are great. Thanks for posting them. One other little tid-bit I picked up during that visit is that the Fire House was the second building built in Disneyland. The Opera House, across town square from the Fire House, was the first to go up.

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