The hallowed history of Walt Disney Studios has most recently been showcased in the film “Saving Mr. Banks,” based on the making of “Mary Poppins,” one of the last films Walt personally worked on in the Burbank lot.
As part of this week’s Disney Store unveiling of “Star Wars” products, attending press were guided on a tour through that famous studio, both taking a look back at Disney history as well as its future with Lucasfilm.
Some of the buildings at Walt Disney Studios date back even further than the studio itself, relocated from the former nearby location and largely preserved. Not only did Walt frequently pass through these areas, but also all of the biggest names in Disney’s films, from acting to animation. In fact, the building where stars like Annette Funicello were initially cast as Mousketeers still stands alongside a Mickey Mouse topiary – the only one at the studio – and Disney’s corporate flag.
In addition to press, joining the tour was Steve Sansweet, whose Rancho Obi-Wan is the official record-holder of the world’s largest “Star Wars” collection. Over the years, Sansweet has worked at Lucasfilm in their Marketing and Fan Relations departments, written or co-authored 16 “Star Wars” books, helped create the “Star Wars” Celebration events, and helped launch StarWars.com.
Though his involvement with Lucasfilm has been large over the years, Sansweet was equally eager to see all of the Disney details throughout the lot.
Just up the street from the studio entrance is Stage A, a location immediately familiar to anyone who has seen “Saving Mr. Banks” as it is where P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) first met writer Don DeGradi (Bradley Whitford) and songwriting brothers Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak). Though this isn’t exactly where that group met in real life, it was a perfect location for filming.
Sansweet couldn’t pass up the photo opportunity.
Down the way the old Animation building still stands, its offices now leased out to a variety of production companies. But its history resonates as the location in which so many of Disney’s classic animated films were created by hand.
Walt’s own office was on the third floor of this building. Its unusual pattern of windows and shutters was designed to allow the best natural light in to every office to give animators a perfect environment to work in.