I was invited for an expenses paid trip to LA by Disney to cover the #VeryBadDayEvent and #DisneyInHomeEvent in exchange for my posts of the trip experiences. All opinions are my own.
When I first heard that I would have the opportunity to tour Walt Disney’s Los Feliz Estate in California I was beyond thrilled. I am a Disney girl and Walt Disney is an inspiration to me.
This home is currently privately owned and the residents were generous to open it up for a day for the press. I was one of the lucky few who got to walk inside and have a tour. What a dream come true it was! When we were walking up the driveway I said “It’s like fantasyland” and it is. Walt designed the home to look like it was out of a fairy tale. He did a fantastic job.
We were so lucky to have Disney historian Paula Sigman Lowery give us a tour of the home. She shared all the history and some fun facts with us as we toured the home. I loved hearing all about the history of the home and Walt’s family.
She even showed us images of Walt and his family in the home as we went along to each room which made the tour even more special.
When we entered the foyer I was in awe. It was beyond beautiful. It was amazing!
Before I talk anymore about the tour. Here is a little history of the home.
“In 1932, Lillian (or Lilly, as she was called) became pregnant. Feeling their residence at 2495 Lyric Avenue was too small to accommodate a growing family, Walt decided to build a new home on a five-acre piece of property near the Hyperion Studios on Woking Way, a narrow, quiet street in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles.
photo courtesy of Disney
Walt designed his future family home with architect Frank Crowhurst, who had previously worked on a tower addition to the Hyperion Studio.
The $50,000 twelve-room home would combine elements of Tudor and French Normandy styles and include four bedrooms, four and a half baths, a circular rotunda with painted ceilings, a formal double-story living room with vaulted beamed ceilings, rod iron spandrels, original stained leaded glass and Juliet balcony, a dining room, a screening room, a gym room with sleeping porch, a pool and pool house, and a badminton court.
The house was built in a quick two months in order to be ready in time for the baby’s arrival and was constructed by a crew largely composed of out-of-work, Depression-era workers.
Walt Disney told Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper, “I built a house in Los Feliz during the Depression. Men used to line up there in the morning hoping to get work. I found a graduate of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and had him paint my whole ceiling.” (Lowery 3)
It was so magical being in Walt’s home. I could feel his creativity flowing throughout the home. It was a dream to be standing in the same place Walt Disney once stood and lived. I was saying “wow” and “amazing” during the whole tour. This home he built was incredible in it’s design and details.
One of the highlights of the tour was being in Diane’s room hearing how Walt used to read to his girls .
“At night, Walt would read to the girls in their bedrooms. On occasion, Walt caught Diane giggling in bed while reading “The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” and “Mary Poppins” alone. Her enjoyment of these books inspired him to acquire both properties and turn them into feature films.” (Lowery 5)
Another highlight for me was the Snow White Playhouse in the backyard.
“Still intact, the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-style playhouse was a Christmas gift from “Santa” to Diane and Sharon and was designed to match the house. It originally included a sink, kitchen, table and chairs. The original corner shelf for play dishes still exists inside.“
The pool was originally down lower on the property, so in Walt’s time living in the home it would have been a yard for the girls to play in front of the playhouse.
Fun Fact! “When first built, the Playhouse included a working phone, on which the girls received a call from “Santa” asking how they liked it!” (Lowery 3)
Walt was such a fun and hands on dad to his daughters. I enjoyed hearing about how he played with them and seeing the Playhouse he had specially built for them.
photo courtesy of Disney
“Life at Woking Way was filled with childlike play inspired as much by Walt’sdaughters’ imaginations as by his own. According to daughter Diane, Walt would chase the girls around the house, cackling like the witch from Snow White, or twirl them endlessly by their heels. He would also stand in the swimming pool and let them climb to his shoulders. “I thought my father was the strongest man in the world and the most fun,” she recalled.” (Gabler 283)
I absolutely loved the Juliet Balcony in the home that overlooks the Family Room.
Fun Fact! “Diane Disney named the Juliet balcony “Christmas Tree Point.” On Christmas morning, she and sister Sharon would peer out from here to get their first glimpse of the decorated tree and presents below.”
It was really cool to be able to sit in Walt’s screening room where he used to watch films with his family.
“The screening room features sliding wall panels for the projectors. Here the family gathered for private screenings of the great films of the day, including Gone with the Wind, and previewed dailies of current Disney films in production, which likely included Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942). Note the original art on the walls, including a drawing of Maleficent!”
Fun Fact! “The screening room’s stained glass windows feature images of two of history’s greatest storytellers: William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens.”
The view from this home, both in the front of the home and in the backyard is absolutely incredible.
Front of the home view
“Walt didn’t like retaining walls so he never built them around the house. He also preferred a more natural garden with native California flora and fauna.”
Fun Fact! “In the summer of 1947, Walt spent weekends hacking a path around the perimeter of property. The family jokingly referred to it as his “Burma Trail” after the southeast Asian World War II supply line. While working, Walt paid daughter Sharon to fetch him soft drinks.” (Gabler 462)
We enjoyed some dessert and cocktails in the backyard after our tour and interviews, it was a fantastic time!
They had the most adorable Sleeping Beauty center pieces set up and I just had to share those with you as well. Aren’t they so cute?
Another fun surprise during our tour was, that in one of the rooms they had the original costumes that Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and Aurora (Elle Fanning) wore in the Maleficent movie on display for us to see. They were incredible to see in person.
Here I am posing for a quick photo opp. with the costumes. P.S. I want one of these Maleficent costumes for Halloween ASAP! 😉
Also, while we were at Walt’s Estate we sat sat down with Don Hahn (executive producer) for an interview about Maleficent. We also got some behind the scenes looks at the bonus features for Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition from David Jessen (Vice President Content Enhancement) and a special appearance by Sarah Hyland. Stay tuned for my posts covering all of that coming soon.
Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition releases on October 7th
Maleficent releases on November 4th
Lowery, Paula Sigman. “General Notes for Woking Way Home Tour.” Hyperion Historical Alliance, Print.
Gabler, Neal. Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. New York:Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.