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The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, United States, serves as the corporate headquarters for The Walt Disney Company media conglomerate. Besides housing offices for the company's many divisions, the Walt Disney Studios' 51-acre (20.6 ha) studio lot also contains several sound stages, a backlot and other production facilities for Walt Disney Studios' motion picture production.
The Studios are one of two major film studios that do not currently offer backlot tours to the general public, the other being 20th Century Fox. For several years, Adventures by Disney has offered tours of the studio, but only as an integral component of their six-day, five-night Southern California tour package. The other way to tour the studio is to join the official Disney D23 fan club, which offers tours to members every few months. The studio used to open to the public once a year in November on the Saturday before Thanksgiving for its annual Magical Holiday Faire craft sale, but stopped hosting the Faire around 2003.
Prior to the official opening of the Burbank lot in 1940, the Walt Disney Studios was located at several different locations in Los Angeles. During summer 1923, Walt Disney created "The Disney Bros. Cartoon Studio" in his uncle Robert Disney's garage, which was located at 4406 Kingswell Avenue, in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles (just east of Hollywood). His brother Roy O. Disney was also in Los Angeles at the time. During October 1923, the brothers leased office space on the rear side of a real estate agency's office at 4651 Kingswell Avenue. On October 16, 1923, Walt Disney accepted an offer from Margaret Winkler of Universal Studios to distribute the new Alice Comedies starring Virginia Davis. It was also at this site where on January 14, 1924, Walt Disney met his future wife Lillian Bounds, an "ink and paint" girl whom he personally hired. In February 1924, the studio moved next door to an office of its own at 4649 Kingswell Avenue. The late Robert Disney's residence and the small office building that is home to 4649 and 4651 Kingswell Avenue have survived to the present and are still in use.
In 1925, Walt Disney placed a deposit on a new, considerably larger lot at 2719 Hyperion Avenue, and the studio moved there in January 1926. It was here where, after a train journey with his wife Lillian, Walt fully created the character of Mickey Mouse in 1928. The first color animated film, the Silly Symphony Flowers and Trees and the first animated cartoon using the multiplane camera, The Old Mill was created. In 1937, the Hyperion studio produced the world's first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Disney's staff began to grow to a substantial size at the Hyperion studio, and Disney Legends such as Disney's Nine Old Men began their careers there. The Hyperion studio site was sold in 1940 and divided between two different industrial manufacturers, and in 1966 a subsequent owner demolished what was left of the studio complex and replaced it with the supermarket and shopping center that stand there today. To honor the company's former headquarters from 1926 to 1940, the name 'Hyperion' has been reused over the years by the Walt Disney Company for multiple divisions and attractions, including Hyperion Books and the Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure Park.
The current Walt Disney Studios, located at 500 South Buena Vista Street, Burbank, was made possible by the revenue from the 1937 release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Walt Disney and his staff began the move from the old studio at Hyperion Avenue in Silver Lake on December 24, 1939, and was completed on May 6, 1940. Designed primarily by Kem Weber under the supervision of Walt Disney and his brother Roy, the Burbank Disney Studio buildings are the only studios that have been owned by The Walt Disney Company to survive from the Golden Age of filming. A bungalow and other small buildings that were located at the Hyperion Avenue location were moved to Burbank.
The Walt Disney Studios was originally designed around the animation process, with the large animation building in the center of the campus, and adjacent outlying buildings were built for the story department, the music department, the ink-and-paint departments, and the other various functions of the studio. Both above-ground walkways and tunnels connected the buildings, and the campus also included a movie theatre and a number of soundstages. The Disney feature The Reluctant Dragon, starring Robert Benchley, served as a tour of the then-new studio, which was also frequently seen and toured on the various Walt Disney television programs.
In the late 1940s, the studio began regular work on live-action features, as they needed the money. Though their first films were shot in England, the necessity to build live-action facilities still arose. Lacking the capital to do it themselves, Jack Webb offered to put up some of the money to build live-action soundstages in exchange for the right to use them (Webb used them to shoot much of the Dragnet TV series). During this time, backlots for exterior shots were also built and remained standing at the studios until after a major change in management in 1984.
In 1986, after the corporate restructuring of Walt Disney Productions into The Walt Disney Company, the studio lot was remodeled to accommodate more live-action production space and administrative offices. The studio lot is now home to multiple office and administration buildings and 10 soundstages. It is bounded by South Buena Vista Street on the west, West Alameda Street on the north, South Keystone Street on the east, and West Riverside Drive on the south. It sits in an area of Burbank where the street grid is offset at a diagonal, but most of the original buildings and roads within the campus itself were laid out in alignment with the cardinal directions.
Formerly known as the Team Disney Burbank building, Team Disney - The Michael D. Eisner Building is the main building located at The Walt Disney Studios. Completed in 1990 and designed by Michael Graves, the Team Disney Burbank building contains the office of President and CEO Robert A. Iger, as well as the boardroom for the Board of Directors. It also houses offices for members of Senior Management, such as Alan Horn, Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, Thomas O. Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and Andy Bird, Chairman of Walt Disney International. Prior to the opening of the Team Disney Burbank building in 1990, Disney executives were located in the old Animation building and the Roy O. Disney Building; the animators had been forced to relocate in 1985 into a series of warehouses, trailers, and hangars in nearly Glendale.
The building is sometimes called the "Seven Dwarfs Building"; it has a stunning fascia of the seven dwarfs holding up the roof of the building, an homage to the animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which provided Walt Disney with the revenue to purchase the Burbank lot. The building is located opposite the Frank G. Wells building, Eisner's former colleague, and President of The Walt Disney Company from 1984–1994. In 1996 the building was featured in Hollywood Pictures film Spy Hard. On January 23, 2006, in honor of Michael Eisner's 21-year leadership of the company, the Team Disney building was rededicated as Team Disney - The Michael D. Eisner Building.
The Disney Legends plaza, located between the Team Disney: The Michael D. Eisner building and the Frank G. Wells building, is the central hub for the Disney Legends award and pays homage to its recipients. The plaza features the Partners statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, designed by Imagineer Blaine Gibson, along with a replica statue of Roy O. Disney and Minnie Mouse which can also be found at the Magic Kingdom park.
Located on the pillars in the plaza are bronze plaques featuring receivers of the Disney Legends award. The plaques feature the recipient's name, reason for gaining the award, and the person's hand prints and signature if they were alive at the time they received the award. Most famously, Legendary Animator and Imagineer, Ward Kimball's plaque features an extra finger, a reminder of Kimball's sense of humor. If, however, the award was presented posthumously, an image of the Disney Legends statue is engraved instead of the traditional hand prints and signature.
The plaza formerly featured a small fountain to honor the Legends, but that was since removed due to water leakage.
This building is dedicated to the former President of The Walt Disney Company from 1984–1994, Frank G. Wells. The building opened in 1998 and was dedicated by Wells' widow Luanne Wells, and company CEO Michael Eisner. The five-story building has a usable area of 240,518 square feet (22,344.9 m2) with three underground parking levels, accommodating 600 parking spaces. The construction was completed in two phases: phase I in August 1997 and phase II in July 1998. The Frank G. Wells building was specifically designed for Walt Disney Television Animation, and the division formerly had offices located on the third floor. It is distinctly recognizable through its giant movie reel and film strip on the building's exterior. The building is currently home to the Walt Disney Archives, studio mail center, the Disney Music Group, a screening room, various multipurpose rooms, and one of the three extant multiplane cameras (which is on display in the lobby). It was formerly home to Walt Disney Television, various management offices, and the human resources department. The Archives are located on the ground floor and are open to all cast members; they also have additional storage and restricted areas on other floors. The Studio's Starbucks Coffee shop is also located on the ground floor.
The former main building for Walt Disney Animation Studios was built and completed in 1940, based on a design by Kem Weber. It is considered the jewel of the original studio buildings. Walt Disney personally supervised the "double H" design, ensuring as many rooms as possible had windows, which allowed natural light into the building to help the animators while working. Many of the classic Disney animated features including Dumbo, Peter Pan, Cinderella and Lady and the Tramp were created and drawn here. Walt Disney had two offices within the building, known as his "formal" and "working offices". Walt's rooms continued to be used after his death in 1966, and personal items were archived in 1970, as it is believed that Walt would have wanted his offices to be reused. The rooms still include some original features and are still currently used by company officials.
Disney's Nine Old Men worked at the Animation Building, along with legendary animators and artists such as Eyvind Earle, Mary Blair, Andreas Deja, Floyd Norman, John Lasseter, Glen Keane, John Musker and Ron Clements. In 1985, production was moved from the Animation Building into a cluster of old hangars, warehouses, and trailers located about two miles east (3.2 km) in Glendale, at the former site of the Grand Central Airport. Prior to the opening of the Team Disney Burbank building in 1990, Disney executives used the Animation Building as corporate offices. In 1995, animation production moved back to Burbank across the street from the main studios with the opening of the Walt Disney Feature Animation Building. Today, the Animation Building is used primarily to house offices for various film and television producers who have distribution deals with Disney.
The Roy O. Disney building is located next to the animation building and held the office of Roy O. Disney to whom the building is dedicated. The building used to be the main administration building on the studio lot prior to the opening of the Team Disney - The Michael D. Eisner building. Today, it is home to Disney's legal department.
Stage 1 was completed between 1939 and 1940 and is the original Disney soundstage on the Burbank lot. The soundstage was designed to replace a smaller stage at the former Hyperion Avenue Studio. Although The Walt Disney Studios predominantly made animated films, the soundstage was built in order to film Leopold Stokowski's segments in the 1940 film Fantasia. During World War II, the stage was used for repairing army vehicles. The soundstage was formerly dedicated to Fantasia, for it being the first motion picture that was filmed in the building. The stage is the smallest on the lot at 11,000 sq ft. It features a 2400 sq ft underwater tank and is still in active use. On June 24, 2013, it was dedicated to Mousketeer Annette Funicello as it was the original shooting stage for The Mickey Mouse Club.
Constructed from 1947 and opening in April 1949, Stage 2 is the second oldest soundstage on the Walt Disney Studios lot, and at 31,000 feet (9,400 m), one of the largest in Los Angeles. It was built and financed between a joint agreement between Walt Disney and director Jack Webb, who used the stage for the filming of the television series Dragnet. In October 1955, Stage 2 began production on the first series of The Mickey Mouse Club. From 1954-1955 and prior to the opening of the facilities at Glendale California, WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) occupied soundstage 2 to build multiple attractions for Disneyland, including the Mark Twain Riverboat. Since then Stage 2 has been used for filming of multiple attractions for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. In 2001 the stage is dedicated to English actress and Disney Legend Julie Andrews, due to the filming of Mary Poppins and The Princess Diaries, which took place inside the soundstage. During the filming of Armageddon the filmmakers discovered the 40 feet high tall stage was not tall enough to hold one of the "asteroid" seen in the film. The floor was removed and an additional 20 feet was dug down to accommodate the 360 degree set for the scene.
Stage 3 was completed in 1953 and designed especially for the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The stage is 19,000 sq ft and contains an operational 3600 sq ft water tank that is divided into two parts for underwater and special effects filming.
The tank area was also used heavily beginning in the 1960s as Disney pioneered the use of the sodium screen process. In the 1970s stage 3 was equipped with the first computerized motion control system. The ACES (Animated Camera Effects System) was designed by Disney engineers and broke new ground with technology which has become one of the foundations of current special effects photography.
Stage 4, which was completed in 1958, was first used for Darby O'Gill and the Little People. Upon completing 30 years of service in 1998, Stage 4 was divided into two new television studios, creating the new Stage 4 and Stage 5. Stage 4 is known as the Home Improvement stage which was filmed here from 1991 to 1999.
Stages 6 and 7, built in 1997 are the newest soundstages at the Walt Disney Studios. These audience-rated stages provide comprehensive production support with computer-controlled access, high-volume air-conditioning, and adjoining production support building. They are built on the former back-lot and are located behind the Frank G. Wells Building. Both stages are 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) each and are in frequent use at the studios. Popular productions hare have included, My Wife and Kids, 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter, Geena, and Brothers and Sisters.
The Bungalow was built in 1935 as the original home of the Disney Publicity and Comic Strip Departments. It was constructed at the Disney Studios on Hyperion Avenue in Hollywood and moved to the Burbank location as part of the construction process in 1939-1940. At the Disney Burbank lot, the building housed many support services over the years. Payroll, Publicity Support, Traffic and finally the Post Office were located in the building. The structure is the last remaining example of the "California Bungalow" type architecture that remains from the Hyperion studio facility. Its attractive style and utility, dating back to the early years of the company, give it a special place in the history of the Disney lot.
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The Inking and Painting Building is where animators' drawings were inked onto transparent cels and then the cels were painted. It was built with a sophisticated central ventilation system to efficiently carry away toxic paint fumes and bring in fresh air so that "ink and paint" staff members would not be overcome by the fumes.
The Camera Building is where animation backgrounds and cels were traditionally photographed onto film.
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As noted above, in 1985, Disney Animation was moved out of the studio lot and into a cluster of old buildings in Glendale. During Michael D. Eisner's 1990 restructuring of The Walt Disney Company, the studio's animation division was spun off to officially create Walt Disney Feature Animation as a separate subsidiary of the company, and in 1995 it came back to Burbank when its new home opened.
The new studio is a colorful architectural landmark, adorned by a giant version of the Fantasia Sorcerer's hat, which once housed of the office of Roy E. Disney, former head of Walt Disney Feature Animation (now called Walt Disney Animation Studios). It also displays the word "ANIMATION" on giant letters on its south side to passerby on the Ventura Freeway.
In 2009, following the death of former Walt Disney Feature Animation Chairman, Roy E. Disney, the building was renamed and rededicated in his honor by The Walt Disney Company's president and CEO, Bob Iger.
After Disney's purchase of ABC in 1996, a new headquarters for the television network was constructed across Riverside Drive next to the Walt Disney Feature Animation Building. The ABC building was designed by Aldo Rossi and is connected to the lot by a blue serpentine bridge that crosses over Riverside Drive. The ABC building also houses the offices of other subsidiaries such as ABC Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
A two-story 17,000 square foot facility dedicated to post-production utilities and other, similar technical services. Opened in December 2012, the center is the home of Disney Digital Studio Services.
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