Once upon a time there was a man who was an inventor, an innovator and an imaginer. He loved to build things and draw things and just create things and it all started with a mouse. Yes you know who I’m talking about, I’m talking about the beloved Walt Disney. He was really getting into his career in Hollywood and needed a home to start a family, so he built his wife a house so they could have that family and watch them grow and make many memories. And I was lucky enough to get a tour of this fabulous home.
Built in the summer of 1932, Walt looked back to his own French/Norman roots and came up with a design that incorporated architectural elements from Medieval France, the Mediterranean and Tudor England, creating his own unique combination of architectural styles. 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). The finished house has a delightful and welcoming fairy tale look, perfect for raising a family – which is exactly what he and his wife did – and which features many design elements recognizable in Sleeping Beauty.
Some of the design choices Walt made that give the Woking Way home its thrilling “fairy tale” look include a Tudor influenced exterior, formal double-storied living room with vaulted dark beamed ceilings, wrought iron spandrels, original stained glass windows and a Juliet balcony similar to Sleeping Beauty’s castle design types.
The home’s grand rounded double-story entrance features a hand-painted ceiling and a classic winding staircase perfect for a princess to make a grand entrance. As with so much of his work with animators, Walt discovered a young graduate of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts among the Depression-era workers hired to help build the house. Walt challenged him to paint the ceiling of the rotunda, which resulted in a spectacular flourish to the setting that is still in excellent condition.
It’s really quite surreal to be in the house that Walt Disney built, I mean really it’s full of his creative touches. The family that lives there has it covered in Disney memorabilia so it really brings home who Walt was. We toured all the bed rooms, the room where his gym was and where they celebrated Christmas every year. Did you know, he even built the girls a little castle of their own and it had working water running to it. It’s amazing, and that morning that Santa delivered their new play house he called them and asked them if they loved their new castle.
You may be wondering why the house Walt Disney Built is now offering tours? In 1959, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was introduced to the world. Now Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is releasing both Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition (Oct 7) and Disney’s new version of the story, Maleficent (Nov 4), on Blu-ray. In celebration of the releases, WDSHE is hosting a tour of Walt Disney’s home on Woking Way in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood.
The home at Woking Way is currently occupied by Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov, best known in the United States for the films Night Watch (2004), its sequel Day Watch (2006), Wanted (2008), starring Maleficent’s Angelina Jolie, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012). Although none of the original Disney furniture remains in the home, Bekmambetov is committed to preserving the memory of its famed former resident by limiting remodeling work and filling it with assorted memorabilia celebrating Disney’s life and work. This memorabilia includes original Disney Studios artwork and historic photos of Walt Disney at home and at work. To Mr. Bekmambetov, “This is an iconic house. It should be treated like a museum.” Bekmambetov is the first resident since Walt Disney to open the home for private viewing and it has recently hosted events for the American Film Institute and Walt Disney Studios.
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