You know a lot about Disney, Hollywood’s most renowned dream machine. But try naming a few facts about Walt, the man behind it all. Drawing a blank? The folks at his eponymous empire won’t blame you.
John Lee Hancock’s new film Saving Mr. Banks, a backstage tale of Walt Disney’s extraordinary efforts to produce Mary Poppins, is the studio’s first ever depiction of the twinkly-eyed Mouse House magnate, played by Tom Hanks. It’s a big move for a company that’s built such an immaculate image of its creator that, as Disney biographer Neal Gabler points out, “as least one generation of individuals has no idea of Walt as a real person.”
So it may or may not be surprising that a piece of Disney’s private life—an entire apartment, in plain view above the firehouse at Disneyland—has gone largely unnoticed by swarms of visitors. On the inside, it remains mostly untouched
Built as a personal space for Disney to stay, the pied-à-terre became his private retreat whenever he visited the park and a refuge of sorts for his wife, daughters and grandchildren—few else were allowed up. To this day it’s not open to the public, but the space still echoes the Victorian vibe of Main Street below, with touches including a parlor modeled after a turn-of-the-century home. Original antiques like an Edison phonograph and a Regina music box are scattered throughout. The decorator? Emile Kuri, who would later earn an Academy Award nomination for his set design on Mary Poppins. Would Walt have it any other way?
Click on the gallery above for a rare look into Disney’s apartment.