Check in is at the Guest Relations building as soon as you enter the park. I arrived early and was escorted to the lounge where they had coffee and water for the guests. There were some classics playing on the TV like “Steamboat Willie”, “Goofy’s Glider”, and “Susie the Little Blue Coupe”. All these clips will be a part of the tour in some way, so it was nice to know what we would be talking about for the day.
Our tour guide for the day was Heather, and she started us off at Buena Vista Street talking about all the little details that the Imagineers put into this area. Every name and number on the buildings had a story behind it! The Kingswell Camera Shop was named after Kingswell Avenue where Robert Disney, Walt’s Uncle, lived. Walt stayed with Robert when he first arrived to Los Angeles, and a couple years later, opened up the Disney Bros. Studio just a stones throw away on the same street.
Another building that or guide pointed out was he Atwater Ink and Paint building at 2719 Buena Vista Street. Atwater village was a regular hangout of Walt’s animators and the 2719 address is the location of the Walt Disney Studio after it moved from its location on Kingswell.
Elias and Co is an obvious nod to Walt’s father. What I didn’t know was that Walt was named after Elias’ good friend Walter Parr. The two gentlemen made a bet that if they had sons, they would name it after each other. As it turned out, both couples had boys, so we have one Walter Elias Disney, and Elias Walter Parr.
Next up was our visit to the very exclusive 1901 Lounge. Like I said earlier, we were not allowed to take pictures while inside, but the place is very well decorated to say the least. There are a lot of rare photographs of Walt Disney and his fellow artists that the public doesn’t get to see very often. There are plenty of rare memorabilia that are displayed on the shelves as well including a vintage Mickey Mouse plush that was one of the first ones to ever be manufactured! At the bar, there are 4 directors chairs with the names of Walt, Lillian, Roy, and Edna.
Outside the 1901 Lounge, our guide showed us arguably the smallest Hidden Mickey in the parks. It is on the ground just by the entrance to 1901. If you see anything smaller than this in any park, please let me know!
After the visit to 1901, our group walked over to Condor Flats and took a ride on Soarin’ Over California. If you have a choice, the best seats are the first row of carriage B. You will get to be front and center to this classic attraction!
Up next, we walked over to the Grizzly Peak area and our guide told us about how Walt loved the Sequoia National Forest. We were all very close to having an Alpine Village resort in the Mineral King area, until Walt passed away, and the plans were never revisited after that. There were plans of featuring audio-animatronic bears as stars of a show in this resort. Those ideas didn’t go to waste, as the Country Bear Jamboree entertained guests at Disneyland from 1972-2001, and continues to entertain guests at the Magic Kingdom in Florida. On a side note, you might be able to see remnants of the Country Bear Jamboree while riding The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Disneyland.
Our tour continued over to Cars Land where our guide told us about how this whole project came to be. Disney was already in the process of dedicating a whole Land to car culture and was about to call it Car Land before they even knew of Pixar’s latest work at the time. It wouldn’t take long to realize that a partnership would make a lot of sense! The rest, they say, is history. We were also told that “Susie the Little Blue Coupe” was the first time that a car was animated with the windshield as its eyes, and not the headlights. Lightning McQueen and all the characters in Cars have Susie to thank for that!
Our tour wouldn’t be complete with a VIP-style walk on to the most popular ride in the park, so we got to race down Radiator Springs in no time!
We walked through a Bug’s Land fairly quickly. I never noticed the only 4-leaf clover above our head.
This sign is a replica of what the Disney Studios sign looked like during the late 20s-early 30s. The building also has the identical paint scheme and window treatments to the studio.
At the original studios, Walt had the corner office on the 3rd floor. It is only fitting that on the 3rd story corner office of this building, there is a lamp that stays lit as a tribute to Walt Disney.
The day was getting pretty warm, so we had a nice break inside the Animation Studio and we had a chance to Draw Steamboat Willie. Oddly enough, my drawing did not make it out of the studio because they decided to frame it for all to see–or maybe I tossed it in the trash can, I don’t recall 😉
Our tour concluded at Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe where there was a table set aside for our group along with our lunches and our commemorative pin. Overall, I think the tour had something for everyone. The frequent visitors will likely find a couple of tidbits that they can impress their fellow Disney-nerds with (I’m talking about me here) and the theme park novices can get to experience the best attractions without waiting in line for a very long period of time. If you’re looking for a different way to experience the parks, give the Guided tours a try!
See you in the parks!
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