In a few days Saving Mr. Banks will hit theaters and a large part of the movie depicts Walt Disney at work at the Walt Disney studios. And I got the chance to tour the studio lot and watch Saving Mr. Banks right in Walt’s private theater during my visit to Los Angeles for the premiere of Frozen. Saving Mr. Banks is the story of Walt Disney’s journey to get the movie Mary Poppins made. The author of the Mary Poppins book, PL Travers didn’t really want to give Disney the rights to the book. But we all know how that turned out. The Walt Disney Studio lot holds a lot of storied history.
Fun Facts about the Studio:
The Annette Funicello Stage, Stage 1
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. 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.
The Julie Andrews Stage, Stage 2
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, one of the largest in Los Angeles. In 2001 the stage was 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 1960’s as Disney pioneered the use of the sodium screen process. In the 1970’s 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.
Stages 4 & 5
Studio 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 2 new Television studios, creating the new Stage 4 and Stage 5. Stage 4 is known as the Home Improvement stage which was filmed here 1991 – 1999.
Stages 6 & 7
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. Popular productions hare have included, My Wife and Kids, 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter, Geena and Brothers and Sisters.
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Disclosure: I took an all-expense paid trip to LA for the Disney Frozen event. All opinions are my own!