I had rare the opportunity last week to take a private tour of Walt Disney’s home at Woking Way while I was in Los Angeles for the #VeryBadDayEvent and #DisneyInHomeEvent press trip. Travel and accommodations were covered, but all thoughts are my own. Photos within this post are courtesy of Disney.
I have been a fan of Walt Disney for as long as I can remember, but I was not prepared for the emotional and deeply touching experience I had as I walked through the home that he built for his family. Although the Disney family moved from this Woking Way home in 1950, after which time the home passed through a series of other owners, I could sense something special as soon as I stepped through the doors and entered the foyer, which is recognized immediately from this iconic photo of Walt.
The other thing that struck me as I walked through the house – I felt a sense of “home” in those halls, perhaps because there was something there that reminded me of my grandparent’s old home. But I could also picture Walt Disney, his wife, Lily, and their two daughters, Diane and Sharon, laughing and playing, dreaming and LIVING there. It was a house with character, big but not overly pretentious. Comfortable and livable. A home, not just a house.
While we walked through the Disney estate, we had the privilege of getting a special glimpse into the daily life of the Disneys during the time that they lived there (1932-1950) from Disney historian Paula Sigman Lowery. She showed us pictures of the Disney family enjoying their home, told us stories from their lives there, and pointed out fun facts and special touches throughout the house.
Built in the summer of 1932 (in just a couple of months), Walt 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 finished house has a delightful and welcoming fairy tale look, perfect for raising a family.
Diane Disney named the Juliet balcony on the second level “Christmas Tree Point.” On Christmas morning, she and sister Sharon would peer out from here to get their first glimpse of the decorated tree and presents below.
A look into the dining room, which features wood beam ceilings and original ceiling murals with images of sea-dragons and other fantastical, Disney-esque creatures. Fun Fact! A man of simple pleasures, Walt’s favorite meal was canned beans.
Still intact, the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-style playhouse was a Christmas gift from “Santa” to Diane and Sharon and was designed to match the house. It originally included a sink, kitchen, table and chairs. The original corner shelf for play dishes still exists inside.
Fun Fact! When first built, the Playhouse included a working phone, on which the girls received a call from “Santa” asking how they liked it! The pool is a later addition to the back yard and was not right next to the kids’ playhouse when they were growing up.
At night, Walt would read to the girls in their bedrooms. On occasion, Walt caught Diane giggling in bed while reading “The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” and “Mary Poppins” alone. Her enjoyment of these books inspired him to acquire both properties and turn them into feature films. So many ideas for classic Disney movies and stories were born right here, including Sleeping Beauty.
According to his daughter Diane, Walt would chase the girls around the house, cackling like the wicked witch in Snow White, or twirl them endlessly by their heels.
Despite what is shown in this picture below, the Disney home was largely devoid of Disney merchandise. Walt once told an interviewer he deliberately kept Disney products out of his house because “I’ve lived with it too much and I just didn’t want to live with it at home.”
It was fun to see so much Disney art and memorabilia added by the current owners, though, who have a deep appreciation for all things Disney.
I could go on and on sharing fun facts about the home Walt built for his family – it was so fascinating to take a walk through history and “see” Walt Disney in such a personal, intimate level. What stood out to you the most in this virtual tour?
Many thanks to the current owners of the Woking Way home, who graciously opened their home to our visit in honor of the release of Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition (coming to Blu-ray/DVD Oct 7) and Disney’s new version of the Sleeping Beauty story, Maleficent (coming to Blu-ray/DVD Nov 4).
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