I was invited to tour the Walt Disney Studios lot as part of the Frozen press trip last month (an expense-paid trip). All opinions and thoughts are my own.
“Wind’s in the east, mist comin’ in.
Like something is brewin’ about to begin
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store
But I feel what’s to happen, all happened before.”
—Bert in “Mary Poppins”
Disneyland is called the most magical place on earth…and I would have to agree. But there was something equally – but differently – magical about being on the Walt Disney Studios lot.
Stepping onto the Walt Disney Studios lot was like stepping back in time. As we toured the different sound stages and office buildings where so much magic has happened over the last 70+ years, I couldn’t help but imagine all of the people who have walked those same paths.
I went on my tour of the Studios the day after seeing Saving Mr. Banks and was impressed with all that I was able to recognize from the movie. My experience was enhanced tremendously when I saw Saving Mr. Banks again last night. The magic that I felt when I was walking through the Studio lot was because of all the magic that has happened there.
I walked where Walt Disney walked. I saw the studio doors that Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke entered to film Mary Poppins. I saw the patch of grass outside Walt Disney’s offices where Emma Thompson sat and made a bandstand and lake out of twigs and leaves and a cup of tea (one of my favorite scenes in Saving Mr. Banks!).
Have I mentioned that it was a magical place?
Fun Facts about Mary Poppins and Saving Mr. Banks
…as related to my tour of the Walt Disney Studios Lot!
- “Saving Mr. Banks” filmed entirely in the Los Angeles area, with key locations that included Disneyland in Anaheim, TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly called Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) in Hollywood (where the 1964 premiere of “Mary Poppins” took place), the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank (which opened in 1940 and where the 1964 movie filmed in its entirety) and the 10,000 acre Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley (which doubled for the film’s early 20th-century Australian landscape).
- “Saving Mr. Banks” was only the third feature film to ever shoot scenes at Disneyland. The last feature to film at the park was Tom Hanks’ directorial debut, “That Thing You Do,” with only one other film before that to shoot inside the 58-year-old theme park—Norman Jewison’s 1962 directorial debut, “40 Pounds of Trouble.”
- The Walt Disney Studios’ lot is home to one of Los Angeles’ largest sound stages (Stage 2), now christened the “Julie Andrews Stage” because the 31,200 square foot building housed much of the filming of “Mary Poppins” in 1963.
- As the 150 or so cast-and-crew members gathered around when production wound down in the Rehearsal Studio set, Richard Sherman, unbeknownst to most everyone gathered, took a seat at the piano and began playing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” asking everyone there to join in a sing-a-long. Instantaneously, dozens grabbed their cell phones and began recording this spontaneous music video—a once-in-a-lifetime moment in the presence of a living legend.
- In order to visually recreate the Disney Studio lot, Disneyland® Park, and the “Mary Poppins” premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre as they appeared in the early 1960s, the “Saving Mr. Banks” production team examined more than 500 photographs from the Disney Photo Library collection (part of the Walt Disney Archives), including images of Studio building hallways and offices, Disneyland storefront windows and aerial photography.
- The “Saving Mr. Banks” art department was invited to “D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum,” where Walt Disney’s actual formal office furnishings were on display. The art department team measured and photographed original objects and furniture pieces from the office for reproduction, including Walt Disney’s desk, side tables and shelf units. The Archives staff even provided era-appropriate signage from the Disney Studio’s Animation Building, which the art department referenced when recreating the building hallways.
And, just for fun, here is the cast of Saving Mr. Banks, including Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, on these same steps this week for the premiere!
Buy Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition DVD/Blu-ray today, and be sure to make a date to see Saving Mr. Banks in theaters, opening in select areas 12/13/13 and nation-wide on 12/20/13. My Saving Mr. Banks review is coming shortly!
Note: Fun facts provided by Disney. Many thanks to our tour guide, Jeffrey Epstein, who showed us around and filled our minds with lots of fun information! More than I could remember on my feet, for sure!
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