It’s a Native American encampment far from civilization and you’re eager to find a way back home. Have no fear, because I can have you back home in no time at all. Simply head over the hill and you’ll find yourself on Alameda Avenue in Burbank California.
Welcome to the Walt Disney Studios, boys and girls. Believe it or not, this was my view from the Animation Building on the Walt Disney Studio lot back in the nineteen fifties. You see, back then, much of the Burbank lot was an actual working motion picture studio and many of the films were shot here on the Disney studio lot. It was not unusual to see a western fort, a snow covered mountain or an Irish village right here on the Burbank property. The studio back lot was pretty much a blank canvas, and the Disney art directors could create any environment needed for a new motion picture. As you can imagine, we shot a fair number of westerns, prairie dramas, and cowboy movies, and all of this happened in view of the Animation Building where we were busily putting the finishing touches on Sleeping Beauty.
Filmmaking continued on the Disney Studio lot into the sixties when we were joined by Sean Connery and Janet Munro in a little film called Darby O’Gill and the Little People. Soon, we’d have the streets and rooftops of London as Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke arrived to film Mary Poppins. As needed, the amazing Burbank lot would be transformed to be any place in the world it needed to be. It was all movie magic and we enjoyed every minute of it. You might think it odd, but dinosaurs roamed the Disney back lot and beautiful native girls swam in a tropical lagoon. This was the kind of thing we experienced on a day to day basis, and I can tell you we had our fair share of fun working at Walt’s movie studio.
The Walt Disney Studio is not that much fun today. The magical back lot has been replaced by several nondescript office buildings and functional parking lots. Even though all this is practical from a business point of view, I gotta tell you for certain that the magic we experienced many years ago is now a distant memory.