I Toured Disney's Exclusive LA Animation Studio & Here's What It's Like Behind The Scenes (VIDEO)

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A man smiling in front of Mickey Mouse. Right: A statue of Mirabel from Disney's Encanto.

Josh Elliott at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Right: A life-sized statue of Mirabel from Disney's Encanto.

Josh Elliott | Narcity, Josh Elliott | Narcity

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Wish celebrates 100 years of Disney animated films, and I got a chance to actually see where many of those films were made during a recent trip to Los Angeles.

I visited Disney's actual animation studio as part of a press junket for Wish, and while I had a blast interviewing Chris Pine, Ariana DeBose and all the behind-the-scenes folks who made the film, I was also blown away to see the studio itself.

Walt Disney Animation Studios is just one of several buildings on the Disney studio lot in Burbank, California, but it’s not one you can easily visit. Everyone who passes through the Mickey Mouse-eared gates of the compound must show photo ID just to get a pass, and you need someone to let you into the animation building itself.

However, once you’re inside, it’s like stepping into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory — if Wonka made animated movies instead of candy.


I had so much fun visiting Walt Disney Animation Studios for the #wish press junket! Here’s a look inside. #disney #disneymovie #wishmovie #chrispine #arianadebose

The entryway features several 10-foot screens showcasing various animated Disney characters, and while the multi-floor building can feel like a bit of a maze, it’s also a gigantic tribute to everything Disney has made.

Each hallway features life-sized statues of Disney characters, giant murals, framed concept art and stills from various Disney films. All of it is organized by movie, so you might pass the Frozen hallway on the way to some artists’ cubicles, stop at the Wreck-It Ralph corridor to play a working arcade game or walk by a gigantic painting from Moana on your way to the voiceover booth where actors record their lines.

As for that voiceover booth, I got a chance to try dubbing a character from Wish and it’s not as easy as it looks. You step into a soundproofed room, put on some headphones and then read your script into a mic while watching the animation play out on a screen. All the while you’re being watched by several members of the crew through a giant window pane, and they will coach you through your takes while you try to nail the right delivery. Pace, enthusiasm and pronunciation are key, so you really have to be on just to deliver one successful take.

At the heart of the building is the animation studio’s common room, which had been done up with all kinds of artistic touches to pay tribute to Wish. There were glowing blue “wish” orbs floating over a table, giant paintings of Asha and Magnifico by the doors and an enormous statue of Star, the film’s adorable sidekick, watching over the room from under a stairway. An alcove off to one side had been turned into a display for Wish swag, from clothing to dolls to plushies.

Josh Elliott | Narcity

Another cozy section had been done up as a mini living room, with a bookcase full of Disney content and a TV running trailers for Wish.

The common room also serves as a cafeteria for staff. Coffee and cereal are available all day in a kitchen area part of the room, but there were also catered meals available throughout the day. Additionally, the room had its own in-house coffee bar with baristas just waiting to whip up delicious brews.

I was always accompanied by a Disney escort while I was in the building, and they must've been careful because I never stumbled upon any sketches for the next big Disney film.

However, I did enjoy combing over a sketch wall that I found in one part of the studio. The sketches appeared to be just for fun and featured all sorts of animated characters from pop culture, both Disney and non-Disney. I doubt any of them will end up in a feature film one day, but it was simply cool to see what artists draw to entertain themselves and each other.

Sketches of various cartoon characters on a corkboard.Off-brand artist sketches on the wall inside Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California. Josh Elliott | Narcity

Disney staff also set up one of their conference rooms to show us some of the original artwork they've got on file in their archives. They showed us animation stills, concept art and decades-old sketches from Disney films such as Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio, all of which were used to come up with the look of Wish.

While I spent most of my time at the animation studio, I did also get to see a few other magical parts of the Disney lot.

Disney screened Wish for the press on the night before the junket, and so we were shuttled over to the studio after dark.

The place was quiet but there was no missing the Art Deco signage or the dramatic Disney touches to the architecture, including stone carvings of the Seven Dwarfs on one building.

A Walt Disney Studios building with carved statues of the Seven Dwarfs holding up the structure.Josh Elliott | Narcity

We were escorted to Disney's Frank G. Wells building for the screening, where we walked past the actual Disney archives and a display showing how they filmed animation slides for Robin Hood.

Cameras and lights surround an animation slide depicting characters from a Disney film.Josh Elliott | Narcity

I also got a mini thrill on our way out when I looked up and spotted Iron Man's armour on display outside the Marvel Studios offices, which are on the second floor of the building.

An image of zombie Iron Man and a mannequin of Iron Man's MK I armour as seen through a window at Marvel Studios.Josh Elliott | Narcity

The other major highlight of my Disney visit was a tour of Walt Disney's actual offices. The tours are extremely exclusive and limited only to special invites or paying members of Disney's D23 fan club, so it's something your average visitor would never get to see.

Disney's "office" was actually a series of connected offices that he occupied for decades right up until the end of his life. The rooms included two chair-and-desk office spaces for himself, another for his secretary, a mini kitchen that he could hide away with the push of a button and an additional room that might've been more of a living space. Several of his Oscar and Grammy awards were also on display.

Josh Elliott | Narcity

Our guide told us that the office was handed over to Disney's successors after he died. However, someone meticulously catalogued the whole area and then packed up all of Disney things to preserve them. Years later, the office was restored to look exactly as it did on Walt Disney's last day at work, right down to the order of books in the bookcases. You can even see a yellow notepad on his desk where he wrote Kurt Russell's name with a question mark, apparently because he thought the kid might be an up-and-comer in Hollywood.

A desk with three chairs surrounded by documents and miniatures in the office of Walt Disney.Josh Elliott | Narcity

The office was full of interesting little details that spoke to the man's interests, including dozens of cartoon miniatures, a model of Disney's private jet, a Mickey Mouse-ified Oscar called a "Mousker" and a piano where he'd get someone to play Mary Poppins songs to him each morning.

A couch, coffee table, piano and bookcase full of books.Josh Elliott | Narcity

One wall featured aerial photos of Disneyland in its early days, alongside plans for the so-called "Florida Project" that would go on to become Walt Disney World.

Maps showing plans for Disney World and Walt Disney Land.Josh Elliott | Narcity

Simply put, my visit to Walt Disney Animation Studios was incredible. Disney clearly takes its own history seriously and you can see it everywhere you look, whether you're interested in the animated movies or the man himself.

If you ever get a chance to see the studio for yourself, say yes!