Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Pausing at the intersection of Mickey Ave. and Dopey Drive – which doubles as Pluto’s Corner – it’s evident that The Walt Disney Studios isn’t merely a place where movies are made. To many, it’s hallowed ground. To be able to walk among the buildings where so much creativity has been flourishing and where so much of the cultural zeitgeist has been forged for generations is a wonderful and rare treat.

But not that rare. You too could stroll down Mickey Ave. and ogle the history-making studios.

Unlike Universal, Warner Bros., and other movie lots, The Walt Disney Company does not offer regular public tours of its studios. But there are two ways you could make it past the gates. As part of its Southern California itinerary, Adventures by Disney takes vacationers to the Burbank lot for a guided visit. Or, premium members of Disney’s official D23 fan club can sign up for exclusive studio tours, which the club presents a few times a year.

Jeffrey Epstein, director of corporate communications at Disney and D23 overseer, took me on a modified version of the club’s two-and-a-half-hour tour. On the day I visited, there didn’t appear to be any major production activity, and the lot seemed fairly hushed. But the nostalgia-tinged grounds screamed at every turn. “So many of the things you see here on the studio lot are icons in their own right,” Epstein says.

The Burbank lot, which dates back to 1940, is not Disney’s original studio. (Walt Disney arrived in Hollywood in 1923, hence the name of the fan club.) The company moved remnants of its earlier Hyperion Studio, where Mickey Mouse took shape and the world’s first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was produced, to the current spot where they remain to this day. Those remnants include a production bungalow and a building identified as “Shorts,” which refers to the animated shorts that were once Disney’s stock in trade.

The animation building is among the highlights of the tour. This is where many of the company’s legendary films, starting with Dumbo, were crafted. The walls are lined with storyboards, model sheets, and other reminders of movies such as Lady and the…