They’re Getting a Bit Goofy at Disneyland


The Walt Disney Co. unveiled its new Disneyland administration building Thursday, although the screaming yellow, cartoon-like structure had little trouble announcing its own presence.

“Must run on batteries,” quipped Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly, squinting as much from the building’s Dick Tracy yellow exterior as from the morning sun reflecting off its cockeyed, stucco walls with their undulating metal canopies.

The Frank Gehry-designed fun factory, dubbed Team Disney Anaheim and wedged between the Santa Ana Freeway and ToonTown on the edge of the park, is the latest in a series of whimsical buildings commissioned by Disney from some of the world’s most celebrated and controversial modern architects, including Gehry, Robert Stern, Michael Graves, Robert Venturi and Arata Isozaki.


Gehry said the double-edged design, with its wobbly, electric banana front facing the park and its dark, scaly, steel-encased backside bared to the Santa Ana Freeway, is his interpretation of the fun/scary world of animation.

While other architects have incorporated literal cartoon figures into their Disney designs, such as the Seven Dwarfs crowning Disney’s Burbank headquarters or the 85-foot Sorcerer’s Apprentice hat marking the entrance to the Burbank Animation Building, Gehry prefers the abstract. His Goofy, the signature character for the Team Disney Anaheim building, is little more than a splash of black swirls on the searing magenta walls of the atrium.

“I like to play off the note a bit,” said Gehry, who has designed several Disney projects, including Disney ICE in Anaheim and the Disney Entertainment Center at the Euro Disney Resort outside Paris. “I can’t do the literal stuff. This is my interpretation of a cartoon.”

The 295,000-square-foot building is the new home for Disneyland’s 1,200 administrative employees and support staff, who have for years been scattered throughout the park and in rented quarters off the Disney grounds.

Completion of the structure marks the first time that all administrative workers, including executives, finance staff, marketing personnel and human resources employees, will be located in one facility since the park opened in 1955.

“We’ll get more work done in the hallways than we did in the conference rooms,” said Disneyland President Paul Pressler, beaming in the yellow glow of his spacious new digs. “This finally brings it all together.”


The cartoon design notwithstanding, the building’s function is purely utilitarian, and rife with Gehry’s industrial interior signatures such as plywood, concrete and stainless steel. The four-level structure was built with the sight lines low enough so that it can’t be viewed from the park and won’t shatter the fantasy for Disneyland guests--as if they’d notice the difference.

“We’ve had people ask us if this is an extension of ToonTown and what the latest attraction is,” said Disneyland chief Pressler.

Although they won’t reveal the cost of the structure, Disney is renowned for keeping its pedigreed architects on a short leash when it comes to cost.

“We continually want to push the envelope with regard to architecture . . . while being financially responsible,” said Peter Rummell, president of Disney Design & Development, who came down from Los Angeles for the opening. “That combination is always the challenge.”

Architect Gehry preferred to put it another way.

“Cheap,” quipped the wry, bespectacled architect when asked about the purse strings for the project. “Toughest budget in history.”


Home of the Magic

Disneyland’s new headquarters, situated at the north end of the park, are a mix of fun and function:


Function: Disneyland administrative headquarters

Size: 295,000 square feet on 10 acres

Architect: Frank O. Gehry & Associates

Employees: 1,200

Features: Four-story atrium lobby, 200-seat auditorium, 400-seat employee cafeteria, 1,200-space parking structure

Source: Walt Disney Co.