Just tell ‘em that Walt sent you

It won’t be signed Willy Wonka, but there’s a new golden ticket going around.

For the first time in a decade, Disneyland has opened membership to its exclusive Club 33, the secretive, members-only restaurant hidden in New Orleans Square. Members will also be able to relax in a new private pad at Disney’s California Adventure: 1901, named for the year Walt Disney was born.

Disney officials announced that a limited number of memberships would be offered in honor of Club 33’s 45th anniversary and the completion of a major, five-year expansion project at California Adventure.

Less than 500 people are rumored to be on the Club 33 roster, and interest in membership grew to such staggering levels that, about a decade ago, even the waiting list was closed.

But now -- for an initial price tag of $25,000 and annual dues of $10,000 -- new members will once again have access to the New Orleans Square restaurant, get sneak peaks at new attractions and other perks.


They will also be able to attend the second members-only club, set to open June 15. The lounge, 1901, is described as a “warm, intimate space” featuring personal artwork and photographs of early animators, including some from Disney himself.

“Imagine it’s the 1930s, and this is where the animators would’ve hung out, swapped stories, doodled on napkins,” Ray Spencer of Walt Disney Imagineering told the DisneyParks blog. “This is the place Walt and the animators might’ve chatted, relaxed, unwound.”

The lounge is near the entrance of California Adventure on the bottom floor of the Carthay Circle Theatre, modeled after the theater that premiered “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937.

David Koenig, an author best known for his book “Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland,” wondered how the new space would fit into the storied history surrounding Club 33.

“They’re trying to create a second Club 33,” he said. “A Club 34.”

Disney envisioned Club 33 as a place to entertain investors and business associates, although it didn’t open until six months after his death in 1967. But a Disney dream was realized: Presidents, dignitaries and celebrities have all stepped through the door at 33 Royal St.

Rumors about Club 33 have long swirled on the Internet, as Disney die-hards and other hopefuls shared what they had learned about the almost mythical membership. Koenig worried that as the club expanded, some of the magic would fade.

“For me, it seemed very neat and special to have this one little club that nobody knew about,” he said. “We’re losing that a little bit.”

Officials declined to say how many people would be added to Club 33. For now, they said, 100 embossed invitations would be sent to those already on the 800-name waiting list.

Anyone interested in becoming a member can email for more information.