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Burbank’s history could be filmed by Disney


The Walt Disney Co. is celebrating its 80th anniversary, and over the

course of those eight decades the company has become a worldwide

household name.


There is an abundance of success that surrounds the company,

including theme parks, movies, television shows, merchandising and an

unmatched reputation of excellence. The company began with modest

resources, hard work and great imagination.


The company began modestly in 1923, when Walt Disney and his

brother, Roy, rented an office behind Holly-Vermont Realty in Los

Angeles for $10 a month. They began making Alice Comedies, which were

short animated films.

Their small office could not contain their success, and they moved

four months later to a larger neighboring building. There, they hung

up their sign of “Disney Bros. Studio,” and increased their



Once again, they outgrew their studio and purchased a lot on

Hyperion Avenue in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles. The

company grew over the next 14 years, and such timeless characters as

Mickey Mouse were created there in 1928, followed, of course, by the

rest of such Disney notables as Pluto, Goofy and Donald Duck.

The release of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937 would

bring great financial success to the company. Once again, Disney

found that its studio facility was not up to the challenge of


increasing the demand for its animation, so the search for a new

studio location began.

The search brought the company to Burbank, where the Disney

brothers purchased 51 acres of land. Construction of a new and modern

state-of-the-art facility was designed with Walt Disney personally

involved in all aspects of the project. The new studio would have all

the facilities right on the lot to accommodate the company’s


Like it did everybody else, World War II affected Disney Studios,

which put its creative juices in full force and contributed to the

war effort. Disney created insignias for the armed forces, and many

of these images appeared on airplanes, ships, tanks and other armored

vehicles. The creation of the insignias was a morale booster for the

troops and included such images as Donald Duck as a medical corpsman

carrying blood plasma on his rifle. Once the war was over, full

attention could be given to the production of some of Disney’s finest


The 1940s and ‘50s featured some of the greatest animated features

in Disney’s history, including such timeless classics as “Fantasia,”

“Bambi,” “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan.” The

commercial success of most of these productions afforded Disney great

opportunities to expand.

The ‘50s featured continued expansion of the Burbank facility that

included soundstages for the filming of such movies as “20,000

Leagues Under the Sea” and such popular television shows as the

“Mickey Mouse Club.” Perhaps the greatest achievement of the 1950s

for the company was the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim.

While Disneyland was a popular attraction, the company maintained

and expanded its presence in Burbank. By the 1960s, the company was

in full swing, producing animated movies, television shows and, of

course, expanding Disneyland.

The growth of the company continued, albeit sometimes at a slower

pace. By the late 1970s and early 1980s the creative edge that gave

Disney an advantage for so long was coming under attack from other

studios. But by the mid-1980s, Disney changed management, and before

long recaptured the magic and began making animations, movies and

television shows that once again dominated the industry.

Disney’s commitment to making Burbank its home was only solidified

by a major expansion of new corporate headquarters with,

appropriately enough, the Seven Dwarfs supporting the pediment, since

the profits for Snow White were used to purchase the property. Other

expansion included an animation building and occupying more office

space so that there was sufficient room to create more magic.

To celebrate its 80th birthday, the Walt Disney Co. provided the

Burbank Historical Society with a new exhibit showcasing its history.

Once the museum is opened after expansion, people can see the history

of Disney and its role in shaping Burbank.

* CRAIG BULLOCK is the chairman of the Burbank Heritage

Commission. Reach him at