Walt Disney's Los Angeles

Celebrate the centennial of Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney with his four Oscars at the 26th Academy Awards
Walt Disney with his four Oscars at the 26th Academy Awards | Photo: The Academy, Facebook

On Oct. 16, 1923, 21-year-old Walt Disney signed a contract with New York based distributor Margaret J. Winkler to produce a series of Alice Comedies films. That was the date that Walt and his 30-year-old brother Roy O. Disney founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in Los Feliz. Today the Walt Disney Company is a global media and entertainment colossus headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.

Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago on Dec. 5, 1901. In July 1923 Walt moved to Los Angeles, where Roy was convalescing from tuberculosis. According to Disney lore, Walt arrived in LA with just $40 and a tattered suitcase.

Walt Disney lived in Los Angeles for 43 years, from the summer of '23 till his death in 1966. It was in LA where Mickey Mouse was born; where Disney made movie history with the first feature-length animated film (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs); where he met his wife Lillian and they raised their daughters, Diane and Sharon.

Disney is widely regarded as a towering figure of the 20th century, a beloved national treasure and a cultural icon with a legacy that spans generations.

From historic movie studios to cultural attractions and favorite restaurants, read on for a guide to key Los Angeles locations in the extraordinary life of Walt Disney.

Site of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio on Kingswell Avenue
Site of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio on Kingswell Ave | Instagram: @robertskran


After founding the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, Walt and Roy set up shop in the back of a real estate office at 4651 Kingswell Ave. in Los Feliz. With money from the Alice Comedies starting to come in, they were able to take over the adjacent space, 4649 Kingswell Ave, and the nascent studio had its first proper location.

Lillian Bounds started working at the Kingswell Studio in January 1924 as a secretary and animation cel inker - she and Walt were married a year and a half later. When Walt showed her a new character named "Mortimer Mouse" in 1928, Lillian famously suggested "Mickey" instead and the rest is history. Today the real estate office and original studio are the Kingswell skate shop and Extra Copy, respectively.

Walt Disney Hyperion Studio
Walt Disney Hyperion Studio | Photo: LAPL

In January 1926, the brothers moved their studio to a new location at 2719 Hyperion Ave. and the company was renamed the Walt Disney Studio. During the Hyperion Studio era, Mickey Mouse made his debut in Steamboat Willie (1928) and Disney released the first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

Thanks to the financial success of Snow White, Disney was able to put a $10,000 deposit on a 51-acre parcel of land in Burbank to build a state-of-the-art animation studio. Pinocchio and Fantasia were already in production, so the studio needed to expand - the move to Burbank was completed in 1940. A few buildings from the Hyperion Studio were relocated to the new facility, but the rest of the complex was sold and later razed in 1966. All that's left is a Gelson's and a marker that designates the site as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 163.

Disney Legends Plaza and the Michael D. Eisner Building at Walt Disney Studios
Disney Legends Plaza and the Michael D. Eisner Building | Photo: Walt Disney Studios
Walt Disney's office at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank
Walt Disney's office | Instagram: @kryptonlogic

Acclaimed Mid-Century architect Kem Weber designed the Walt Disney Studios original buildings and custom furniture, including the famed Animator's Desk (see Academy Museum below). Weber's Streamline Moderne design for the Burbank lot's Animation Building is regarded as the crown jewel - Disney insisted on as many windows as possible to allow natural light for the animators. Numerous Disney classics were drawn here, including Dumbo, Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Jungle Book.

Built in 1990, the Michael D. Eisner Building (formerly Team Disney) is the studio's main building and Disney's corporate HQ. The whimsical Michael Graves design is best known for the caryatid-style Seven Dwarfs holding up the roof. The terracotta statues are 19 feet tall, except for the two-thirds sized Dopey. The building faces Disney Legends Plaza, which features a copy of the Partners statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse designed by Imagineer Blaine Gibson.

The official fan club of the Walt Disney Company, D23 hosts a 2.5-hour walking tour of the Walt Disney Studios for members. The bucket list experience includes a visit to Walt Disney’s office suite, the Walt Disney Archives, and Legends Plaza. Weekend tours offer a glimpse of the Animator’s office exhibit that's only open on Saturdays for D23. Guests can also shop at the Disney Studio Store and Employee Center and purchase items that are only available on the studio lot.

Walt Disney with his four Oscars at the 26th Academy Awards
Walt Disney with his four Oscars at the 26th Academy Awards | Photo: The Academy, Facebook
Shirley Temple presents Walt Disney with an Honorary Oscar at the 11th Academy Awards
Shirley Temple presents Walt Disney with an Honorary Oscar at the 11th Academy Awards | Photo: The Academy, Facebook

Academy Awards

Walt Disney received 59 Academy Award nominations and won 22 competitive awards - both totals are records. Retracing Disney's Oscar wins will take fans to some of LA's most famous and historic Academy Awards venues.

At the 5th Academy Awards in 1932, Disney won his first Oscar for Flowers and Trees, in the new category Short Subjects, Cartoons (now known as Best Animated Short Film). He also received an Honorary Oscar for the creation of Mickey Mouse. The following year, The Three Little Pigs likewise won Short Subjects, Cartoons. Both ceremonies were held at the now-demolished Ambassador Hotel.

Millennium Biltmore - Disney continued to dominate the animated short category after the ceremony moved to the landmark Millennium Biltmore, which is celebrating its centennial in 2023.

  • The Tortoise and the Hare (7th Academy Awards)
  • Three Orphan Kittens (8th)
  • The Country Cousin (9th)
  • The Old Mill (10th)
  • Ferdinand the Bull (11th)

Disney received an Honorary Oscar at the 11th Academy Awards "for creating Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, recognized as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field for the motion picture cartoon." The special award features an Oscar statuette and seven miniature statuettes (representing the Seven Dwarfs) on a stepped base.

TCL Chinese Theatre - One of LA's grandest movie palaces, the TCL Chinese Theatre (then known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre) hosted the 16th, 17th and 18th Academy Awards. Disney animated shorts were nominated at all three ceremonies but didn't take home the Oscar. The world premiere of Mary Poppins was held at the Chinese on Aug. 27, 1964. Mary Poppins was nominated for 13 Oscars and took home five: Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song ("Chim Chim Cher-ee").

Pantages Theatre - The Oscars were held at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood from 1950-60. Disney added to his collection with ten more wins. At the 26th Academy Awards, Disney was nominated in four categories and won them all: Best Short Subject (Cartoon), Best Short Subject (Two-reel), Best Documentary (Feature) and Best Documentary (Short Subject).

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion - Disney won his final Oscar at the 41st Academy Awards, a posthumous win for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.

Frank Thomas Animator's Desk at the Academy Museum
Frank Thomas Animator's Desk | Photo: Michele Stueven, Academy Museum

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Opened in September 2021, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures houses more than 13 million objects in a 300,000 square-foot campus designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano.

Disney fans will enjoy Inventing Worlds and Characters: Animation. Models, puppets and maquettes of beloved characters are displayed along with illustrations, designs and other materials that give insight into the animation creative process. One highlight is an Animator's Desk designed by Kem Weber (see Walt Disney Studios above) and used by Frank Thomas, one of Disney's legendary "Nine Old Men." The gallery features Disney/Pixar films such as Pinocchio (1940), Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Little Mermaid (1989), Up (2009) and more.

The museum hosts screenings and panels that often feature Disney films, such as the ongoing Family Matinees series and a recent screening of One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) that was preceded by a Q&A with animator Tom Sito (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas), Lisa Davis (the voice of Anita Radcliffe) and animator Floyd Norman (Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book).

Mickey & Minnie Snowtacular Show at the El Capitan Theatre
Mickey & Minnie Snowtacular Show | Photo: El Capitan Theatre
Dancers perform at the U.S. premiere of "Coco" at El Capitan Theatre
U.S. premiere of "Coco" at El Capitan Theatre | Photo: "Coco," Facebook

El Capitan Theatre

Opened as a playhouse in 1926, the El Capitan Theatre has been Disney’s cinematic home on Hollywood Boulevard since the premiere of The Rocketeer in 1991. With Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar all under the Disney umbrella, premieres have spanned a wide range of genres and movie universes. Along with early showings of the latest releases and special fan events, the El Capitan also presents Sensory Inclusive and Open Caption screenings. Pre-movie stage shows and memorabilia exhibits will often accompany select movies and holiday themed series.

Walt Disney's Storybook Mansion in Los Feliz
Walt Disney's Storybook Mansion | Photo: Joel Danto, TheLuxLevel
Home theater at Walt Disney's Storybook Mansion in Los Feliz
Home theater at Walt Disney's Storybook Mansion | Photo: Joel Danto, TheLuxLevel

Storybook Mansion

In 1932 the Disneys moved into what's now known as the Storybook Mansion - a 6,400 square-foot house at 4053 Woking Way in the Los Feliz hills. The couple soon welcomed two daughters - Diane was born in 1933, and they adopted Sharon in 1936. The family's time at Woking Way coincided with an astounding run of theatrical releases for the Walt Disney Studio - the "Golden Age of Animation" between Snow White (1937) and Bambi (1942).

Designed by Frank Crowhurst, the four-bedroom, five-bathroom estate features views of the LA skyline, a two-story living room, 10-car garage and a miniature playhouse for the daughters. Walt watched dailies of his productions in the home theater on the first floor. The Disneys lived at Woking Way until 1950, when they moved to Holmby Hills (see Walt's Barn below).

The current owner is filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov, who occasionally opens the Storybook Mansion for public tours. Follow Walt Disney’s Storybook Mansion on Facebook for upcoming events.

Snow White Cottages in Los Feliz
Snow White Cottages | Instagram: @borka_warriorka
Tower at the Snow White Cottages in Los Feliz
Courtyard of the Snow White Cottages | Instagram: @tbarneck

Snow White Cottages

Designed in the Storybook style by Ben Sherwood in 1931, the Snow White Cottages is an eight-unit complex located at 2900 Griffith Park Blvd. a few blocks from the site of the Hyperion Studio. The 700 square-foot, one-bedroom cottages are backed by a tower that overlooks the central courtyard. Along with the Tam O'Shanter, it's easy to picture how the cottages influenced the design of the Cottage of the Seven Dwarfs in Snow White. The Snow White Cottages appeared as the Sierra Bonita apartments in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001).

In his Ask Chris column, local historian Chris Nichols spoke with Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, who confirmed that cottage residents included director Hamilton Luske (Pinocchio, Fantasia, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Mary Poppins), animator Dick Lundy (Snow White, numerous shorts), animator Fred Moore (Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland) and writer Lee Morehouse.

The Eastsider noted that art director Claude Coats (Snow White, Dumbo, Lady and the Tramp) and his wife Evelyn also lived in a cottage.

Mickey Mouse painting at the Tam O'Shanter
Painting by Chris Turner | Instagram: @waltdisneyimagineering
Caricature of Lawrence Frank at the Tam O'Shanter
Caricature of Lawrence Frank at the Tam | Instagram: @nieyaqin39

Tam O'Shanter

Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp opened Montgomery's Country Inn in June 1922 along a dirt road that's now Los Feliz Boulevard. In 1925, the eatery was renamed Tam O'Shanter after a Robert Burns poem. The brothers-in-law would later open Lawry's The Prime Rib on La Cienega in 1938.

The Tam O'Shanter was designed in the Storybook style by Harry Oliver, an Oscar-nominated art director who also designed the Spadena House (aka "The Witch's House") in Beverly Hills. During the 1920s, the Tam was a hangout for Hollywood legends like Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford,  Douglas Fairbanks,  Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson and many others.

With the Hyperion Studio only a couple of miles away, Walt Disney and his staff became regulars at the Tam - so much so, it became known as "the Disney Studio Commissary." Fans know that Table 31 (near the fireplace) was the favorite of the Disney crew, as commemorated by a plaque and a signature Table 31 cocktail with High West Double Rye. Disney himself was reportedly fond of the patio, which reopened in 2018 after a long hiatus.

In October 2022, Imagineer and Executive Creative Designer, Chris Turner presented an original painting to the Tam that celebrates the restaurant's centennial and its long relationship with Disney. The piece was inspired by the Tam's unique interior, including the staff’s signature tartan uniforms. A caricature of Lawrence Frank in full Scottish regalia - created by Imagineer John Hench and signed by Disney in 1958 - is displayed in the reception area.

Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn in Griffith Park
Photo: Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn, Facebook
Walt Disney and the Carolwood Pacific Railroad
Walt Disney and the Carolwood Pacific Railroad | Photo: Metrolink

Walt's Barn

In 1950, the Disneys moved to 355 N. Carolwood Dr. in the affluent Holmby Hills neighborhood. A lifelong train enthusiast, Walt built the Carolwood Pacific Railroad (CPRR), a rideable 1:8 miniature railroad that circumnavigated the estate. The live steam locomotive was built by the Walt Disney Studio machine shop and named the Lilly Belle after his wife. Walt himself built the caboose.

Disney ran the CPRR for family and friends, and even welcomed visitors to ride and occasionally drive the train. A charter member of the Los Angeles Live Steamers, Walt donated 1,500 feet of CPRR track to the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Griffith Park. After Walt's death, Lillian donated the rest of the track to the museum.

The CPRR control center was a red barn inspired by a similar barn at Disney's family farm in Missouri. In July 1999, the barn was relocated to the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum.

Operated today by the Carolwood Foundation, Walt’s Barn is a family-friendly museum that boasts a collection of Disney’s tools, train equipment, miniature train depots and more. Walt's Barn is generally open on the third Sunday of the month from 11am to 3pm. For updated info, visit the Walt's Barn Facebook page.

Walt Disney Concert Hall at sunset
Walt Disney Concert Hall at sunset | Photo: The Music Center
"A Rose for Lilly" at Walt Disney Concert Hall
"A Rose for Lilly" at Walt Disney Concert Hall  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall became a Los Angeles icon the moment it opened its doors to the public in October 2003. Located on Grand Avenue in Downtown LA, the concert hall seats over 2,200 people and is home to the LA Phil and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, with acoustics by Yasuhisa Toyota, Walt Disney Concert Hall has received worldwide critical acclaim and praise from concertgoers for its stunning architecture and extraordinary sound.

The rooftop Blue Ribbon Garden is filled with lush landscaping that blooms throughout the year. One of the garden’s highlights is A Rose for Lilly - the Frank Gehry-designed fountain is a tribute to the late Lillian Disney and her love for Royal Delft porcelain vases and roses. The fountain is a large rose that’s covered in thousands of broken pieces of Delft porcelain and tiles, creating a one-of-a-kind mosaic. The Blue Ribbon Garden hosts pre- and post-theater receptions and private events.

Walt Disney's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Walt Disney's star on the Walk of Fame | Instagram: @ourroad_aroundtheglobe
Mickey Mouse's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Mickey Mouse's star on the Walk of Fame | Instagram: @cave_0f_wonders

Walk of Fame

Walt Disney received two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 1960: in the category of Motion Pictures (7021 Hollywood Blvd) and Television (6747 Hollywood Blvd). Walt's brother Roy received his star in the category of Motion Pictures (6833 Hollywood Blvd) in July 1998.

Mickey Mouse became the first animated cartoon character to receive a star (6925 Hollywood Blvd), which was dedicated on his 50th anniversary in November 1978. Mickey has since been joined by several more Disney characters, including a few at the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop (6834 Hollywood Blvd) next to the El Capitan.

  • Snow White (6920 Hollywood Blvd) - the first star for a female character was dedicated on the 50th anniversary of Snow White in June 1987.
  • Donald Duck (6840 Hollywood Blvd) - to celebrate his 70th anniversary in August 2004.
  • Minnie Mouse (Ghirardelli) - dedicated on her 90th anniversary in January 2018.
  • Tinkerbell (Ghirardelli) - dedicated on the character's 105th anniversary in September 2010.
  • Winnie the Pooh (Ghirardelli) - dedicated on his 80th anniversary in April 2006.
The Disney private garden at Forest Lawn in Glendale
The Disney private garden at Forest Lawn in Glendale | Instagram: @ollywainwright
The Disney memorial plaque at Forest Lawn in Glendale
The Disney memorial plaque at Forest Lawn in Glendale | Instagram: @emporium32

Forest Lawn Glendale

Walt Disney died on Dec. 15, 1966. Pay your respects at the original, flagship location of Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. Disney was cremated two days after his death and interred in a private garden adjacent to the entrance of the Freedom Mausoleum. The garden features a Little Mermaid statue and a plaque that notes that Walt's wife Lillian, their daughter Sharon Disney Brown Lund, and son-in-law Robert Brown are also interred there.

More than 350,000 people are buried at the 300-acre Forest Lawn (described by Smithsonian as "the Disneyland of Graveyards"), including more Hollywood stars than any other cemetery in the world. Fans making the pilgrimage should note that, in the interests of privacy, staff won't give directions to Walt Disney's grave - or anyone else's, for that matter.