Monday, August 06, 2012

Walt's Barn

Walt and his trains

As we were leaving Anaheim on Thursday (see below), I turned to my sister and said I’d had enough of Disney for a while. After all, Tim and I had been to the parks four times over the past two months! How much more could one person stand?

My sister just laughed, knowing my tolerance level for all things Disney is actually quite high. In fact, Tim and I had already purchased tickets for a Disney event Saturday night: a barbecue to raise funds to help preserve Walt’s old barn, sponsored by the Carolwood Foundation.

Walt's barn

We had never heard of Carolwood until our friends mentioned it when we were in Arroyo Grande last month. Turns out there’s a local group, called L.A. Live Steamers, that maintains a museum and 8 miles of narrow-gauge model railroad tracks in nearby Griffith Park. Included on this property is the barn Walt Disney owned when he and his family lived on Carolwood Dr. in the Holmby Hills. According to Disney lore, this is where Walt and his colleagues developed many of their creative ideas, including plans for a future amusement park called Disneyland. Today the barn is considered the birthplace of Disney’s Imagineering. It is open to the public, 11AM-3PM, the third Sunday of every month.

A "combine car" from Disneyland

While Tim was researching the model train group, he noticed that the Carolwood Foundation, which spearheaded the relocation of the barn to Griffith Park in the late 1990s, was having a fund-raising barbecue. I don’t subscribe to what I call “the cult of Walt Disney.” Still, I am interested in the history of Disneyland, so was vaguely aware of the barn, though didn’t exactly know its significance. Regardless, we do love barbecue and learning about historical places in L.A. and so registered for the event.

Disney fans come in all shapes, colors and ages and usually wear their various allegiances proudly. Fans of certain movies or theme park rides, for instance, tend to wear t-shirts or jewelry depicting their favorites. Not so much with the Carolwood crowd.

“Oh oh,” I whispered to Tim, while we were waiting on line to get in. “I think these folks might be more into trains than they are Disney.”

But I was wrong. As we soon found out, everyone there was totally into Disney and Walt Disney, in particular. Guest speakers included Alice Davis, the “Disney Legend” who not only designed the dress that Sleeping Beauty wore in the cartoon movie, she also designed the costumes for the “It’s a Small World” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” rides. When asked during the audience Q&A what job she’d like to do if Walt were still alive today, she answered, “Whatever Walt asked!”

Also speaking was John Kimball, whose father Ward Kimball was a “Disney Legend,” too, and master illustrator. Ward operated a full-sized train engine in his backyard and was the one who first introduced Walt to the world of model railroads. Both speakers were fascinating.

The barn, which features photos and many artifacts of Walt’s love of railroads, was open. Several trains were also running, so we rode around the grounds twice. I daresay we are now hooked on 1/8th-scale model railroads!

Fun stuff in the barn

And, oh yeah, last night we went to the Pixar concert at the Hollywood Bowl. It was wonderful. I guess I'm not quite done with Disney yet.

Ridin' the rails

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