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Sue Kruse
Walt Disney 101: A New "Walk in Walt's Footsteps" Tour

Photos by Carroll Andrews

Disney 101

If you are the sort who is driven to frenzy by unanswered questions, then I ask you Dear Readers to refrain from reading my column today. For those of you brave enough to continue, I shall pose many questions that I will steadfastly refuse to answer, such as:

  • In the early days of Disneyland, where did Walt Disney take guests to dine within the park?
  • What building currently on Main Street functioned as a sawmill during the construction of Disneyland?
  • What is a Weenie, and why do you not find one at the entrance to Adventureland?

Now please, I beg of you, do not e-mail me with a crazed plea for answers. They will not be forthcoming from me. I shall reiterate: if this sort of thing pushes you over the edge to insanity, do yourself a favor and read no further. I wouldn't want to torture you unnecessarily.

If, however, you have been brave enough to reach thus far into the column despite warnings not to do so, you may be asking yourself, why would Sue Kruse treat her readers in such an uncaring manner? Does she not like them?

The answer is simple. Of course I like my readers; I adore you all. And that's why I would like for you to have the same pleasurable experience that I enjoyed while taking the new version of the Walk In Walt's Footsteps Tour that Disneyland will soon be offering. Posing the questions throughout this column is bad enough, but to provide the answers to the questions would indeed lessen your tour experience. Why, it might even make you think you have no need of this tour. Let me assure you, you do.

When I was treated to a preview of the newly redesigned Walk In Walt's Footsteps this past weekend on November 10, I wondered, "Why would the fine cast members working in Guest Relations feel the need to redesign this tour? It's a tour that I have always enjoyed and thought of as one of Disneyland's treasures." To redesign it seemed kind of like an "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" thing to me. And since it's quite a bit more expensive than the old version (around $33 more), what would merit the extra expense?

Disney 101
The tour ID tag

I'm happy to report that not only does the tour merit the price increase, the improvements are real improvements that I think will provide the average guest taking the tour with a richer experience, a little bit of a VIP feeling, and a glimpse or two of something most Disneyland guests don't get to see. The tour also provides a true sense of the history of Disneyland and of the heart and soul Walt Disney put into his "little park." Since Disneyland is the only Disney park Walt Disney ever set foot in, it's rather special to hear the stories behind the scenes of the creation and operation of Disneyland while Walt was in charge, allowing you to look at the park through different eyes and realize that it's a lot more than just a theme park.

Well, just a few more questions to torture you with before we continue:

  • Why is a light always kept on in the room over the Fire Station on Main Street?
  • What attraction was originally planned as a restaurant, and why did it never become one?
  • What attraction was planned as a walk-through wax museum?
  • Where in Disneyland will you find a tribute to The Phantom Boats, Adventures Through Inner Space, and Clock of the World?

If there's one thing that I have always found to be true about the folks working in Disneyland's City Hall, it's that most of them are quite knowledgeable regarding Disneyland history, and some of them are absolutely passionate about the subject. They are truly what I would consider the keepers of Disneyland history. I found this to be no less true from our tour guide on this particular tour, J.D.

Disney 101

As J.D. (above) guided us on our tour, starting with Main Street and working, eventually, through every land in Disneyland, he was never at a loss for some interesting tidbit, some charming Walt Disney anecdote, or an Imagineering tale. The new version of the tour could almost be called Walt Disney 101 because there is so more emphasis on Walt Disney history than there was with the old tour, and it is a more comprehensive tour in terms of what you see. I learned much that I had never heard before, which was nice for someone who knows a lot about Disney history.

For instance, as J.D. walked us down Main Street, he talked about the windows that pay tribute to different folks associated with Disney. We stopped by Market House under the window of Ron Dominguez (below). J. D. told us the story of Ron's association with Disneyland and why he got a window. Pretty run-of-the-mill stuff for anyone who knows the history of Disneyland. But, then we learned that there is a Dominquez palm tree on-property and where we could find it.

Disney 101

The next time I ride the particular attraction wherein the palm tree is situated, I will think of Ron Dominguez, his nine children, and the orange fields that became Disneyland. If you don't know who Ron Dominguez is or what he has to do with Disneyland, I suppose this is more torture for you -- so you will just have to take the tour to find out about him.

There are a couple of highlights on the new version of the tour that I would be remiss if I left out. They are the nice little additions that make one feel like a VIP on the tour. These additions also are the things that make the tour worth the price increase. The first addition is a look at the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland.

Disney 101

Big deal, you may say to yourself; seen it, done that. Well, normally, I'd be right there with you in that stance: I'm not a big fan of the Tiki Room. However, the tour enters the attraction before the rest of the guests are allowed in. It's kind of wonderful to get to see it with virtually no one else around. You also get to learn a bit of the history of the attraction, and best of all, someone from the tour is chosen to wake up Jose during the show itself. Now, how fabulous is that?

The second addition is a glimpse of Club 33, the exclusive, members-only club situated in New Orleans Square. No, you do not get to actually go into Club 33. What you do get to do, however, is enter the lobby of Club 33 (below). That's kind of special in and of itself. How many guests entering Disneyland ever get to see first-hand what that lobby looks like? Again, you may say, big deal, but it's really quite thrilling to ring the bells that signals the Club 33 receptionist to open the door to the club and then to cross the threshold into the lobby.

Disney 101

Of course, J.D. had many interesting stories associated with the club, not the least of which was an anecdote about Walt Disney seeing a lift (in this case it is referred to as a lift rather than an elevator) in a hotel in France and attempting to buy it for the club. The lift is there for you to see, but did Walt leave the guests of a French hotel without a way to go from floor to floor? Just where did that lift come from? You will have to take the tour to find out, because I won't tell.

A few more torturous questions before we conclude:

  • What Disneyland show is the longest running stage show, ever, with over 43,000 performances?
  • What attraction in Fantasyland was originally slated to be painted pink, but later changed because Walt didn't want folks to think he was promoting drunkenness?
  • What land used to be much bigger than it is in today's Disneyland?
  • What attraction showed guests an invention that placed food in a box and in a couple of minutes ended up with a fully cooked and piping hot meal?
  • What is the reason Sleeping Beauty Castle is not bigger?
  • What is the reason over 300,000 coonskin caps were sold in 1955?

The tour, which takes approximately three hours (although it seems to be over in the blink of an eye), ends with a private lunch up on the patio of the Disney Gallery. Before you dine, you get a quick tour of the Gallery as seen as it was originally intended: an apartment for Walt and Roy and their families. It's interesting to learn that the room that is now home to Nightmare Before Christmas artwork was originally the dining room, and the wall where art now hangs was a door to the kitchen for the apartment. And while the door has long since been closed off, the kitchen still remains as the kitchen for Club 33.

As we dined on our lunch of a selection of sandwiches or salad and beverage, plus dessert, J.D entertained us with more Walt stories. "Walt Disney had a way of seeing things as possible," J.D. said. "He believed in the possibility of everything that he created. So Walt Disney never let anybody say, 'You can't do that, you can't, you won't.' Walt Disney always believed that he could."

Disney 101
The tour's souvenir pin

Encouraging us to take some of that spirit with us, J.D. added, "As we took our Walk In Walt Footsteps tour today, I hope that you will walk away keeping in mind that Walt Disney built all of this so that everybody would come inside here and remember what it felt like to believe in the dreams that we have and believe that they really will come true."


You can drop Sue Kruse a line at: tggrfn@aol.com

Disney 101

DETAILS:

The New Walk in Walt's Footsteps tour:

Cost: $49 per person (child or adult). No discounts apply

Length: 3 hours

Capacity: 15 people per tour

Number of tours per day: 4

The new version of the tour begins December 16, 2002

Annual Passholder previews take place November 15th - December 15th, 2002

Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance by calling: (714) 781-4400

The tour can also be booked day-of, space permitting.

Disneyland Resort Hotel guests can book tours for 9 am on days Disneyland opens at 10 am

Each tour includes:

- A visit the Club 33 lobby

- A special view of the Enchanted Tiki Room

- An exclusive Walk in Walt's Footsteps pin (shown bottom left)

- A private lunch on the Disney Gallery patio that includes:

  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Sandwich

  • French Style Roast Beef Sandwich

  • Turkey & Bacon on Wheat Sandwich

  • Garden Salad

  • All menu selections include canned beverage (Coke, diet Coke, or Sprite) or bottled water and a "Walt's Favorite" for dessert.

Also available is the Holiday at Disneyland tour, which includes a viewing of Minnie's Christmas Party (with hot cocoa and a tree-shaped sugar cookie) and seated viewing of the Christmas Parade for $39.

Holiday at Disneyland

For reservations call (714) 781-4400.

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