The Disney Gallery is a Disneyland attraction and merchandise shop in Anaheim, California, United States. On October 2, 2009, it moved to its current home on Main Street, USA. It was housed above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in New Orleans Square from 1987 to 2007. The Gallery is a changeable exhibition space that focuses on Walt Disney Imagineering artwork generated during the design of the Disneyland theme park. Merchandise related to the current show is frequently available for purchase.
As New Orleans Square was being built in the early 1960s, Walt Disney felt he needed a larger entertainment venue for the different VIPs who visited the Park. He already had an apartment above the Fire Station on Main Street, United States of America, but it was too tiny to accommodate large celebrations. Walt chose to locate the suite in New Orleans Square, away from the activity of the park.
Walt enlisted the assistance of set designer Dorothea Redmond, best known for her work on the sets for Gone with the Wind, to assist him with the apartment layout. Walt left it to his wife Lilly and Walt Disney Studio set decorator Emile Kuri to furnish and decorate the area, as they had done on previous projects (Club 33, the Firehouse Apartment, etc.). The Royal Suite was named after the street in New Orleans Square (Royal Street) where the apartment’s entrance is located.
On December 15, 1966, Walt Disney passed away. As a result, numerous projects at Walt Disney Productions were put on hold or canceled. Roy, the surviving brother, requested that the Royal Suite be abandoned. He believed that without Walt, the family would be unable to fully appreciate The Royal Suite. At the time of Walt’s death, the Suite was nearly finished, including infrastructure and plumbing.
After the Disney condominium was abandoned, the location was taken over by the Insurance Company of North America (INA). They hired Emile Kuri to furnish the place in the style of the Disney apartment. The flat was called 21 Royal Street after its numerical address by INA. During the day at the park, it served as a hospitality suite for INA staff and clients.
In 1974, INA left the suite and was replaced by Disneyland International, who used the room as executive offices. DLI collaborated with the Oriental Land Company to plan Tokyo Disneyland. A huge size model of the park was also installed in one of the rooms so that the Japanese executives could visually view the layout of their future park.
When DLI outgrew its headquarters in the mid-1980s, they relocated. The future of the space was unknown. Simultaneously, Imagineer Tony Baxter was assigned a project to increase visitor flow around the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. At times, the line for Pirates was so long that it blocked the walkway into New Orleans Square and Bear Country.
Baxter eventually settled on the current design, with the queue passing beneath a themed footbridge, freeing up the walkway. He next set his sights on Walt’s old Royal Suite, which was located immediately above the queue. Baxter created a unique framing for the building’s exterior by designing a pair of decorative staircases that would hug the footbridge. Baxter had assumed that a magnificent facility like Walt’s suite would go unnoticed by park visitors.
Baxter inquired of newly appointed Walt Disney Company President and COO Frank Wells about the plans for the upstairs section. Club 33, according to Wells, was fighting for the location in order to add more membership spots. Baxter approached Wells with the notion of opening an art gallery to park visitors. The Imagineers had always sought a venue to display their theme park artwork, which was largely unnoticed by the general public. The Disney Gallery was established.
The gallery is unique in Disneyland because it is the only spot in the park that is listed on the park map as both an attraction and a merchandise outlet. The employees who operate at the location are from the Disneyland Merchandise business, but they have been professionally educated to run the gallery as a museum. Cast Members are encouraged to provide free tours of the gallery to visitors, informing them of the facility’s rich history as well as the present exhibition.
On August 7, 2007, the Gallery’s New Orleans Square location closed its doors. The room was transformed into the Disneyland Dream Suite. Imagineers used the original 1960s plans produced by designer Dorothea Redmond and set decorator Emile Kuri in cooperation with Walt Disney to convert the space into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom guest suite. Kim Irvine, Walt Disney Imagineering Art Director, says the suite will be “packed with artifacts that might have inspired Walt as he conceived of Disneyland.” Each bedroom has a unique evening lighting effect that can be triggered with the push of a button.
The Gallery moved to its new home on Main Street U.S.A. on October 2, 2009, replacing the Annual Passport Center/Bank of Main Street U.S.A.
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