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D23 Expo 2017: ‘Walking With Giants: A Virtual Visit to Walt Disney’s Hyperion Studio’

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The Walt Disney Archives Stage, aglow with nearly-psychedelic blue lighting, is the ultimate showcase for Disney historical appreciation. What better stage for a virtual tour of the Disney Hyperion Studios where Mickey Mouse and Snow White came to life?

Animation historian Hans Perk guides the audience through a virtual reconstruction of the studio lot, rebuilt from the historical images of Disney and his studio crew. Through the original building, whose exterior is featured in several iconic photos from the 1920s, the audience travels through Walt’s office, Roy’s office across, and the animation departments for Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony. Through the hallway, past the music room, we find the Ink & Paint department, featuring areas for cel wash and for editing, personally done by Walt himself.

Outside, in the backyard, we find the live-action stage where the Alice adventures were filmed to later be combined with animated sequences.

Back inside, through Roy’s office, we find the first projection room of Steamboat Willie, a fact accompanied by a full, accurate whistling rendition of the Steamboat Willie theme by Perk. The applause was justly deserved.

The studio grew steadily with new buildings and sheds and even apartments created onsite for more projects. Using several behind-the-scenes photos, we can see the animators and music teams and storyboard meetings that created the classic films we have come to love.

We come to Snow White’s music room; the image Perk found features Walt and music team with an especially iconic musical piece. Zoomed in, Perk found that the team were working on a piece that matched “When You Wish Upon a Star,” a song now synonymous with the Disney brand itself.

The entire virtual tour, built on iconic photos and even video clips, strives to answer Hans Perk’s initial research question: “Where were these iconic photos we see quite often actually taken?”

Though some of the original Hyperion Studio still survives in Burbank, many of the studio buildings and pieces no longer exists, making this virtual blast into the past all the more important to understand the beginning of the Disney company.

Stay tuned for ongoing coverage of D23 Expo 2017

Edited by: Kelly Conley

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About Kajsa Rain Forden

Kajsa is a writer from foggy San Francisco, living in sunny LA. She spends most of her time writing, binge-watching animated movies, and working in web design. With a soft spot for stop-motion, her favorite films are Coraline, Castle In The Sky, and The Thief and the Cobbler (Recobbled). You can find her on Twitter, or Pinterest, and most other social media @TheKajsaRain, or at Disneyland.