Inside Walt Disney Animation Studios - A Photo Tour

We visit the Burbank, CA campus.

by | February 13, 2009 | Comments

Walt Disney Animation Studios

Welcome to Walt Disney Animation Studios headquarters in Burbank, California. Adjacent to the main Walt Disney studios lot where the live-action magic happens, and opposite the ABC building, this is Disney’s most striking architectural creation. It’s the house that the mouse built, with Mickey’s tall, blue Wizard hat dominating the building’s exterior and reminding all who pass through the front doors of the century’s worth of history upon which Disney is founded.

But the staff of Walt Disney Animation Studios is looking to the future, not the past, as Rotten Tomatoes is invited to tour the studios. In April 2006, Pixar’s Ed Catmull and John Lasseter were respectively appointed President and Chief Creative Officer of the studios with a clear goal front of mind: to return the studios to their place as a factory of feature film classics.

Bolt is their first release in charge of the studios, and its Certified Fresh Tomatometer suggests they’re well on their way to achieving that goal. Join us as we find out how the Pixar effect is rubbing off inside Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Walt Disney Animation Studios

The building’s unusual architecture continues into the bright lobby, where artwork from Bolt dominates the walls, and marketing materials colour the reception area. So far so Pixar, at least in the studio’s approach to promoting their current release with striking visuals. A collage at the back of the lobby, including a frame on a particularly recognisable white glove, reminds you you’re at Disney, though, and around the corner the WDAS screening room – shockingly bereft of 3D projection – is decorated with the familiar mouse ears logo.

Walt Disney Animation Studios

As you ascend into the production areas you start to get a sense of how important it is that all this art is on display. Internally, the building is pretty drab, like any other office building. Storyboards and concept sketches from productions in progress – predominantly from Bolt but plenty from The Princess and the Frog and Rapunzel – make the artists feel at home and warm the environment. But for us the greatest sight is original pencils and cels from classics of Disney past, as far back as Snow White, which turn the entire building into an art gallery.

Walt Disney Animation Studios

The Pixar building has been constructed so that the lobby atrium contains all lunch facilities and encourages staff from all departments to mix and socialise at lunch and break times in a free-flowing creative environment. It’s a philosophy Lasseter has tried to recreate with the Caffeine Patch at WDAS – centrally located, there’s comfortable sofas dotted around, art from all working productions and, of course, free-flowing coffee. The “Pods” – self-contained offices decorated by productions to house their artists – seed straight to this area.

Walt Disney Animation Studios

In most corporate buildings you’d imagine the boss’s office would be pretty hard to find. Not so John Lasseter’s office at WDAS – his glass cube is right off the Caffeine patch, and full of art from his favourite Disney animations and Pixar projects. He and Catmull split their time between WDAS in Burbank and Pixar further north in San Francisco, and by all accounts seem pretty accessible to their staff – more than once we caught Lasseter milling in the Caffeine Patch chatting to animators. And giant hamsters.

Walt Disney Animation Studios

The next project from the studio, and thus the most fully-formed when we visit (Bolt excluded), is The Princess and the Frog. We’re brought into the production’s Pod – decorated with crocodiles and Mardi Gras beads to bring a New Orleans feel – and given some background on the plot. We’re also shown, but sworn to secrecy on, a vast collection of art from the film. Suffice to say, it’s very exciting stuff, and there’s an energy in the Pod that makes us keen to see the film. The entire building seems abuzz with the thought that a proper Disney 2D fairytale animation is in production, and there’s a clear hope that The Princess and the Frog will prove that there’s still a place for hand-drawn animation in a digital world.

Bolt is in cinemas now. If you missed our tour around Pixar in San Francisco, check it out here.

Tag Cloud

Star Trek period drama FXX Crackle technology See It Skip It Pet Sematary Starz Cosplay Epix History ghosts CMT Best and Worst Ellie Kemper Photos natural history BET Tumblr Awards Tour Action Adult Swim Cannes Watching Series DC streaming service IFC Films Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Bravo crossover Sci-Fi Women's History Month serial killer tv talk dceu Emmys nature Podcast crime thriller Showtime Trailer Creative Arts Emmys Horror psycho Warner Bros. Ovation book strong female leads space Shondaland Masterpiece dc cults Year in Review Ghostbusters LGBT travel Red Carpet zombies Pop police drama Walt Disney Pictures Binge Guide discovery sequel Musicals TNT GLAAD transformers USA Network adventure what to watch WarnerMedia cooking A&E Marathons dramedy DC Comics ITV Universal OWN Pirates The CW anime Sundance Comedy Central Apple BBC spider-man Nat Geo Vudu Superheroes Spike Disney streaming service Paramount Network sports Musical Oscars cats theme song series 007 Mystery television Disney Quiz finale Fall TV Disney Channel TBS Character Guide justice league Britbox romance Paramount Film Festival Music war blaxploitation LGBTQ cops RT History Animation Mindy Kaling 45 American Society of Cinematographers NBC Shudder RT21 2018 El Rey Awards Fantasy New York Comic Con psychological thriller aliens comic witnail CNN Pride Month TV Land Comedy Election Sony Pictures crime drama FOX Reality Competition X-Men Comic Book jamie lee curtis disaster CW Seed Columbia Pictures political drama DirecTV ESPN PaleyFest vampires Spectrum Originals revenge kids Amazon Prime Video golden globes Lionsgate AMC movies Chernobyl SDCC SXSW San Diego Comic-Con Biopics crime SundanceTV Amazon Prime The Arrangement The Witch Certified Fresh Mary Poppins Returns Nickelodeon Esquire Family spy thriller supernatural based on movie Writers Guild of America dragons Mary Tyler Moore WGN ABC Family Valentine's Day Western Sundance Now Freeform politics TCA 2017 Elton John quibi Cartoon Network richard e. Grant Winter TV Captain marvel Pixar TruTV Heroines Lucasfilm cars BBC America YA streaming 20th Century Fox Amazon mockumentary IFC YouTube Red Countdown anthology MSNBC Food Network doctor who GIFs hist Tarantino Infographic HBO 2019 zero dark thirty Mudbound Super Bowl science fiction Polls and Games game show Teen 2016 TV Spring TV VICE Schedule E! TCA mutant Rom-Com Reality Lifetime Nominations Acorn TV Fox News docudrama TCM Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Grammys true crime 2017 Syfy MTV Emmy Nominations Netflix 2015 DC Universe NYCC singing competition Box Office PBS facebook Interview unscripted Hulu Film Rock Black Mirror composers casting Extras green book historical drama Drama Brie Larson VH1 Rocky Dark Horse Comics APB Rocketman Tomatazos 21st Century Fox CBS All Access miniseries binge 24 frames Country Winners biography Calendar Anna Paquin MCU Marvel robots Holidays Summer Mary poppins thriller GoT Martial Arts HBO Max animated boxoffice Star Wars medical drama cinemax CBS Sneak Peek children's TV Trivia National Geographic ABC Set visit TLC ratings Premiere Dates festivals Kids & Family USA elevated horror Opinion harry potter toy story Stephen King award winner social media President sitcom Toys Thanksgiving Song of Ice and Fire spinoff Logo TIFF FX teaser Video Games YouTube Premium comiccon Trophy Talk adaptation Christmas Comics on TV diversity talk show First Look zombie Superheroe DGA E3