Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Walt Lunches With the Fleischers

Disney and FleischerClick on the thumnail for a larger picture

At the Disney commissary, January 4, 1956, from left to right: Gerry Geronimi, Walt Disney, Ben Sharpsteen, Ted Sears, Max Fleischer, Dick Huemer, George Stalling, Dick Fleischer, Andy Engman, Wilfred Jackson (spelled "Jaxon" on model sheets and memos). At the separate table in the right rear: Bill Anderson and Card Walker.

I put this up because of the room. Not due to all those people around the tables (yeah, right).

My father began taking me to the Disney studio around this time. In the middle fifties Walt Disney Productions seemed a magical place, but being in the first grade, I was probably...ah...impressionable.

Where the "Team Disney" building stands today -- that multi-colored Egyptian temple with the Seven Dwarfs holding up the roof -- was a ball field for employees. There were newly-built soundstages. There were the animation buildings and the big parking lot fronting Riverside Drive and Buena Vista and the small but very busy "back lot."

And there was the commissary. The outside of the place is much the same today as it was then. 1940s Streamline Moderne. The inside? Totally different.

Now it's darker, higher tech, self-serve and pretty much like any studio commissary anywhere in town. In 1956, however, it was bright and airy, containing long serving counters behind which stood smiling, middle-aged women in starched cafeteria aprons ladling out food. Everybody ate in that large room you see in the picture, or the patio outside. No segregated, high-end dining room for the execs back then (at least, not that I remember), just people from all parts of the studio chowing down at those utilitarian commissary tables.

I met Cliff Edwards in the 1956 commissary and probably a few other people, but Edwards is the one I remember. (Jimmie Dodd -- one of the Adult Mouseketeers -- I got introduced to on a soundstage.)

Time blurs and fades memories, and mine is probably more blurred than most. But trust me. The 1956 Disney studio was light years away from the facility that stands between Alameda and Riverside Drive in 2007.

Photo courtesy Bob Foster.


Anonymous said...

Luckily, my memory is not blurred just yet, and I remember those incredible days when the Walt Disney was -- The Walt Disney Studio.

And, I remember the same commissary where everybody regardless of rank or privilege dined there. No corporate B.S. for Walt.

The little middle-aged women advised us what was good that day -- and what wasn't. Lucky for us, it was seldom bad. Pretty darn good food at pretty darn good prices. Eventually, they built the "Coral Room" for more private dining. Still, any studio employee could make a reservation. I did on a regular basis.

It ain't that way no more. The magic is gone. Then again, it's been gone for some time, hasn't it?

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