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When I first started working for Walt Disney back in LA ( I had started in London working on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)I began working not on the main lot, but in some converted warehouses five miles away in Glendale. Disney Feature Animation had been moved there in 1984 and stayed until the Robert Stern building, known as the Hat Building, was built in 1995. Disney Imagineering had been headquartered there since the 1960s, the oldest building there called the Maypo building, for Mary Poppins.

click on image to enlarge

During my sojourn there I noticed a curious art-deco tower near one of our buildings. We called it the Casablanca Tower, under the impression that the farewell sequence of the famous Humphrey Bogart film had been shot there. That sequence was shot mostly on a Warner soundstage and the only exterior scene needing an airport-when Nazi Major Strasser arrived and was welcomed by Captain Renault, was actually shot at neighboring Van Nuys airport.

It turns out our antique tower belonged to Los Angeles' original airport- Grand Central Terminal. Build by L.C. Brand, mogul who also created the Brand Library. From 1923 until it was closed in 1959 it was the landing point for the great transcontinental Ford Tri-Motors and the terminal of movie stars, moguls and politicians. Cecil B. Demille, Amelia Earhardt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Clark Gable, Carol Lombard and Will Rogers walked it's tarmack. Howard Hughes took off from there in experimental monoplanes to try to break air speed records. A zeppelin airship called the Spirit of Glendale was once moored there.

Grand Central Airport in 1930, image courtesy of John Underwood and Arcadia Publishing
If you know the area I'm speaking of, Airway Street was the road to the terminal, Grand Central Ave. was the runway. When the airport was closed in 1959 the only remaining facility was a heliport where KTLA's traffic helicopters would refuel. In 1997 this land was used to build Dreamworks.

Amelia Earhardt at the terminal after crossing the country in an Pitcairn AutoGyro-1931

Pat got me this wonderful book recently by John Underwood entitled Grand Central Air Terminal as part of the Spirit of Aviation series of books for Arcadia publishing., 2006. It is richly illustrated and I reccomend anyone interested in, Hollywood or aviation history to pick one up.

1420 Flower St. entrance now bricked up. In this building Disney animators created Oliver & Company, the Little Mermaid, Mickey's Prince and the Pauper and Aladdin.

The Hart-Dannon Building(named for the previous tenants), where we created the Lion King and Pocahontas.

the Sorbus Building on Flower St, where we planned much of Fantasia 2000 and Dinosaurs.

The old tower terminal next to the building 1400 Airway, where we did parts of Roger Rabbit, Tummy Trouble, and Beauty and the Beast.

One of the truisms you learn when you come to LA is how much of the real magic of the movies is done hidden behind ugly, faceless walls in bland industrial neighborhoods. The glamour is reserved for the screen, studios just need lots of cheap industrial space.

After the success of Lion King, CEO Michael Eisner toured our warehouse studios and commented:" Gee, you guys do such beautiful stuff and I got you in such a dump!" They moved Feature Anim to the Hat Building and the rest, as we history.

Birthdays: Solomon -970BC-?, Noah Webster, Dr. Joseph Guillotine, Ian Fleming the creator of James Bond, Jim Thorpe, The Dion Identical Quintuplets 1930, Gladys Knight, Jerry West, Dietrich Fisher-Deiskau, Sandra Locke, T-Bone Walker, John Fogarty


For those who are curious why America celebrates Memorial Day in May instead of November 11th like most of Europe and Canada, it is because of our Civil War.
The main Confederate field armies surrendered in early April; it took this long to stop the final hostilities, the final action happening on May 27th. Once the countryside was finally at peace, the U.S. government declared a Day of Remembrance of the fallen. An abolitionist named James Redpath began having black children in South Carolina decorate the graves of fallen union soldiers with flowers. The early name of this holiday was Decoration Day.
In rebel strongholds like Mississippi children decorated the graves of Southern dead but had to be forced at bayonet point to decorate the graves of Yankees.

1941- THE WALT DISNEY STRIKE- Labor pressures had been building in the Magic Kingdom since promises made to artists over the success of Snow White were reneged on and Walt Disney’s lawyer Gunther Lessing encouraged a hard line with his employees. On this day, in defiance of federal law, Walt Disney fired animator Art Babbitt ,the creator of Goofy, and thirteen other cartoonists for demanding a union. Babbitt had emerged as the union movements’ leader. He has studio security officers escort Babbitt off the lot (a custom that still happens today.). That night in an emergency meeting of the Cartoonists Guild, Art’s assistant on Fantasia, Bill Hurtz, made a motion to strike and it is unanimously accepted. Bill Hurtz will later go on to direct award winning cartoons like UPA’s "Unicorn in the Garden" and the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Picket lines go up next day in cartoon animation’s own version of the Civil War.
Walt Disney nearly had a nervous breakdown over the strike and a federal mediator was sent by Washington to arbitrate. In later years, Uncle Walt blamed the studio’s labor ills on Communists. The studio unionized but hard feelings remained down to this very day.

1954- Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder in 3D premiered.

1960- George Zucco, 60, a character actor who specialized in horror movies like Blood from the Mummies Hand, died of fright in a mental hospital in San Gabriel California. He was convinced that H.P. Lovecraft's Great God Cthulu was after him.

1977- As was the practice at the time, after opening in a few select theaters, this day George Lucas film Star Wars went into wide release.

1981- The Bambi Murders- Police hunt Playboy Bunny Bambi Bemenek for shooting her husband’s ex-wife in Milwaukee. She was captured but escaped prison in 1990. Just follow the little stiletto high heel footprints.

1987- A young German student named Matthias Rust rented a small Cessna airplane in Helsinki and flying low to avoid radar, flew into the heart of the Soviet Union. Evading a forest of missiles, jet interceptors and anti-aircraft weapons, he put his plane down smack in the middle of Red Square in the Kremlin. The ensuing furor and humiliation cost many Russian generals their jobs.

1998- After a dinner at the Encino Italian restaurant Buca Di Beppo, Saturday Night Live comedian Phil Hartman was shot to death by his wife Brynne as he slept. She was a heavy drinker and pill user. At 6:00 AM as the LAPD were knocking Brynne turned the gun on herself.

2005- The great London clock Big Ben mysteriously stopped ticking for 45 minutes.