Walt Disney occupied a suite of offices, known as Suite 3H, on the third floor of the Animation building at the Disney Studios in Burbank from 1940 until his death in 1966. When Walt died it came as a surprise and as is common when a family member passes no one was ready to close his office and pack his belongings. His offices sat untouched and unoccupied for several years. Eventually, in 1970, a young archivist was tasked with the job of cleaning out Suite 3H. The archivist took his job seriously and meticulously inventoried every item.
Suite 3H was heavily remolded and became the home to several leaders of the Walt Disney Company, including CEO Michael Eisner and Roy E. Disney. From 2008-2015 the space was leased to production companies and for a time the walls of the suite were painted bright red, a favorite color of a particular TV producer who occupied the space.
Last year, Disney leadership decided to restore the offices of Walt Disney. After an extensive five-month restoration process Suite 3H was reopened as a permanent exhibit honoring Walt Disney. Using photos and the detailed inventory of the materials taken from his office, archivists were able to bring Walt’s offices back to the way they were in 1966 with an estimated 90%-95% accuracy. The paperclips on the desk are the same paperclips that sat on Walt’s desk the day he died.
The offices are not open to the general public, but as an employee of the company I was able to get a tour. I found it hard to wipe the smile off my face as my imagination ran wild: the people, the conversations, the ideas that once occupied this space…
Suite 3H consisted of several offices including the secretary’s office, a formal office, a working office, and a private room.
The formal office was where Walt held appointments with important guests and dignitaries visiting the studio. He spent time in the office everyday answering letters from business associates and fans. It contained Walt’s prized possessions: knickknacks and gifts from around the world, Norman Rockwell sketches of his daughters, and bookshelves packed with volumes written by his favorite authors.
Next door to the formal office was Walt’s working office. This is where Walt would meet his staff, including producers, writers, directors, and business advisors. Scripts and treatments for then-current projects remain behind Walt’s desk as does preliminary work on EPCOT displayed on the opposite wall.
Walt’s private quarters were connected to his working office. It maintained a small bedroom and bathroom and was originally meant to be an overnight apartment, but it was rarely used for this purpose. Walt would retreat there to relax at the end of the day and, later in his life, receive physical therapy. It was there that Walt’s daughters would set-up camp and do their homework when they visited their father at the Studio. There are few pictures of the space, so today it has been re-designed to be a rotating gallery.
For twenty-six years these offices were home to ideas and innovations that would span the globe. It feels right that the space be restored to its original grandeur as an inspiration for future generations.
A WRITER AND TRAVELER KEEPING THE FAITH IN LOS ANGELES