Walt Disney’s First Studio Is Still Standing in the Middle of LA

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The Walt Disney Company’s official encyclopedia, Disney A to Z, says that the “first real location” of Walt Disney Studios was a pair of unassuming Los Feliz storefronts on Kingswell just east of Vermont Avenue. The building’s been a little altered—it has different address numbers and the original brick exterior’s been covered up—but the owner of Extra Copy, which is in one of the storefronts, says that Disney’s presence is still strong. “He is always here. And he is very happy,” she tells the LA Times in a story about the property.

The Disney Brothers Studio, a team-up of Walt and his brother Roy, operated out of the Kingswell building from 1923 to 1926, first taking up just half of a real estate office that occupied one storefront, then growing to take up space next door too.

It was an important time in Disney history. Walt had recently made the move to Los Angeles, where his brother Roy was already living, attempting to get a distribution deal for a series called Alice Comedies. In the fall of 1923, he got it.

When he arrived, he rented out space near his uncle’s house (also on Kingswell) for Disney Brothers Studios. At the time, Los Feliz looked a lot different: “When Walt was here, they had just paved Vermont. It was a whole different ballgame,” the building’s owner, Jim Ferraro, tells the Times.

The Alice Comedies “formed the foundation of his animation career,” and much of that early work was done right out of the Kingswell building. The company was quickly successful, and by 1926 they’d moved into a larger studio on Hyperion. (It’s since been demolished; there’s a Gelsons and shopping center there now. A nearby bungalow court is thought to have housed animators; it’s still there and has a fascinating history.)

The Kingswell tenants all seem to know and enjoy the building’s history, as does Ferraro, who also owns the Dresden around the corner on Vermont. Though the building doesn’t have any kind of city landmark status, Ferraro says he would support a nomination for the building.

Reps for local preservation agencies think that even though the building isn’t architecturally significant, it might still have a decent chance of getting monument status based on its cultural significance. In the meantime, Ferraro’s got zero plans to tear the building down, telling the Times “I’m too old for that.”

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