We load up on a bus, yes, it just magically appears, and head over to the highlight for the day for me, Jim Henson Studios. Not a far drive and very apparent by the huge Kermit located on top of the building and dressed like Charlie Chaplin. You see Charlie Chaplin. Here is our guide Quinn holding up our ABD placard inside the Jim Henson Studios.
Designed and built by Chaplin in 1917 he filmed there for many years along with renting it out to others famous people who also made movies there until 1952. All I can say is wow. The renovation is very amazing. Chaplin sold the studio in 1957 and it was again sold to Red Skelton in 1959. In 1961 CBS bought it and held it for a few years and then they sold it to A&M Records and it was a recording studio for many years and for many famous people. They recorded many songs in this studio including, "We are the World" here. We pretty much got to walk around inside private office spaces, watched a video of the studio created just for Adventures by Disney (we were the very first group to see this) saw an entire cabinet of Emmy awards, got inside the studio set and best of all got to be in the Creature Shop with Mike one of the puppeteers. I mean wow! Mike explained how they make puppets, how they use animal tronics, some of the people who they work with and demonstrated how the puppets work on file etc. Truly and amazing area, no one ever really get inside this building. He later came out to the courtyard and let us take pictures with him and a puppet, so cool.
He is also part of an improv group called Puppet Up which you can find on the internet. After touring we joined up with the whole group and ate lunch they had set up in the courtyard patio on the grounds. We chatted wtih Andrew, ABD Operations manager during lunch and just relaxed before moving on for the day. The food at the studios was really good too, I got a huge salad while others had hamburgers and shrimp and pasta.
The next stop we hit was a suprise for the day and a special treat available for us on this initial tour, Walt Disney’s Barn in Griffith Park. This was opened exclusively for our group but is staffed by an all volunteer staff so may not be available very often to all Backstage Magic guests. What a great treat! The Disney Barn is really considered the birthplace of Imagineering and holds lots of aritifacts of Walt’s love of trains. In 1998 this barn was moved from the Holmby Hills Disney home to the Griffith Park location. The Disney family chose this location since Walt had been a charter member of the Club here. The volunteers here are big Disney fans and really fun to listen too.
They also offer rides on an electic, scaled down train that travel along a 12 minute loop. The train we rode on holds about 30 guests total and it is really relaxing to sit there and ride around through the various quirky little tracks they have set up. Its is very cute to watch big adults straddling a small train and riding around through the trees.
The ABD part of the tour ended for the day at 4pm and after this tour. Back at the hotel the group split up a little and each went their own directions exploring the Hollywood area, seeing Jimmy Kimmel or just relaxing. I had made plans to go to dinner at Campanile where Vicki’s son Thomas works and so I just relaxed a little before heading out. Beci needed to work so I recruited our two new friends from the Tour Brent and Brock to join me. This restaurant is on La Brea not far from the hotel and we got a cab there for $15. It is located right next to the La Brea Bakery. Its an Italian restaurant and the food was so amazing it almost put us in a coma it was so wonderful. Thomas came out to say hi and was sweet enough to give us several wonderful starters and desserts. Again amazing with an expansive wine list. Very Cool!
What an amazing day, Michelle! And you saved the best for last! 😀 (Yes, I am a bit prejudiced.) Another point of interest is that Charlie Chaplin also built the building which is now Campanile Restaurant. Thanks for sharing your experiences – can’t wait to hear more!
Sounds like a fun day! Wish I was there with you!