If you visit Walt’s Barn this weekend you’ll discover a new exhibit has been added among the displays of railroad items surrounding Walt’s love of trains.  The “Stair Tower” from the Storybook Land village has been put on display in its current unrestored state.  Because of its fragile condition and intricate detail, the miniature had to be placed behind glass.  It is however, well lit from the inside and out so visitors can truly appreciate these details up close.

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You can also walk around the back of the display to peer through the missing section of roof tiles to see the interior as well as the original light bulb used to bring these miniatures to life. Its not every day you get to see inside the houses of Storybook Land, so be sure stop by Walt’s Barn, open every third Sunday of the month, to see behind the magic!

 

We’re happy to announce the Indiegogo campaign is live!
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Head over our campaign page to check out the donation rewards we’re offering including actual pieces from the Storybook Land village. We only have 10 pieces available as rewards, so if you’d like to have an actual piece of the original attraction that was hand crafted by Fred Jeorger, Harriet Burns, and Wathel Rogers among others, then you won’t want to miss out on this rare opportunity. We also have exclusive pins, t-shirts, and posters available too.

We’re hoping that, as a Disney fan and someone that may have a personal connection to Storybook Land and an appreciation of Walt Disney and Disneyland’s history, that we can welcome you to support an important cause like this one.

 

The smallest of the Storybook Land village that I’ve named “Stair Tower” (because its a tower and its next to…well, stairs) is entering into the preservation stage of restoration.  This entails reassembling whats left of the structure, and bringing it back to its original shape without adding anything new, other than wood glue and replacing any rusted out nails.  Since the Stair Tower was never included in the original design for the exhibit (I didn’t realize we had it!), I’m considering leaving it simply in this “preserved” state and displaying it separately as an example of the state the village was in when it was donated and a clear example of why further restoration was needed.  Below, you’ll see the first steps taken in this preservation.

Towerfix01The years of  damage and fungal rotting have begun to eat away that the details.

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Wood glue is injected into the joints and behind some of the detail wood work that is pulling away from the expanding plywood.  Epoxy injection will take place at a later date to those spots that are really bad.  I may, however, skip the epoxy step to keep it as “original” as possible for this piece.

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All glued and clamped up to set!  One can never have too many clamps…

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Clamps, clamps, and more clamps.  Its starting to look like a complete building again.

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Here’s what the finished building will look like.  When I snapped this shot, the walls and roof were simply loosely connected with its existing rusty nails.  One huff and puff and it would have fallen apart.  Once the preservation is complete it will be able to be displayed; however, since its still very delicate it will have to remain behind glass.

 

 

Yesterday, prior to the barn opening up to the public I took the opportunity to move the first of large sections of the village from storage at the barn to my workshop to begin cleaning them up and assessing the full extent of the repairs needed.

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With the help of the other barn volunteers we got it secured and loaded up.

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The other sections were lightly wrapped as well to protect them while they are waiting to be transported at a later time.

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Safe and secure back at the shop.

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Closer inspection reveals what I was fearing.  Termites!  There have been black piles of termite droppings under this section, but seeing the damage confirms it.

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The first day of moving ended with a mini-termite tent over the village and a bug bomb to hopefully take care of these unwanted Storybook Land tenants.

 

 

Calender Date

We’re pleased to announce an upcoming opportunity for those that would like to support the restoration of the Storybook Land village. As a thank you for your charitable donation, we’re offering several unique and extremely rare items as rewards. Along with the previously announced Richard Terpstra t-shirts, we’ll also be offering “Small Worlds of Walt” donor pins not available anywhere else.

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We’re also pleased to announce the reward at the premium donation level, an actual piece of the original Imagineer-crafted 1956 Storybook Land village. We can only offer 10 of these pieces, so we wanted to get the word out ahead of time so everyone can have a chance to own a piece of Disneyland’s history. Each piece will be mounted in their own individually numbered shadow box and accompanied with a signed certificate of authenticity. Actual artifacts from Storybook Land are rarely available to collectors, so if you’re interested in owning one of these ten pieces, mark your calendars for Friday, October 11th when the Indiegogo donation page goes live.

 

Walt chats with Harriet in the model shop as she constructs the Dwarfs’ Cottage from Snow White for Storybook Land.

When I took on this project I found myself being transformed from simply a fan of Storybook Land to a caretaker of it legacy.  A custodian to the craftsmanship and artistry of Imagineers like Harriet Burns.  I briefly met Harriet, along with Imagineering Legend Blaine Gibson, at the barn during dedication ceremony for Ollie Johnston’s station (well before the Storybook Land village was donated to the Carolwood Foundation). Unfortunately, I didn’t ask her about the creation of Storybook Land assuming I would have the chance to talk with her again one day.

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Blaine Gibson, Harriet Burns, and Michael Broggie in front of the newly dedicated Ollie Johnston station – May 18th, 2008

Sadly, Harriet passed away unexpectedly during heart surgery just two months after these photos were taken.  Her passing caught many by surprise, including myself.  It did, however, teach me a hard lesson.  Don’t ever take for granted the time you have to speak with those whose stories and valuable insights into history could be lost forever without warning.  My only hope is that through this restoration I’ll be preserving a piece of Harriet for those who never had the chance to meet such a wonderful woman, a reminder of the amazing things she created and how she enriched the memories of every child that has ever been enchanted by Storybook Land.

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Harriet Burns, Blaine Gibson, and Rob Fendler at Walt’s Barn in Griffith Park.

To learn more about Harriet Burns please visit http://www.imagineerharriet.com/

 

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Whats truly amazing about this particular Storybook Land village is the amount of detail that was incorporated into back side of these buildings. The Storybook Land issue of “E” Ticket magazine even featured a shot of the back of this village showing a beautiful little stairway courtyard that’s hidden from view.

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It had always puzzled me why this attention to detail was given to a section that can’t be seen by guests from either the canal boats or the Casey Jr. track.

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But in doing my research looking through vintage photos on Davelandweb, I realized it wasn’t always that way!

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Apparently when the attraction opened, the base of Cinderella’s castle looked much different than it does now. The path between the Tremaine house and the Dream Castle was much more open and clearly delineated through the rock work and the pumpkin carriage itself was even placed much lower down the mountain – almost at eye level! So if you were viewing the village from the canal boats in 1956, you would have easily seen the back side of the village and the rear courtyard. All the photos after this time show the addition of the lower village clusters that filled in the gap and perhaps unintentionally blocked the view to this area.

castlefromskyway_58This occurred within just a couple years after the attraction opened, so I can only assume that Walt Disney himself, while riding past the castle in canal boat on its opening day, whispered to someone, “Plus this area with a few more things.”

 
Published on August 9, 2013, by in Fundraiser.

I’m pleased to announce an exclusive perk for the upcoming crowd-funding campaign. Richard Terpstra of Designerland generously donated his time and talents to bring us a t-shirt and poster design as a donation reward for contributors to the restoration.  He nailed the traveling exhibit theme perfectly!

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Keep checking back for the launch of the fundraiser and when the shirts and posters will be available through your donation.

 

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I had the great opportunity to connect with Disney Legend and legendary spitfire, Walt Peregoy at his gallery opening at the Animation Guild’s Gallery 839.  Although most well known for his work as a background painter, Walt did have a hand in painting the original Storybook Land houses.  If you’ve seen any other interviews with Walt, you’ll know he doesn’t often hold back his opinion.  He did however think it was great that we cared enough about the buildings to take the time to restore them, and had nothing but wonderful things to say about the late Harriet Burns who built the houses he painted.  Walt Peregoy’s gallery show continues until Aug. 30th at The Animation Guild, 1105 North Hollywood Way, Burbank.

 

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The first image of the village building I’m calling the Stair Tower.  Its the only stand alone building from the village and it originally sat in front of the whole block right next to a stone staircase that leads down to the village below.  I didn’t realize that this building had survived until I started piecing together chunks from a box of “parts” that held all the pieces and bits of wood that had come detached over the years.

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Amazingly the interior still contained a broken miniature incandescent bulb in a small corroded socket.

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After carefully removing the bulb I was able to identify it as a GE47 – a 6.3 volt bulb that has an incredible lifespan. A valuable clue into the lighting system originally used inside these buildings.

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After reassembling the four walls and placing on top what I have left of the roof, I placed a small battery operated bulb of similar size back inside.  I turned it on and suddenly the building came back to life.  It was though its resident had returned home after 30 years.  Although, I’m sure he or she is thinking, “What happened to my house!?”

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This charming little building just might be the iconic image of the restoration effort. Because I wasn’t aware of its existence until recently, it wasn’t included in the original exhibit design. Therefore, I might decide to keep it as is. A reminder of how far gone the village was before the restoration began.