A Disney-Filled Day: Club 33, the Dream Suite, and the Animation Research Library

As part of a Disney press day for The Princess and the Frog, the studio took Fandango and a few other online media outlets on a trip to Disneyland, Club 33 and the Disney Animation Library before meeting up with the film's directors Ron Clements and John Musker. Read on for the details of our Disney-filled day, complete with photos.

Disneyland's Behind-the-Scenes Tour
We began the day touring "happiest place on earth" with our guide, Dean from Gavelston, TX. (That's all his name tag said.) He took us through the "James Bond entrances" to a few attractions that were spruced up with Halloween's orange-hued phantoms and jack-o-lanterns, like Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and the Haunted Mansion Holiday. We also rode the Priates of the Caribbean, just to get a glimpse of Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow.
 
 Haunted Mansion Holiday
 
If you enjoyed Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, you must check out the Haunted Mansion, which has been Burton-ized with Jack Skellington's world of colorfully wrapped, horrific presents, dancing tombstones, and an aromatic display of ghosts enjoying dining tables of gingerbread and Christmas treats. (The Harry Potter theme park could learn a thing or two from this!)
 
 Disney Dream Suite
 
Walt, being the great entertainer and host that he was, had a special place for friends and VIP guests to stay at the park—the Dream Suite. And yes, it was dreamy enough for Sleeping Beauty herself. It's exquisitely decorated with classic characters: A Peter Pan's mermaid lagoon portrait in the bedroom, a Cinderella pendulum clock, and other Disney figurines in a fancy China cabinet. There's also a $50,000 trash bin in the parlor room, which -- I'm guessing is made of Swarovsky crystals -- and is probably never filled with garbage. With a flick of the light switch, you could turn on the suite's "Good Night Kiss" – as Dean called it. The lights dim and bedazzle in some of the rooms, and as a brief tune plays, mermaids show up in the lagoon portrait, Cinderella and her prince appear on the clock face and a toy train takes a trip along the crown molding. Pixar’s John Lasseter, who spent the night there with his wife on their wedding anniversary, enjoyed the suite so much, he signed the guest book with a little sketch of Toy Story's Buzz and Woody to express his gratitude.
 
Bedroom suite
 
Guest book
 
Club 33
For our lunch break, we stopped by Club 33, the infamous members-only restaurant at Disneyland. It's sort of hidden in the surroundings next to the Blue Bayou restaurant and Le Bat en Rouge store. The door was intentionally painted its particular shade of gray to keep from being noticed, according to our tour guide. Once we enter into the waiting area and the door shuts behind us, the ambient noise from outside is barely audible. I watch as the host takes a few notes behind her desk. She reminds me of the gatekeeper to the Emerald City. The door bell rings and she briskly hops off her chair and opens the door just barely enough to stick her head out and ask, "Last name, please." She checks her list for the guest's name, asks them to wait outside and shuts the door. I'm sure there must've been many times she's had to close the door on passersby who curiously rang the doorbell. Club 33 is probably the best kept secret at Disneyland, only open to a limited number of top executives who can afford its steep annual fee. A waiter says only about 120 – 130 people are served on the weekends. It's the only place in the park that serves liquor, named for its address number, since Walt needed an official address for a liquor license.
 
Club 33
 
Inside the waiting area is a small, French elevator lift, a replica of one that Walt grew enamored with in France. We take the short ride to the second floor. A colleague quips, "Now I've ridden all the rides at Disneyland." After we're seated, we head to the cold foods buffet and our lunch entrees are served soon after. While we eat, a piano rendition of "Cheek to Cheek" plays softly in the dining area. I can't hear anything from outside, and it's easy to forget we're at a theme park. After lunch, we enjoy the dessert buffet. There are little shots of Hibiscus jelly, which another colleague calls "liquid happiness." Unfortunately, inside Club 33 is one of the places in Disneyland where we couldn't take pictures. But I take the plastic toothpick from my tropical fruit drink and a wrapped chocolate as proof that I actually ate there.
 
The Walt Disney Archives
After Disneyland, we head to Glendale to tour Walt's prized vaults of original artwork from all the Disney assets. After production, a film's materials are sent there for safe storage and digitization for research in future projects. For example, the directors of Princess and the Frog researched Lady and the Tramp and Bambi for ideas. Some of the early sketches and paintings for Princess and the Frog are already displayed on some of the cabinets; Princess Tiana character profiles show her carrying food and cooking, and there are other shots of New Orleans.
 
Exclusive: The French Quarter in The Princess and the Frog
 
In one of the vaults we walk in, the temperature is set at a constant 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 percent humidity for the best storage conditions. On a table, we see scores of names and sketches of Snow White's dwarfs – they designed more than seven in the brainstorming process, of course, one of which was named Deafy. Our guide wears Mickey gloves -- they're actually just white, cotton gloves used for handling artwork. He uses the turnstile-type wheel on the movable shelves to find a Snow White archive, and we all watch as the shelves glide compactly to one side of the room. In another room, they've got huge scanners to digitize the larger materials. That day, the studio finished the last color scene on Princess and the Frog, so all the original sketches and artwork will be heading to the archives if they aren’t there already. Cataloging each piece of artwork does seem like a painstaking process, but necessary to preserve all things Disney.
 
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