Many of us Disney runners start off as Disney fans. We love the parks, the films, the characters, and most of all we love the man who started it all, Walt Disney. Southern California is full of Disney history and John is here to share some of those fun historic antics with us! My inner Disney geek is smiling from ear to ear!
For this month’s Anaheim Antics, I thought I’d give the running shoes a few days off, and share a bit of Disney history that came to light during my running of the Avengers Half Marathon. It starts with a bit of sad news. I recently received word that Arthur C. “Buddy” Adler passed away. Buddy Adler is not a Disney Legend, but he deserves to be, for one very special reason: He singlehandedly saved a vital piece of Disney History from ending up in a landfill, a small one-car garage considered Walt Disney’s first studio.
Buddy and I attended church together for many years at what is now Christ Cathedral (Mile 5 on the Avengers Half Marathon course). At the time, he was a Contract Administrator in DLR Purchasing, and had a fond love of Disney Heritage. According to archivist Dave Smith, Walt Disney came to Hollywood in July 1923, and got a room at the house of his uncle, Robert Disney, at 4406 Kingswell Ave. Walt said his Uncle let him use his garage, so he built a “stand out of plywood boxes … right down there in the garage.”
In this garage, Walt began work on an animation reel for Alexander Pantages, who operated a chain of theaters in Los Angeles. But Walt moved down the street on October 8, 1923, to 4651 Kingswell in the back of a real estate office, and signed a contract for the Alice Comedies, so the Pantages reel was never finished.
Fast forward to 1981: Amateur animation fan Paul Maher saw a picture of Uncle Robert’s garage in some old slides of local landmarks. The next day, he found the garage at its original site. The current owner (Robert Disney had long since died) was renovating the house to rent it out, and the garage was slated for demolition. Maher contacted the owner (who had no idea of the history), and she agreed to sell the garage to him for $6400, provided he also rented the house. Maher later ran into financial problems, and tried to auction off the garage.
Enter Buddy Adler, who was present at the auction. Adler would later say “I started imagining what was going to happen to it; if it was going to be vandalized, destroyed or just cut up in pieces and stuffed into little bottles for souvenirs.” Adler began talking to strangers asking if they would like to combine their resources and make a bid. Within an hour, Adler enlisted eight people to buy the garage for $8,500, who called themselves “Friends of Walt Disney”. Adler also received a letter from Disney Archivist Dave Smith, verifying the authenticity of the garage.
Adler began looking for places to permanently house and display the garage, but none were forthcoming, until the Garden Grove Historical Society expressed interest. The Garden Grove Historical Society owns and operates the Stanley Ranch Museum, a two acre site just housing historic Orange County homes and structures, including the Stanley House (1891) and Garden Grove Post Office (1877). In 1984, the Walt Disney Studio Garage was relocated to the site, and is on public display today. Of this, Adler said, “It is important that this garage be preserved so children can look at the humble beginnings of a man who would later create an empire that brought happiness and joy to children all over the world. It’s a way to tell kids that you can start from nothing and, in a relatively short time, achieve great things. I’ve been a fan of Walt Disney since I was a kid. Heck, I’m still a kid, only a little older and a little grayer. I’m just tickled to death about this whole thing.
The next time you’re in town visiting the Disneyland Resort, be sure to stop by the Disney Garage at the Stanley Ranch, just 3 miles south of the Resort. Thank you to my pal Buddy Adler, whose contribution helped save a piece of our history from extinction. You will be missed.
John grew up in the Orange County area of California, always living in the shadow of the Disneyland Resort. Known as the consummate storyteller to his friends, he has had an admiration of Disney since childhood, and is most interested in the Company’s history and heritage. His favorite memory to date is setting foot in Walt’s apartment over the Main Street Firehouse. John lives by what he calls the three F’s: faith, fun, and fitness. Being healthy isn’t about adding years to your life; it’s about adding life to your years. Nothing sums that up more than making Disney races a goal in every fitness plan.