- This article is about the physical movie studios, not to be confused with Walt Disney Studios (production), production studio group.
Disney staff began the move from the old studio at Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles on December 24, 1939. Designed primarily by Kem Weber under the supervision of Walt Disney and his brother Roy, the buildings are the only studios to survive from the Golden Age of filming. The Walt Disney Company is the last remaining Big Ten company to remain independent from a mother company. The Studios are also the only major film/animation studio not to run backlot tours.
The Walt Disney Studios was originally designed around the animation process, with the large animation building in the center of the campus, and adjacent buildings for the story department, the music department, the ink-and-paint departments, and the other various functions of the studio. Both above-ground walkways and tunnels connected the buildings, and the campus also included a movie theatre and a number of soundstages. The Disney feature The Reluctant Dragon, starring Robert Benchley, served as a tour of the then-new studio, which was also frequently seen and toured on the various Walt Disney television programs.
In the late 1940s, the studio began regular work on live-action features, as they needed the money. Though their first films were shot in England, the necessity to build live-action facilities still arose. Lacking the capital to do it themselves, Jack Webb offered to put up some of the money to build live-action stages in exchange for their use (Webb used it to shoot much of the Dragnet TV series). During this time, back lots were also built and remained standing at the studios until the management change of the mid-1980s.
In 1986, after the corporate restructuring of Walt Disney Productions into The Walt Disney Company, the buildings were remodeled to accommodate more live-action production space and administrative offices. The Studios are now made up of multiple office and administration buildings and ten soundstages. The primary building is the commanding Team Disney Burbank building, completed in 1990 and designed by Michael Graves. The Team Disney Burbank building contains the office of President and CEO Robert A. Iger, as well as the boardroom for the Board of Directors. It also houses offices for members of Senior Management, such as Andy Bird, head of Walt Disney International, Jay Rasulo, President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and Dick Cook, Chairman of Walt Disney Studio Entertainment. The building is sometimes called the Seven Dwarfs Building; it has a stunning fascia of the seven dwarfs holding up the roof of the building.
On January 23, 2006, in honor of Michael Eisner's 21-year leadership of the company, the Team Disney building, was rededicated as Team Disney - The Michael D. Eisner Building.
During the restructuring, the animation facilities were spun off to officially create Walt Disney Feature Animation as a subsidiary of the company, and its operations were moved to the Air Way warehouse in Glendale. In 1995, a new Feature Animation building was completed, across the street from the main lot. The new studio is a colorful piece of architecture, adorned by a giant Sorcerer's Hat, which once housed of the office of Roy E. Disney, former head of WDFA.
More recently, after Disney's purchase of ABC, a new headquarters for the television network was constructed across Riverside Drive next to the Feature Animation Building. The ABC building was designed by Aldo Rossi and is connected to the lot by a blue serpentine bridge.