The recently-completed renovation of the Disney California Adventure theme park at the Disneyland Resort centers around the notion of bringing more “Disney” to the park that previously lacked such a connection. Imagineers reinvented the park’s entrance as the new Buena Vista Street, with tributes to Disney’s past that tie into the ’20s / ’30s theme of the area. The ultimate link that brings the true essence of Disney into the revitalization of the park is Walt Disney himself, with the park’s new underlying theme telling the story of when Walt first arrived to California.
To mark this moment in history, Disney created a counterpart to the iconic “Partners” statue of Walt and Mickey Mouse that has been seen within Disneyland park (and others) for years. The new statue is called “Storytellers,” depicting a younger, more casual Walt, as he may have looked just after stepping off a train into California with, as Disney likes to put it, little more than “a suitcase and a dream.” Unlike “Partners” at Disneyland, which is elevated amidst a large flower bed and directly inaccessible to guests, “Storytellers” is at ground level, allowing fans to come closer than ever to Walt himself.’
The video below shows happy guests and a pair of Disney notables on Buena Vista Street’s official opening day, June 15, 2012:
Video: “Storytellers” statue on Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure
As seen above, even Disney / Pixar’s chief creative officer John Lasseter and Disney president and CEO Bob Iger took the time to honor Walt Disney on Disney California Adventure’s grand reopening day by posing with the new statue.
“Storytellers” resides in Carthay Circle, at the end of Buena Vista Street, directly parallel to its Disneyland counterpart. Two plaques are posted on both sides of the new statue, adding meaning for those who are curious why Walt Disney is seen casually dressed, wearing a fedora, and leaning on a suitcase.
The title plaque simply reads:
“We are just getting started.”
The other plaque includes a longer quote offering the story behind “Storytellers”:
“It was July 1923. I packed all of my worldly goods – a pair of trousers, a checkered coat, a lot of drawing materials and the last of the fairy tale reels we had made – in a kind of frayed cardboard suitcase. And with that wonderful audacity of youth, I went to Hollywood, arriving there with just forty dollars. It was a big day the day I got on that Santa Fe California Limited. I was just free and happy!”
Before the days of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and long before Disneyland was ever a thought, Walt Disney was a cartoonist, with a history of creating artwork for a variety of organizations before going into business for himself. The design on Walt’s suitcase for the “Storytellers” statue mirrors that his business cards.
The finalized look of the “Storytellers” statue was first revealed at the 2011 D23 Expo in an Imagineer-led preview presentation outlining the many Disney details and tributes that would be included throughout Buena Vista Street:
Video: “Storytellers” statue model first unveiled at the 2011 D23 Expo
But seeing the full-size “Storytellers” statue up close for the first time at eye level is an emotional moment for many a Disney fan, the closest today’s generations of fans will ever come to meeting Walt Disney.
For me, it was placing my hand on Walt’s shoulder (below), as if he was my new best friend, posing for a photo alongside him, that left me a bit choked up. Imagineers have done wonders for recreating a moment in history, standing in the middle of Buena Vista Street with the massive Carthay Circle Theatre off to the side and the Red Car Trolley passing by. Guests are transported to that moment in time when Walt looked around him at the promise of his future in California, thinking, “We are just getting started.”
Though Mickey Mouse is often the star of Disneyland, on Buena Vista Street at the “new” Disney California Adventure, guests are quickly reminded that while it’s been said it all started with a mouse, it truly started with a man – and a dream.