Multi-Year Restoration and Recreation Project Announced by The Walt Disney Company

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Walt Disney in front of disneyland castle

Credit: Disney

On his birthday, Disney is honoring Walt Disney, the man who started a worldwide phenomenon, by restoring a historic piece of his heritage.

Walt Disney’s birthday has been celebrated by fans worldwide, honoring the memory of the man whose dream became a reality and who started a worldwide phenomenon with his company’s magical storytelling. Whether fans fell in love with The Walt Disney Company after watching a timeless classic story or visiting one of the Disney Parks worldwide — Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disney Resort, or Disneyland Paris —there is no doubt that Walt Disney’s legacy has marked millions of fans worldwide and across generations.

Sleeping Beauty Castle with Walt and Mickey Mouse Partners Statue at Disneyland Resort
Credit: Disney

One of the many celebrations of Walt Disney’s birthday took place today at the Palm Springs Air Museum, where a VIP party and the opening of a new exhibit to accompany Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream I airplane took place. During the event, Rebecca Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives, announced that the Palm Springs Air Museum, in conjunction with Phoenix Air, will take on a multi-year, titanic project; restoring and recreating the interior of the Gulfstream I to resemble what it looked like when Walt flew it in the 1960s.

Per Disney D23’s website, Museum Vice Chairman Fred Bell said, “We are so thrilled to partner with the Walt Disney Archives on this amazing restoration project. The Palm Springs Air Museum has restored over 60 aircraft in its 26-year history. Phoenix Air Group out of Cartersville, Georgia, has offered to donate any parts we need. Phoenix Air Group is a worldwide provider of aviation services, and at one point, owned and operated 20% of the world fleet of Gulfstream I’s flying at the time. We know that we have a special responsibility to Walt Disney, to the Archives, and to the millions of Disney fans around the world to do this work as accurately as possible so that the airplane can be enjoyed for decades to come.”

Interior of Walt Disney's airplane, Grumman Gulfstream I
Credit: D23

The ambitious project is anticipated to take approximately two years. Unfortunately, the historic piece of Disney history had earlier been dismantled and was reported in an abandoned state at Walt Disney World Resort.

The historic piece of Walt Disney’s heritage — which is on a long-term loan from the Walt Disney Archives — is currently part of an exhibit where rarely shown items from the interior of the aircraft, affectionately known as “The Mouse,” are on display for visitors to the Palm Springs Air Museum. Items include a customized instrument panel originally located near Walt’s favorite onboard seat that allowed him to monitor flight conditions; a telephone handset that gave Walt a direct line of communication to the pilot in the cockpit; a flight bag featuring an image of Mickey Mouse sitting on the tail of the iconic plane; and more.

Console from Walt Disney's private airplane, "The Mouse," with Mickey Mouse
Credit: D23

Since Walt Disney acquired the iconic Gulfstream in 1963, the aircraft flew over 20,000 hours and transported an estimated 83,000 passengers before it was decommissioned. Disney D23 shared a few details regarding the role the iconic plane played throughout The Walt Disney Company’s history, such as:

  • In 1963, Walt, members of his family, and company executives took off on a demonstration Gulfstream aircraft to explore potential locations, including Central Florida, for a proposed development often referred to as “Project X.” After Walt received his own Gulfstream in early 1964, he made several trips to Florida that ultimately laid the foundation to bring the magic of Walt Disney World Resort to life.
  • Walt’s plane flew a total of 277,282 miles back and forth between Burbank and New York to oversee preparations before and during the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair, an event that brought iconic attractions such as “it’s a small world” to an East Coast audience and, later, to Disneyland.
Interior of Walt Disney's Grumman Gulfstream I
Credit: D23
  • The plane also took Disneyland to new heights as Walt found inspiration for the look of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction as he flew over the El Moro fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while conducting research for the now fan favorite.
  • “The Mouse” has a star-studded past, having been used for promotional tours for Disneyland as well as for classic movies such as The Jungle Book (1967). The aircraft also made appearances in The Walt Disney Studios films The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) and Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972), both of which starred Disney Legend Kurt Russell, who has ties to the desert. The aircraft has also transported notable guests including Disney Legends Julie Andrews and Annette Funicello, as well as former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, also frequent visitors to the Palm Springs area.
  • Painted blue and white in 1985, Walt’s plane embarked on goodwill tours and character visits to children’s hospitals, adding to the company’s history of giving back to the community.

Would you like to visit the Palm Springs Air Museum to meet Walt Disney’s iconic plane before its restoration? Let us know in the comments below!

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