Real Buildings that Inspired
Disney’s California Adventure,
Part 1
Eight weeks ago, Yesterland published Real Buildings that Inspired Disney-MGM Studios. I made the point that guests at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) are immersed in a believable streetscape of another place and time because the Walt Disney Imagineers did such a great job. Everything looks and feels authentic because the designs are based on notable Los Angeles area buildings.
In the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of Disney’s California Adventure Park, the Imagineers also used real Los Angeles landmarks as the basis for their designs. Although the building designs are terrific, the overall results aren’t nearly as good—in my opinion. The next installment of this two-part article will suggest some reasons. But first, let’s look at six buildings.
Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, January 11, 2008    

Gone Hollywood
Disney: Gone Hollywood, biggest Hollywood Pictures Backlot shop
Bullocks Wilshire
Inspiration: Bullocks Wilshire, 3050 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

In 1929, John G. Bullock of Bullock’s department stores opened the luxurious Bullocks Wilshire store to serve rich and famous Los Angeles shoppers for whom the regular Bullock’s were too middle class. Father-and-son architects John and Donald Parkinson designed an art deco masterpiece. For six decades, Bullocks Wilshire maintained an identity separate from the regular Bullock’s stores, and even opened several branches in wealthy suburbs. In 1990, the store became part of I. Magnin, but that didn’t last long. The store closed permanently in 1993, a victim of changing customer patterns and the 1992 bankruptcy of parent R.H. Macy & Co. In 1994, the Bullocks Wilshire building became part of Southwestern Law School, which restored the building to its 1929 appearance. The building is not open to the general public, except during a once-a-year “Tea and Tour” program.

Off The Page
Disney: Off The Page, selling Disney animation merchandise
Chapman Market
Inspiration: Chapman Market, 3465 West Sixth St., Los Angeles

Chapman Market was built in 1929. The architect of this Churrigueresque extravaganza was Stiles Clements of the architectural firm Morgan, Walls & Clements. It was one of the first markets in the western United States designed for customers arriving by car. Chapman Market now serves the Koreatown section of Los Angeles. The Disney version only reproduces one small part of the block-long market.

Playhouse Disney
Disney: Playhouse Disney (originally ABC Soap Opera Bistro)
ABC Radio
Inspiration: ABC Radio, 1533-41 N. Vine St., Hollywood

The sleek Streamline Moderne building is from 1937. It has a long history. In the 1940s, it became the West Coast home of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), originally for radio, and later for television. In the 1970s, it was the TAV Celebrity Theater, home of The Merv Griffin Show. A fire in the 1990s put the building out of commission. Now all that’s left from the original building is its restored façade. It’s part of the Sunset+Vine mixed-use complex, and provides the entrances to a new Schwab’s (based on Hollywood’s legendary Schwab’s Pharmacy) and Kabuki Sushi.

Disney: Schmoozies, a fruit smoothie counter
Crossroads of the World
Inspiration: Crossroads of the World, 6669 Sunset Blvd.

The Crossroads of the World might be best known for its tower, which is reproduced at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World, topped by Mickey Mouse. But there are other buildings at the real Crossroads of the World complex, which was designed by Robert V. Derrah and built in 1936. One of the buildings right on Sunset Blvd. now houses Eckankar, a religious organization.

Hyperion Theatre
Disney: Hyperion Theatre, but not an actual entrance
Los Angeles Theatre
Inspiration: Los Angeles Theatre, 615 South Broadway, Los Angeles

The 2,050-seat Los Angeles Theatre, which opened opened January 30, 1931, was the last great movie palace to be built in downtown Los Angeles. Famed theater architect S. Charles Lee desgned the ornate French baroque style theater for entrepreneur and film exhibitor, H.L. Gumbiner. According to ExperienceLA, “Spending more than $1 million, Gumbiner insisted on exceeding existing standards of extravagance.” The Los Angeles Theatre finally stopped regular movie showings in 1994. It’s now used for special events and as a location for filming movie scenes that require a particularly opulent setting. The interior of the Hyperion Theatre doesn’t bear any resemblence to that of the Los Angeles Theatre.

Façade adjacent to the Hyperion Theater
Disney: Façade adjacent to the Hyperion Theater
Beverly Wilshire Hotel
Inspiration: Beverly Wilshire Hotel, 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills

The Beverly Wilshire Hotel—or the “Beverly Wilshire Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel)” as the current owners insist on billing it—was completed in 1928. Designed by the architecture firm of Walker & Eisen in an Italian Renaissance style, it was built on the site of what had been the Beverly Hills Speedway. The Beverly Wilshire was one of the locations for the 1990 Touchstone (Disney) movie Pretty Woman. Alas, the California Adventure version is essentially just a fancy wall.

This article continues at Buildings that Inspired Disney’s California Adventure, Part 2.

Buildings that Inspired DCA, #2
Carthay Circle Theatres

© 2008-2012 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated March 23, 2012.

Photo of Gone Hollywood: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Bullocks Wilshire: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Off The Page: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Chapman Market: 2007 by Charles Wang.
Photo of Playhouse Disney: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Schwab’s on Vine Street: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Schmoozies: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Crossroads of the World: 2007 by Chris Bales.
Photo of Hyperion Theatre: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Los Angeles Theatre: 2007 by Chris Bales.
Photo of Façade adjacent to the Hyperion Theater: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Beverly Wilshire Hotel: 2007 by Chris Bales.