Inside the Los Angeles mansion where Walt Disney once lived

When wrapping up Woking Way, a small, winding road between Los Feliz Boulevard and Griffith Park, you wouldn’t know it was any different from any of the other million dollar homes that surround it. This is because, from the street, all you see is an imposing gate and a steep driveway.

At the top, this is where the magic lies. At the top is the Walt Disney House, the house that Mickey built, a storybook cottage, part of a luxury mansion, all Hollywood fairytales.

“The Walt Disney Storybook Mansion,” as he calls it, is a private residence. Once a month, it opens for tours, led by Dusty Sage, the Disney expert who runs the Disney blog MiceChat and who has been instrumental in saving and restoring Walt Disney’s hometown of Chicago.

“There is something special in the house,” he said. “I always like to think I feel Walt Disney’s spirit when I’m here. Whether it’s just thinking that way or if it’s really his spirit, I don’t know. But I have chills in this house. No matter how many times I’m here, I feel like this place while he’s talking to me.”

The lobby has a winding staircase, a stained glass window and a painted ceiling.

Anthony R. Hayes, Courtesy of Friends of The Walking Way

The house is a fairytale: white stucco and deep red brick, with dark wood paneling and stained glass windows. The front door is set inside a central weather vane-mounted tower, lined with rose bushes with two colors of rose: yellow for Walt and pink for his wife Lillian, who was a passionate gardener.

The couple built the house in 1932, took daughters Diane and Sharon there, and lived there until 1950.

“Most people come here and immediately think of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, assuming the house was inspired by that movie and built with its profits,” Sage said. “But it’s really the other way around. This house was built in the year 32, the movie Snow White didn’t come out until the year 37, and they haven’t even started working on that movie yet. This house was just a style Walt Disney loved.”

It’s also the same style as the country house in the storybooks of Walt’s favorite restaurant, nearby Tam O’Shatter, which was built in 1922 and was the daily lunch spot for Disney and his inner circle. To this day, Table 31 still has a plaque indicating Disney’s favorite spot in the restaurant.

The view from the front yard.
The view from the front yard.

Julie Tremaine

Learning about Disney’s history is like falling down an “Alice in Wonderland” style rabbit hole. There is a lot of great information on how Walt Disney’s vision of pop culture has shaped and defined what we consider premium entertainment today. There are also disturbing accounts of misogyny and anti-Semitism. But the tour, as you might expect, focused on the good parts, and during that hour, I was happy to do that too.

The house is where the Disney girls grew up, and there are touches everywhere that indicate how important this home is to the family. At the top of the winding circular staircase is a landing that connects the master bedroom to the girls’ bedrooms, with Juliet’s balcony in between. But rather than calling the space by its architectural name, in the Disney home, it was the “Christmas Tree Point.”

“Christmas morning, the two Disney girls were escaping to that balcony to see if Santa brought them presents,” Sage said. “Every Christmas the tree was put here in front of this big window, with all the presents for the girls around it.”

The Disney girls’ Snow White cottage is still standing after 85 years.

Julie Tremaine

In 1937, in his excitement to release Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, his first full-length movie, Disney hosted the studio crew overnight to build a gift for the girls in their backyard. When they woke up on Christmas morning, a Snow White-style playhouse outside was waiting for them.



The hut still stands in the backyard, although a swimming pool has been added near it. (Disney’s original pool has been a fraction of the lot that has since been sold.) “It had electricity and running water with a small tub, and had a working phone attached to the kitchen so Lillian could call them and tell them it was time to get in,” Sage explained. “This Christmas morning after the girls finished unwrapping their last present, Walt said, ‘Do you hear a ring? And the girls looked around and heard the tinkling coming from this strange hut.

“They ran into the hut of the seven dwarfs to answer the phone and it was Santa Claus,” Sage added. “He wanted to know if they liked their new little house.”

Walt Disney plays with his daughter and dog in his garden circa 1940 in Los Angeles.
Walt Disney plays with his daughter and dog in his garden circa 1940 in Los Angeles.

The Earl Thiessen Collection / Getty Images

Zillow’s Zestimate is that this four-bedroom, five-bathroom Disney home is worth about $8 million, but like most Man and Mouse artifacts, it’s hard to put a true appreciation for the cultural value. After all, when a postcard bearing one of Walt Disney’s oldest autographs — an old piece of paper — was up for auction in 2020, it fetched $40,000.

Because Disney began building in the midst of the Great Depression, many skilled workers were available and motivated to work. Supplies were cheap, and what would have taken much longer and cost more in other circumstances only took 10 weeks to set up and cost $50,000 (about $1 million today, adjusted for inflation, though just a few months ago it would have been more than 750 one thousand dollars ).

At any one time, 50-100 people were working in the house, building a circular staircase in the hallway, putting pieces of stained glass in the windows, and hand-painting intricate murals on the ceilings.

“That was the style of Hollywood today,” Sage said. “If you can build a house this big at the time, you are a person. But the secret is that Walt really wasn’t. He hadn’t even made his first feature film yet.”

“But two years before he moved here, he invented a little cutter named Mickey Mouse,” he continued, “moving in the garage of the house at the bottom of Lyric Avenue.” And the profits of those short films began to appear.

Disney living room where they can entertain friends and display their Christmas tree in front of the big window
Disney living room where they can entertain friends and display their Christmas tree in front of the big window

Anthony R. Hayes, Courtesy of Friends of The Walking Way

The house on Woking Way is now owned by director Timur Bekmambetov, best known for films like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and “Wanted.” Disney left home in 1950, and they moved into a larger home in Holmby Hills (near Beverly Hills) that had Lillian’s garden space, and Walt built a rideable model train in the backyard.

The owners between Disneys and Bekmambetov, who bought the house in 2011, did not have the history preservation in mind, and made several updates to modernize the interior. However, Bekmambetov was working on returning the house to what it would have looked like in the Disney era, adding vintage furniture and filling the house with his own collection of original Disney art.

Rose bushes have two colors of rose in one plant: yellow for Walt and pink for his wife, Lillian.
Rose bushes have two colors of rose in one plant: yellow for Walt and pink for his wife, Lillian.

Julie Tremaine

Ticket sales from the tours go to Friends of Woking Way, a non-profit group responsible for the preservation and restoration of the home.

Sage said Bekmambetov “spent a lot of money to get the house back to what it would have looked like when Walt Disney lived here and then put his entire collection on the walls.” “Walt Disney didn’t have his own artwork on the walls. He worked with it all day. He didn’t need to see it when he got home.”

The rest of the house was just [decorated with] The art they collected during their travels was gifted to them by many of their artist friends.” Instead of spending evenings out, Walt and Lillian preferred to invite friends over to the house or spend their evenings with their families. Spencer and Louise Tracy were close Disney friends and spent a lot of time in Woking Way.

The Disney family's private screening room where Walt watched the newspapers for his films and the family showed first-run films.
The Disney family’s private screening room where Walt watched the newspapers for his films and the family showed first-run films.

Anthony R. Hayes, Courtesy of Friends of The Walking Way

Disney was the family man first. Sage said he drove his daughters to school every morning, and the same spirit of hospitality extended to the girls’ friends at school. During the time when the family lived in the house, Walt Disney Studios showed such films as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Dumbo” and “Pinocchio”. The girls often had friends to show those films in the family’s screening room, which during the day was Walt’s place to watch the dailies of films in progress, and at night was the family’s cinema.

“Disney wouldn’t have been able to [go to the movies] “Because everyone wanted to sign Walt, shake hands with him, or introduce their children to him,” Sage explained. “Walt didn’t want to subject his little girls to that – so they’d just sit here in this room and watch whatever they wanted because he was Walt Disney.”

He added that Diane and Sharon “can bring their friends from school home, watch any movie they want, and introduce their friends to the man who invented Mickey Mouse.”

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