'World of Color' at Disney California Adventure Park

Exclusive Interview: Lesley Ann Warren Celebrates Her Disney Roots at Disneyland Park

posted on January 23rd, 2012 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


Lesley Ann Warren recently visited Disneyland park with her family and there was something special I thought she would like to see in New Orleans Square. Costume sketches from the 1967 Disney film, “The Happiest Millionaire,” in which she made her motion picture debut, have been added to the art collection on display inside Club 33 and we arranged for her to come take a look and share some of her own special Disney memories.

Lesley Ann Warren and Mickey Mouse Stand Near the Costume Sketches Hanging on the Wall at Club 33 at Disneyland Park

Lesley Ann and her family were greeted warmly by Mickey Mouse when they arrived. Then, in the middle of all the hugs and laughter, she caught a glimpse of the costume sketches hanging on the wall behind her and instantly recognized her character, Cordy, in the upper left corner, excitedly telling her family, “That’s me! This was my very first movie!”

Lesley Ann Warren and Mickey Mouse Stand in Front of the Telephone Booth at Club 33

Sketches of Bill Thomas’ Academy Award-nominated Costume Design aren’t the only nod to “The Happiest Millionaire” inside Club 33. Emil Kuri, who personally helped Walt Disney select antiques and decorative items for the Club, was also the Set Decorator on the film, so it should come as no surprise that the telephone booth in the Club was adapted directly from the one in the Biddle’s foyer from the movie. While the phone booth in the movie appears larger than the one in Club 33, certain pieces such as the beveled glass windows and parts of the carved wood molding are identical, and were most likely taken from the original film prop.

Lesley Ann graciously agreed to sit down with me for a brief chat about her memories of making “The Happiest Millionaire,” working with Walt Disney, and of her (almost) first visit to Disneyland park.

The Cast of 'The Happiest Millionaire' with Walt Disney

George Savvas: What was it like to be cast by Walt Disney in your first film?

Lesley Ann Warren: When I did “The Happiest Millionaire,” I had a two-week Hollywood screen test with costumes and make-up and hair and learning the choreography and the music and the songs and then he (Walt Disney) picked me to do this which was an incredible honor.

Lesley Ann Warren Poses with Walt Disney

George Savvas: What were your impressions of Walt Disney?

Lesley Ann Warren: He was the ultimate. He was very quiet on the set when he would visit, but you always knew when he was there. He knew everything – he knew what color hair ribbon I had on, as well as what they were serving in the commissary, as well as what the animators were doing with their projects, I mean his influence and inspiration and taste, was everywhere. I was invited to his home for dinner one night with his wife and some of the cast. I was so awe struck I don’t think I said three words during the whole evening!

John Davidson and Lesley Ann Warren Pose with Walt Disney

George Savvas: After “The Happiest Millionaire” you had another project with Disney, and that was during a difficult time at the Studio. What can you tell me about that period?

Lesley Ann Warren: I was under contract to Walt Disney and the Studio, and I was supposed to do my second film which was, “The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band,” and he passed away just before we began. It was an enormous tragedy, obviously for the world, but for those of us who were so involved with him, the loss of him put a pall over everything. There was such a sadness, you know, it was pervasive, but because we were all so dedicated to fulfilling his vision we threw ourselves into the making of that second film and had a glorious time in the making of it because we were carrying on his tradition.

Lesley Ann Warren as Cordy in 'The Happiest Millionaire'

George Savvas: What was your first Disney film premiere like?

Lesley Ann Warren: I mean it was a crazy time for me. They did this monumental opening for “The Happiest Millionaire” with a red carpet down the entire Hollywood Boulevard starting from Highland to the Pantages. We arrived in carriages you know the same kind of carriages that were in the film. It was so much for such a young girl.

George Savvas: Do you remember the first time you visited one of our parks?

Lesley Ann Warren: I remember my first experience coming here to Disneyland. I was married to Jon Peters at the time. I was making “The Happiest Millionaire,” and we got invited to come to Disneyland, and they wouldn’t let him in because his hair was too long! (Laughs)

They wouldn’t let him in and he was, you know, very stubborn. He wouldn’t pull his hair back. He wouldn’t cut his hair, so it was an interesting conversation that ensued, but, yeah, that was my very first time! (Laughs)

About 10 years ago, you did a musical celebration here honoring Walt Disney’s birthday and I was here for that. Of course I’ve been back many, many times, but that was also a wonderful memory for me because I brought my whole family and we stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel.

George Savvas: What memories are you looking forward to making during this visit?

Lesley Ann Warren: Well, I’m here with my husband and his daughter and her fiancé and his two young children, so… we want to do everything! This is the little ones’ first time at Disneyland, so we’re seeing it through their eyes. It’s really exciting.

  • Share: 

Tagged: ,

Filed: Celebrity Visits, Disney History, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort

8 Comments

1

Barbara from TX on January 23rd, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Like the photos and story a lot. Really fun movie to watch!
Wow! I hope to look as good as Lesley Ann when I reach her age.

2

Duncan on January 23rd, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Great Story. One of the songs on my IPod is Watch your Footwork from Happiest Millionare,

3

Elisabeth on January 23rd, 2012 at 2:36 pm

This is one of our favorite movies of all time so its really amazing to me how many people have never seen it! This follows the true story of a wonderful family and represents the ideas and values that Walt him self really stood for. The Sherman Brothers songs are amazing as always and the costumes are spot on! Also a perfect movie for Fred MacMurray as it represents what he stood for and his love of this country. If you have not seen this great movie, SEE IT! Thanks for giving the movie some love and sharing it here, it was fortuitous!

4

Friend on January 23rd, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Glad to hear that Lesley and family were invited to Club 33 to see the Gallery artwork and talk about her first movie with Walt. I remember as a teenager seeing both films when they came out with my parents and family. It was such an uplifting film just after Walt’s passing.

5

Merwin on January 23rd, 2012 at 5:32 pm

SHE HASN’T AGED A DAY…..

6

Dean on January 24th, 2012 at 12:36 am

I will be singing “Fortuosity” the day I step in Club 33…

7

Tiffany on January 24th, 2012 at 1:02 pm

We saw Lesley Ann and her beautiful family taking a tour of California Adventure when we visited for Christmas! I was surprised at how tiny she is, she’s the same height as Mickey Mouse! I loved her as Scarlet in the movie Clue, she’s such a wonderful actress! Never knew she was in The Happiest Millionaire, will have to check it out! Thanks for featuring this interview!

8

Kathy on January 30th, 2012 at 9:17 pm

She still is pretty!, I hope I look as good as her when I reach her age. I was always wondering whatever happened to her. Thank you for having the opportunity to interview her.

8 Comments