Recreating 1961 Disneyland for ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Author’s note: The story that follows originally ran in the Disneyland Line, a fantastic magazine published exclusively for Disneyland Resort cast members. I loved the story so much, I wanted to share it with you. Please enjoy the following, written by my friend, Senior Internal Communications Specialist Ralphie Giron.

In addition to Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, the stars of the soon-to-be released “Saving Mr. Banks,” there’s a supporting role that shares the spotlight — Disneyland park.

The movie about Walt Disney (played by Hanks) and his mission to persuade “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers (played by Thompson) to allow him to turn his daughters’ favorite book into a movie includes scenes filmed at Disneyland park over two days in November 2012. But it was no easy task for Production Designer Michael Corenblith to transform modern-day Disneyland into the young park of the early 1960s for the Walt Disney Studios’ film. He worked with cast members, the film crew and Imagineers to recreate costumes, poster art, balloons — even the Floral Mickey — ensuring the movie would capture the period detail of 1961 Disneyland.

Imagineer Vanessa Hunt of the Walt Disney Imagineering Art Library worked with the film’s set decorator to determine which attraction posters would line the fence in front of the Floral Mickey.

“It was very exciting knowing that I was helping to bring the attraction posters back to their original location, even if it was just for a couple of days,” said Vanessa, referring to the attraction posters that lined that fence in front of Floral Mickey from 1956 until the early ’70s.

She worked with fellow Imagineers Josh Shipley and Neil Jones to produce color-accurate reproductions of the posters. “Those posters are a part of our guests’ memories of visiting Disneyland, so we knew they had to look as good as they did in 1961.”

Disneyland Resort Enhancement played a critical part in recreating window displays that were representative of 1961 Disneyland.

“Back in the 1960s, the Emporium was a lease shop, and a bronze castle hung under the Elias Disney window on Main Street, U.S.A.,” said Chris Matinas, Disneyland Resort Enhancement. “In addition to recreating that piece, I had the task of sourcing historically accurate props to use in the window display.”

Disneyland Resort cast members were among the hundreds of extras who came out during filming in the park, portraying both cast and guests in the film. Clint Corwin, who works in Disneyland Resort Outdoor Vending, had the opportunity to sell balloons as an extra in the film.

“For me, being on set was the strangest feeling,” Clint said. “In one scene we walked to Fantasyland through Sleeping Beauty Castle, and it was present day on one side and 1961 on the other.”

Nick Vento, who works in Main Street Stores, also served as an extra — and is thrilled that his name will be on screen as the closing credits roll.

“It was amazing — to actually think that we were recreating something that was so important to our company,” Nick said, referring to the making of “Mary Poppins,” which was released in 1964 and won five of its 13 Academy Award nominations — an unsurpassed record for the Walt Disney Studios. While filming “Saving Mr. Banks,” Hanks stayed in character, even between takes, Nick said. “I had goose bumps,” Nick said. “He looked and spoke just like Walt.”

Now take a look behind the scenes of “Saving Mr. Banks” to find out how they brought 1961 to life here at Disneyland and at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif.

“Saving Mr. Banks” opens in wide release December 20.


  • Truly Disney Magic – time after time they keep surprising us and surpassing our expectations with their ability to make the silver screen magical… Well done team Disney Studios.

  • I’m really looking forward to the film.

    Also, it’s going to be awesome seeing Disneyland on the big screen. 🙂

  • I notice the train is wrong. Was it not the Santa Fe & Disneyland RR? We used to get on without using a ticket because my dad was an engineer with the Santa Fe and had a pass. I think they even let him run the train once.

  • What a savory story. Thanks Erin for sharing!

  • I’ve been following all the videos that have been posted and all the interviews with the cast but this article and video were by far my favorite. This is going to be one of those movies you watch 1000 times and still see something new!

  • I am SO looking forward to this movie… Tom Hanks, one of my favourite actors, playing Walt Disney, one of my favourite icons… a dream. I watch the clips over and over again… so excited!

  • Really looking forward to seeing this movie, at the Disney Studios, Dec. 18th!

  • I’ve been looking forward to this movie ever since it was first announced, and can’t wait for Friday to get here so I can watch it! Also, as a former Disneyland cast member, it’s fantastic to see an article from the Disneyland Line get some public exposure!

  • I have the opportunity to see a preview of the film last week and I can’t not praise this film enough. It’s every Disney fan’s dream to have a film to shows how much creativity and passion Walt had for his projects and peers. I can’t wait to see it again and bring tissues this time. BRAVO to everyone involved on this film. I only hope that it brings more films about Walt Disney to the screen!

  • Went to the sneak preview last night and WOW, what an awesome movie!!

  • My family and I were at Disneyland last November during the filming. It was our first trip to Disneyland and it was a real treat to get to see Disneyland as it would have looked in 1961. We cannot wait to see Saving Mr. Banks, it will bring back so many memories for us!

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