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A look at Walt Disney’s family history at Disneyland Paris

by Attractions Magazine Staff

There are many references to the life of Walt Disney at Disneyland Paris, but did you know that tribute is paid to other members of his family at the parks too?

disneyland paris

Just opposite the Emporium, on Main Street, U.S.A., New Century Notions – Flora’s Unique Boutique owes its success to its owner’s talent for finding new and rare objects from all over France, in memory of her family history. But Flora was also the name of Walt’s mother. According to the beautiful mosaic on the floor at the entrance of the shop, it was founded in 1888; but another equally symbolic event lies behind that one as it was in fact the year Flora Call married Elias Disney.

flora disney

It therefore makes sense that Disneyland Paris would pay tribute to Walt’s mother considering that it was her who introduced him to reading (with this reference to his life being remembered, wouldn’t you know, right opposite at the Storybook Store) and in particular the European fairy tales that she read to him every night before falling asleep. And it was from those same fairy tales that Walt drew inspiration for many of his animated masterpieces as well as Fantasyland, which is dominated by the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle.

As for Walt’s father, Elias, references to him are made on metal plaques that are embedded in the ground of Main Street. There he is described as a “contractor,” i.e as a building contractor, which was one of his many trades. This reference echoes the one chosen by Walt for one of the windows on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Resort, which he dedicated to his father at the opening of the California park in 1955. They were in fact both builders, with Walt being the person behind the construction of several film studios as well as Disneyland and Elias helping to build the Union Pacific Railroad through Colorado and the Chicago World Fair in 1893. It is also thanks to him that Walt discovered music, which is so important in his films and at his theme parks. When the Disney family lived in Marceline, the small town on which Main Street, U.S.A. is based, Elias went to the old Taylor home every Sunday to play the violin and was accompanied by the host’s daughter on the piano. It was during these intimate concerts that Walt’s first musical emotions were aroused and which would mark him forever.

As for Lillian, Walt’s wife, she is honored at Lilly’s Boutique. Opened in June 1999, the refined décor of this houseware shop is inspired by Lillian’s tastes, with porcelain crockery and many photos of the Disney couple. These particularly moving images recall memories of their trips to Switzerland and France, or their 30th wedding anniversary, which they celebrated on July 13, 1955 at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Saloon, just days before the park officially opened. This was a way of linking the history of the Disney Parks with Europe, which is symbolic of the spirit of Disneyland Paris.

disneyland paris

Roy Oliver Disney, one of Walt’s older brothers, is undoubtedly the family member who played the biggest role in developing his younger brother’s dream and keeping it alive, both in the film and theme park industry. He was responsible for building Walt Disney World Resort in Florida in 1971, thus continuing his brother’s latest project. At Disneyland Paris, his name and date of birth (June 24, 1893) can be found at the top of the building housing Disney & Co. They also appear on one of the windows on Main Street, U.S.A. above the Boardwalk Candy Palace, together with those of his brother, under the caption “Two Brothers Inc. – Dreamers & Doers – ‘If we can Dream it we can Do it!’ – Roy O. Disney, Walt E. Disney, Founders and Partners,” which recalls Roy’s key role in founding The Walt Disney Company in 1923, when it was only Disney Brothers Studios.

The last member of the family to which tribute is paid at Disneyland Paris is Roy Edward, Walt’s nephew, who worked forr him as assistant editor on several episodes of the “True-Life Adventures” series, before taking over the management of Walt Disney Animation Studios years later. He was very much present at the opening of Disneyland Paris in 1992 and Walt Disney Studios Park in 2002, and also features in “The Art of Disney Animation” (2002-2019) demonstration film. One of the windows on Main Street, U.S.A. is dedicated to him, above Ribbons and Bows Hat Shop, where it is written: “Pyewacket Cruise Lines – For a Day You Will Treasure Book a Cruise That’s a ‘Pleasure’ – Capt. Roy E. Disney” – a fun reference to his well-known love for water sports.

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