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Carthay Circle Theater

Many buildings and windows at Disney's Hollywood Studios pay homage to the early beginnings of Walt Disney and the Disney Company and one rather large reference can be found in a little shop at the end of Sunset Boulevard called the "Once Upon A Time shop". This peach colored building sells a variety of clothing during the year but the building itself is there for a reason.


Although the shop is called the Once Upon A Time shop, the name of the building it's referencing is written above the entrance to the shop as well as vertically on the large sign, the Carthay Circle. The building is in fact an exact replica of the Carthay Circle located at 6316 San Vicente near Carillo Avenue, Los Angeles CA. The Carthay is where Disney premeired Snow White in 1938, the first ever full length animated feature, and the movie that put Disney on the map. Until that evening, the movie industry had been very negative toward a full-length animated fairy-tale. But the audience's response and Walt's emotional curtain speech surely place that event high on the list of reasons for the historic significance of the Carthay Circle. If you pay attention while inside the store, you can hear a radio interview held at the red carpet premiere from the night that Snow White premiered, being played over the speakers.


The Carthay Circle was the site of innumerable premieres and was one of the jewels of the Fox Theatre empire. The Carthay Circle's style was mission revival, it seated around 1500 people. This theatre (and Mann's Chinese Theatre) held more premieres than any theatre around. Gone With the Wind held it's big west coast premiere here. The Carthay Circle was torn down in the early 1970s.

The shop at the Studios used to sell mainly holiday decorations but in 2008, the store along with the stores adjacent to it, were rehabbed to sell mostly clothing for men and women.  In addition, the interior of the store changed considerably as you may recall a large selection of vintage Disney toys inside the store.

These toys were placed in the store because on that famous night in 1937 when Snow White debuted in the theater, Walt wanted to really put out all the stops and promote the film for the premier. This was a big night and Walt was all about making the most of it. So he brought his personal collection of Disney toys to the premier and displayed them throughout the theater as a means of synergy between the classic characters Walt had built up previously and the new Snow White film.

So just like the exterior of the building is themed after the Carthay Circle Theater, the interior had a number of classic Disney toys in there to mimic that historic night of the premier of Snow White. Not all of the toys are old enough to have been around from the days of the 1937 premier, but the general idea is there. Moreover, there's speculation that some of the toys were actually Walt's and others had been generously donated by collectors.  When the store was changed in 2008, the toys disappeared and today we have a more art-deco look to match the other stores in the area.


Another large-scale replica of the Carthay Circle Theater is planned to be constructed as the centerpiece of Disney's California Adventure's new Buena Vista Street entrance plaza, which should be ready by 2011.

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Ever seen something in Hollywood Studios and wondered why it was placed there by Disney's Imagineers? Matt Hochberg leads you on a regular look at the hidden details in Hollywood Studios and explains why it's there.


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Posted: Thursday, March 11, 2010 by
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