Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream I plane is making a cross-country journey to Anaheim, California, where it will be on display for fans attending the sold-out D23 Expo 2022 presented by Visa from September 9 through 11. D23 and the Walt Disney Archives, along with D23 Expo Platinum sponsor Amazon, have restored the plane’s exterior for guests to see in a specially curated exhibit in the Arena of the Anaheim Convention Center called Mickey Mouse One: Walt’s Plane presented by Amazon. The exhibit will highlight the history of the plane—also known as “The Mouse”—and showcase its significance in The Walt Disney Company’s history.
The newly repainted plane with updated wing edges and windows will be on view along with never-before-exhibited items from the aircraft’s interior, including a customized instrument panel originally located near Walt’s favorite onboard seat that allowed him to monitor flight conditions; a telephone handset that gave Walt a direct line of communication to the pilot in the cockpit; a flight bag featuring an image of Mickey Mouse sitting on the tail of the iconic plane; and more. Walt’s plane will return to the West Coast for the first time since October 8, 1992, when the plane landed on World Drive in Orlando, Florida, at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios), where it resided as a part of the Studio Backlot Tour until 2014. The recent exterior repaint and finishing work, along with the cross-country move of the aircraft, was made possible thanks to collaboration and support from Walt Disney Imagineering.
In 1963, Walt acquired the iconic Gulfstream that would come to be known as “The Mouse.” The interior of the plane, initially designed with creative input from Walt and his wife, Lillian, seated up to 15 passengers and included a galley kitchen, two restrooms, two couches, a desk, and nods to the mouse who started it all, including matchbooks and stationery adorned with a silhouette of Mickey Mouse. Mickey’s initials were eventually included in the tail number of the plane, too, as N234MM, in 1967. Throughout its 28 years of service to The Walt Disney Company, the plane flew 20,000 hours and transported an estimated 83,000 passengers before it was grounded.
D23 Expo will kick off Disney100, a celebration of the 100-year history of The Walt Disney Company, and in this all-new exhibit, guests will be invited to “take to the skies” and learn about the role this iconic plane has played throughout the company’s history:
- In 1963, Walt, members of his family, and company executives took off on a demonstration Gulfstream aircraft to explore potential locations, including Central Florida, for a proposed development often referred to as “Project X.” After Walt received his own Gulfstream in early 1964, he made several trips to Florida that ultimately laid the foundation to bring the magic of Walt Disney World to life.
- Walt’s plane flew a total of 277,282 miles back and forth between Burbank and New York to oversee preparations before and during the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair, an event that brought iconic attractions such as “it’s a small world” to an East Coast audience and, later, to Disneyland.
- The plane also took Disneyland to new heights as Walt found inspiration for the look of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction as he flew over the El Moro fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while conducting research for the now fan favorite.
- “The Mouse” has a star-studded past, having been used for promotional tours for Disneyland as well as for classic movies such as The Jungle Book (1967), as well as making appearances in The Walt Disney Studios films The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) and Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972), both of which starred Disney Legend Kurt Russell. The aircraft has also transported notable guests including Disney Legends Julie Andrews and Annette Funicello, as well as former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
- Painted blue and white in 1985, Walt’s plane embarked on goodwill tours and character visits to children’s hospitals, adding to the company’s history of giving back to the community.
Disney fans attending D23 Expo are invited to shop, browse and play at Amazon’s immersive space on the showroom floor with in-person peeks at custom merchandise related Mickey Mouse One: Walt’s Plane.
D23 Expo is sold out. Select presentations will be streamed for guests at D23 Expo [LIVE]. For more information, visit D23Expo.com.