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Mon, Sep 05, 2022

Walt Disney’s Gulfstream I Makes West Coast Return

Storied Aircraft on Display at D23 Expo 2022

Founded in 1923 by brothers Walt and Ray Disney, The Walt Disney Company is a Burbank, California-based multinational conglomerate contemporaneously celebrated and despised by a global audience numbering in the billions.

Disney classic animation has been widely and rightly deemed indispensable to the cultural and artistic legacy of the Western world. Conversely, the Enchanted Kingdom’s annexation of Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel Studios has sparked controversy and engendered the impassioned enmity of legions of Star Wars and comic-book fans.

In 1963, Walt Disney acquired a Gulfstream I that would come to be known as The Mouse. The plane’s interior, initially designed with input from Walt and his wife, Lillian, seated up to 15 passengers and included a galley, two restrooms, two couches, a desk, and numerous nods to the speech-impeded, anthropomorphized mouse that started the Disney behemoth rolling. Even the mouse’s initials were insinuated into the airplane’s registration number, which in 1967 was changed to N234MM.

A famed and inveterate micromanager, Walt ordered extensive modification of The Mouse’s interior, including a customized instrument panel, originally located near his favorite cabin seat, by which Walt monitored flight conditions; and a telephone handset via which Walt communicated directly with the pilots in the cockpit. No doubt these modifications enriched the lives of Disney flight-crews.

In 1963, Walt, members of his family, and Disney executives took to the central-Florida skies in a Gulfstream demonstration aircraft to explore locations for a proposed development to which they clandestinely referred as Project X. Upon taking delivery of his own Gulfstream in early 1964, Walt made several trips to Florida that ultimately resulted in the founding and construction of Disney World.

In preparation for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, The Mouse flew a total of 277,282 miles between Burbank and New York. The fair so impressed Walt that it is credited as the inspiration for Disney’s It’s a Small World attraction. The Mouse also conveyed Walt to San Jaun, Puerto Rico, where his reconnaissance of the El Morro fortress inspired the look of the famed Pirates of the Caribbean attraction and film franchise.

Throughout Disney’s protracted, mid-20th Century heyday, The Mouse transported notable guests the likes of Julie Andrews and Annette Funicello, as well as former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Over the duration of its 28 years of service to The Walt Disney Company, N234MM flew 20,000 hours and transported an estimated 83,000 passengers before it was grounded in 1992 and made part of the Studio Backlot Tour at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) in Florida.

Comes now 2022, and N234MM—newly repainted and sporting updated wing leading-edges and windows—is making a cross-country journey to Anaheim, California, where it will be displayed in a specially curated exhibit in the Arena of the Anaheim Convention Center for the viewing pleasure of Disney fans attending the D23 Expo 2022—a yearly hootenanny at which Disney acolytes gather.

Parties interested in attending the 09-11 September, D23 Expo 2022 ought aspire otherwise, as the event is sold-out.

FMI: www.d23expo.com

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