Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream I made a cross-country journey to Anaheim, California to the D23 Expo 2022, before continuing on to Palm Springs, California where it will be displayed on a long term loan alongside the Palm Springs Air Museum collection.
"We are so happy to have Walt's plane make a 'landing' at the Palm Springs Air Museum, just a few miles from where Walt and his family had vacation homes at Smoke Tree Ranch," says Walt Disney Archives director Rebecca Cline. "It is the ideal setting for this incredible icon."
D23 and the Walt Disney Archives, along with D23 Expo Platinum sponsor Amazon, had restored the exterior for a specially curated exhibit highlighting the history of the aircraft, also known as 'The Mouse', and showcasing its significance in The Walt Disney Company’s history.
The newly repainted aircraft with updated wing edges and windows was on view along with never-before-exhibited items from its interior, including a customised instrument panel originally located near Walt’s favourite 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. The display marked the first time Walt’s aircraft had visited the west coast since 8 October, 1992 when it 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.
Walt acquired the iconic Gulfstream that would come to be known as 'The Mouse' in 1963. The interior, 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 aircraft flew 20,000 hours and transported an estimated 83,000 passengers before it was grounded.
The D23 Expo kicked off a celebration of the 100 year history of The Walt Disney Company, illustrating the role this iconic aircraft 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 aircraft 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 favourite.
'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), and 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 Kurt Russell. The aircraft has also transported notable guests including Julie Andrews and Annette Funicello, as well as former US Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
Painted blue and white in 1985, Walt’s aircraft embarked on goodwill tours and character visits to children’s hospitals, adding to the company’s history of giving back to the community.