One Man’s Dream

On October 1, 2001, the Disney Company kicked off a year-long celebration called 100 Years of Magic to honor Walt’s birth a century earlier. The Disney/MGM Studio was selected to be the “official” park for this tribute and a Sorcerer’s Hat was erected at the end of Hollywood Blvd in honor of the event.

Sorcerer's Hat

At that same time, a new attraction opened on Mickey Boulevard called “One Man’s Dream.” Here, the milestones and accomplishments of Walt Disney are displayed and discussed.

One Man's Dream

One Man's Dream

But this wasn’t the first time Walt’s life story had been presented at a theme park. On May 6, 1973, “The Walt Disney Story” officially opened in the Hospitality House (now Exhibition Hall) on Main Street and played until October 1992. This 23 minute film was shown in twin 300 seat theaters and told the life story of Walt, and to a much lesser extent, his brother Roy. Narrated by Walt, the movie was pieced together from numerous interviews he gave during his lifetime. The queue and waiting area for this movie was full of awards, models, and memorabilia pertaining to his accomplishments.

If you wander to the back portion of Exhibition Hall today, you can see the remnants of one of the theaters. This is a perfect spot to sit and relax and enjoy an old Disney cartoon on a hot day.

Walt Disney Story Theater

Housed in one of the soundstages of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, One Man’s Dream greets guests with classic and familiar pictures of Walt and Mickey. In many ways, this attraction is a reincarnation of “The Walt Disney Story” of earlier years.

Walt and Mickey

Walt and Mickey

Much of the first portion of this walking tour features old photographs of the Disney family. In this first picture we see Walt at ten months (born December 5, 1901) and his parents, Elias and Flora. The second picture is of Walt and his younger sister Ruth.

Walt, Elias, and Flora

Walt and his sister Ruth

As the tour continues, three-dimensional artifacts are added to the mix. Here we see Walt’s second-grade school desk from Marceline, Missouri. In the photograph above the desk, his initials “WD” can be seen carved into the wood.

Walt's Second Grade Desk

Walt only lived in Marceline for four years. Yet, this small town had a large impact on his life. In this next exhibit we see a model of Disneyland’s Main Street. Much of this thoroughfare was inspired by Walt’s memories of his beloved childhood home.

Model of Disneyland's Main Street

This next exhibit is a reproduction of an early animator’s desk. Cartoons like Plane Crazy, The Gallopin’ Gaucho, and Steamboat Willie were created on tables similar to this.

Animator's Desk

When Walt began work on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” he knew he needed a new storytelling technique. So he and his team created the multiplane camera. This apparatus added depth-of-field to animated scenes and was first used on, “The Old Mill,” one of the Silly Symphonies. “The Old Mill” went on to win an Academy Award for Best Short Subjects: Cartoons. This display and a nearby video provide an easy to understand explanation as to how this device works.

Multiplane Camera

One Man’s Dream has several displays featuring vintage Disney toys. The plaques here describe the genius of Roy Disney, Walt’s older brother.

“By the mid-1930’s, Mickey Mouse had become the most popular entertainment figure in the world. Roy O. Disney negotiated dozens of agreements to produce Disney character merchandise of every imaginable sort, resulting in the creation of more than 10,000 depression-era jobs.”

“A successful Disney film meant popular new characters, which almost invariably spawned new lines of themed merchandise. ‘Three Little Pigs’ made their way to such popular items as porcelain figurines, cups, mugs, and plates.”

Early Disney Merchandise

Another storytelling technique rolling around in Walt’s head was the idea of a mechanical figure that could reproduce the lifelike movements of a man. While on vacation in New Orleans, Walt found and purchased a mechanical bird that could sing while moving its beak, head, and wings. He took it home and gave it to a couple of his Imagineers so they could dissect it and discover what made it tick.

Soon after, Walt hired Buddy Ebsen to dance in front of a large grid and filmed the hoofer’s movements. Walt himself directed the sequence. This footage was then studied and measurements were taken. With this information, combined with the knowledge gained from the mechanical bird, the Imagineers built a 1/8 scale model of Ebsen which perfectly reproduced his dance routine. Walt personally built a miniature stage to showcase his new figure.

These next two photographs show the mechanical man, stage, and the cams used to recreate the figure’s lifelike movements.

Minature Dancing Man

Minature Dancing Man Cams

Behind a glass enclosure we see a recreation of the Studio office Walt used from 1940 to 1966. To the right side of the first picture you can see an aerial view of Disneyland and an early plot plan for Walt Disney World.

Walt's Office

Walt's Office

This next picture is a long shot looking down a corridor filled with fascinating bits of Disney trivia. For the most part, all of the displays are presented chronologically.

Mulitple Displays

If you love miniatures, you’ll love “One Man’s Dream.” This attraction is filled with models the Imagineers created to help them plan and build the various Disney parks around the world.

This first model is of the loading dock at Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise. The boats, patterned after the ones used in the movie “The African Queen,” were made of fiberglass — the first time this material was used for non-military purposes.

Disneyland's Jungle Cruise

In the foreground of this next picture we see a replica of the Moonliner rocket ship that stood in front of Disneyland’s Rocket to the Moon attraction from 1955 to 1966. In the background are various drawings and photographs of Disneyland’s original Tomorrowland.

Moonliner Rocket Ship

Here we see a recreation of Walt explaining to a TV audience his new project, Walt Disney World. If you listen closely, you can hear Walt misspeak when discussing EPCOT. The first time he expands the name, he says, “Experimental Prototype CITY of Tomorrow.” The second time he says the name, he correctly uses the word COMMUNITY instead of CITY. This slip of the tongue caused the acronym to be incorrectly used many times in the future.

Walt Discribing Walt Disney World

In this next picture we see a model of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth. At first glance, it might look like all the facets on the sphere are three-dimensional. But upon closer inspection you find that each triangle was painstakingly painted by hand.

Model of Spaceship Earth

Here we see an early Audio-Animatronics figure, minus its skin. There are several buttons attached to the lean-rail that when pushed, activate different movements.

Early Audio-Animatronics Figure

AA Activation Buttons

Architectural scale models allow Imagineers to see the “finished product” long before construction begins. Below are mock-ups of Cinderella Castle, Tower of Terror, and Typhoon Lagoon.

Cinderella Castle

Tower of Terror

Typhoon Lagoon

I have only presented a sampling of the items on display in the “museum” section of One Man’s Dream. A person could easily spend thirty minutes or more looking at the material displayed here. And I urge you not to let the upcoming movie rush you along.

Located at the back of the attraction is the Walt Disney Theater. Approximately every twenty minutes, a wonderful film about Walt’s life is shown. Although many of the same topics are discussed, the One Man’s Dream film is completely different from its predecessor, The Walt Disney Story, although both use archival footage. When the movie debuted, Michael Eisner introduced the show. After he left the company, a voice-over by Julie Andrews replaced Michael’s opening.

This is an engaging and interesting film. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Walt and how his company came into being. And I hate to admit it, but this is also a good place for a quick nap — but it would be a shame to snooze through this biography.

Walt Disney Theater

One Man’s Dream is often overlooked by guests in search of more exciting fare. If you haven’t already experienced this attraction, I urge you to do so on your next trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You’ll be glad you did.

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29 Replies to “One Man’s Dream”

  1. My son and I have not seen OMD but my wife has. She visited the attraction when I took my son in Disney Live On Stage attraction. she LOVES OMD. She was trying to tell me al about it while wiping tears from her eyes at the same time. I will be there in March and OMD will be a must do.

  2. Thanks for showcasing one of the best hidden gems of Disney World…plus may I add that it is GREAT place to cool off.

    Question – the third picture looks a lot like the movie theater in Exhibition Hall in MK. Maybe I’m just seeing things…

    Jack’s Answer:

    The fourth pictures is of the movie theater is Exhibition Hall. This is where “The Walt Disney Story” was once shown.

  3. I absolutely DETEST museums, yet this is one of my favorite things to do at DHS. In fact, I have three demands when we go to DHS: Tower of Terror, The Great Movie Ride, and One Man’s Dream.

  4. Great blog, Jack! and a truly GREAT exhibit!! We don’t visit it every time we go to DHS, but we do see it often. It truly is an example of how hard work and a genuine love for what you do pays off in the long run. Each time we visit I am torn between wanting to soak in every detail and keeping my wife and kids happy who also enjoy it but are quickly ready to move on. Keep up the good work!

  5. Since this opened, I always make time for this attraction. I think it is so important to remember the man that started everything. And I too, always cry when I think about what he wanted to accomplish and doesn’t even know what he has done for the world and bringing families together. Awesome post!

  6. this exhibit, I kind of had to force my 10 year old son to go into, and it took a good 2 hours to get him out of there! I of course love the history of Disney, and admire Walt for his tenacity and courage, this is by far my favorite exhibit at the park…As for my son…ever since we left the park in July I have seen a new level of motivation, and some of that same tenacity starting to form, he said to me the other day that Walt is now his hero, and wants to someday be able to do what he has done, so yeah thanks again Walt…for everything..

  7. What a great post. We have never been to One Man’s Dream.. it is a MUST do now for the next trip. My daughter will just have to get over not spending the whole day in animation classes!

  8. This is the best experience ever! I think it should be at the front of the park and people need to watch it. It’s the whole reason these parks are even there….it also teaches a lot about failing at something not being the end of the world in fact you need it to succeed! Walt was the entertainer that will never be replicated!

  9. Thank you Jack! I try to go to One Man’s Dream each time I go to WDW, it reminds me that the vision of one Man (well, maybe two) began the creation of this world I love so much.

    The movie One Man’s Dream should be shown in every school in the country, to prove that if you follow your dream and have enough gumption, you can succeed. Walt’s life wasn’t all roses, but he overcame and created the World we all so love. Yes, I still shed a tear at the end, not a sad one – a grateful one.

  10. I love One Man’s Dream and have lost count how many times I’ve been in there but still manage to find new things to marvel at. The movie always makes me cry unashamedly.

    Walt Disney was definitely a genius and the world is so much better because of him. I don’t think there has been one individual who has managed to create this much happiness and entertainment for million upon millions of people.

    Yet another fantastic blog Jack! It has certainly brightened a dull and cold day here in England. Thank you

  11. Out of every attraction in Hollywood Studios, this is by far the absolute best. Our family can spend HOURS in this attraction, and we have yet to see and experience all there is to offer. This exhibit is rich in history, and truly tells the story behind why WDW or Disneyland came into being. If you have not seen this, then please, GO!! And, take the time to see the railroad tucked away in the Carolwood Room at the Wilderness Lodge. Another hidden gem.

  12. Jack, great blog as always! OMD is often passed by or overlooked. I love your comments!
    Can’t wait for your next blog!!
    Kudos to the whole AllEars staff. First class all the way!

  13. Jack,

    I love this attraction and your presentation of it.

    Now this may be a bit weird but I love to see Walt’s old office. It reminds me that there really was a guy who did all this.

    And when Walt makes that flub on camera when discussing EPCOT “city” or “community” that’s pretty cool.

    But where did he get that gigantic pointer?

    I guess everything really was bigger on the so-called “Florida Project”.

  14. I love going to One Man’s Dream. I love seeing everything there and its just so interesting to learn about his life, and what he wanted to do for people to enjoy Disney. I passed up going to Animal Kingdom just to see it. Its a long story how that would happen. In the end I ended up doing both. :)Thanks for the blog.

  15. Thanks again Jack for another great blog. I am so glad that they have kept One Man’s Dream around. I am so glad that there is somewhere where guests can learn a little about Walt and Roy if they want to take the time.

  16. I enjoyed touring the exhibits in One Man’s Dream. I was especially excitied to find a bowl that I bought at a yard sale for $3 in one of the display cases. It made me feel like I got a really good deal.

  17. Jack, I love museums, but when we are at WDW we are usually rushing from one thing to another that our children like. When I am there again in March, I will have to definitely see this. My 4-year-old just told me a few days ago, “I wish I could just live at Walt Disney World.” We haven’t told him yet that he gets to go back over Spring Break! Thanks for the great blog!

  18. I made my kids go through it, and to their surprise, they really enjoyed it. There are so many cool inventions in there, plus you get a lot of the story about Walt Disney and his life and legend. 🙂

    Great blog as always, Jack! Have you made it over to Space Mountain yet? Can’t wait to hear what you say about that!


  19. A fitting tribute. You figure, he started it all, but his vision and accomplishments seem to get lost, as the focus becomes the rides, sites, and characters. I’m just glad his last name wasn’t Schmalzenheimer. Disney just flows better.

  20. Great Post, I love One Man’s Dream. I visited Walt Disney’s Home town museum in Marceline and they have the same desk on display. I wonder which one is the fake?

    Jack’s Comment:

    Somehow I suspect that Marceline has the read desk as I couldn’t see the “WD” carved into the desk’s surface on the one at the Studio.

  21. Thank you so much for this posting this blog! To me, this exhibit never gets tiring. I visit it every year and take my time walking through. I always find something new to look at. The movie at the end is fantastic. I cry every time I watch this show. It reminds me of why my family loves Disney and brings back memories of enjoying Disney with my grandparents. This exhibit is a definite must-see when visiting Hollywood Studios.

  22. I love ‘One Man’s Dream’ – we make a point of stopping here on every trip. I’m also a big fan of the movie at the end – always end up with a bit of a lump in my throat though.

    Cara, Portsmouth (England)

  23. Jack, I love your extended looks into the overlooked areas of the Disney parks. I took my whole family (parents and grandparents!) into One Man’s Dream on my September trip, as they like to hear the history of the parks and Walt himself. They really enjoyed the attraction, as I and my sister did. It is also a good place to get cooled off from the summer heat!

    The scale models are beautiful, and I enjoyed seeing the models of the castles in other parks (Disneyland, Disneyland Paris). My favourite part is in your first picture of the interior of the attraction — Walt in the doorway with Mickey’s shadow.

    Thanks for the tour!

  24. Thanks a lot for posting this Jack. I love this attraction, and make sure we have to visit it everytime we go to the World. I’m sure you’re right when you say many people miss out on it, probably rushing to get to Toy Story Mania and walking straight past!! But my main love of Disney comes from knowing what vision and belief Walt Disney had in his ideas, and this attraction really gets this over. I too urge people to visit, so they can see the love and dedication Walt Disney had, and what an amazing impact he has had on so many people through the parks and films. Thanks again!!

  25. Great post! Whenever we go to DHS, we always say “This time we’re going to see One Man’s Dream” and somehow it never happens. Finally, this past weekend, we did it and we really enjoyed it.

  26. As always a great blog…
    I must admit that I only visit “One man’s dream” once…and I cried at the end of the film 😛 I’m so emotional, and the end of the film is very touching…
    I highly recommend it!!