You’ve probably walked by, looked up at the iron balconies or stopped at the “33” sign on Royal Street and wondered what was in there. I know I have – Club 33 is a mystery that any Disneyland fan who has not experienced it ponders with each visit to New Orleans Square. Since new club memberships are rarely issued, I thought I’d never be able to see it for myself – that’s why I’m excited to be able to take you with me for a look inside Club 33!
First, a brief history. According to Disneyland Food and Beverage General Manager Matt Gray, Walt Disney was attempting to attract new sponsors for Disneyland park while he was at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. He noticed the fair had executive lounges for corporate sponsors and felt that Disneyland should offer similar amenities. He envisioned an exclusive setting – elegant, featuring fine cuisine and a uniquely Disney atmosphere. Matt says that it was actually one of the Disneyland sponsors who suggested that club invites be extended to select individuals.
In April 1966, Walt and Lillian Disney travelled to New Orleans with designer Emile Kuri, who had decorated the sets of “Mary Poppins” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” to select many of the beautiful antiques which would be featured in the club. The club opened at number 33 Royal Street in New Orleans Square on June 15, 1967 – sadly, six months after Walt Disney passed away. It would go on to be known as Club 33 – the most exclusive address in all of Disneyland.
“Our biggest challenge,” says Matt, “is living up to the expectations that our guests have built up in their heads from years of hearing about what is behind the door.”
Club 33 includes two dining rooms and several adjoining areas, all of which hold a variety of antiques and original works of art. After ascending to the second floor in the unique Victorian-age, French-style lift – a reproduction of one Walt had admired during a trip to Europe – you enter The Gallery. Here you’ll find an oak telephone booth with beveled leaded glass panels adapted from the one used in the Disney motion picture “The Happiest Millionaire” and a rare console table which was found in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Also in The Gallery are original works by Disney artists and design studies for New Orleans Square and the Pirates of the Caribbean.
In Lounge Alley, you’ll find a beautiful harpsichord – one of the results of the “shopping” trip to New Orleans. It features a scene showing Jackson Square and the Mississippi River in the 19th Century, hand-painted by WED artist Collin Campbell.
The Main Dining Room is decorated in First Empire style, recalling the era of Napoleon and the early 19th Century. The room, decorated with framed artwork by Disney artists, is lit by wall sconces and three chandeliers. Fresh flowers, parquet floors and antique bronzes create an atmosphere of serenity and warmth.
The Disney Room, or Trophy Room, is the second dining room. It was originally to be the setting for a show featuring five Audio-Animatronics figures: two magpies, an owl, a raccoon and a vulture who would entertain the guests and even participate in their conversations through the use of microphones which were hidden in the chandeliers above each table. The show never developed, however, and today only the vulture remains on his perch in the corner of the room.