Guests at D23 are in for a treat this weekend as they can see Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream plane before it heads to the Palm Springs Air Museum collection. Read on to learn more about the plane at D23 and the new exhibit debuting soon to Palm Springs.
Walt Disney’s Grumman Gulfstream Plane
In 1963, Walt purchased his personal plane, the Gulfstream, that would come to be known affectionately as “The Mouse.” The interior of the plane, initially designed with creative input from Walt and his wife, Lillian, seated up to 15 passengers. It included a galley kitchen, two restrooms, two couches, and a desk which included matchbooks and stationery adorned with a silhouette of Mickey Mouse.
In 1967, Mickey’s initials were included in the tail number of the plane as N234MM. Throughout its 28 years of service to The Walt Disney Company, the plane flew over 20,000 hours and transported an estimated 83,000 passengers before it was grounded.
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’s plane has returned to the Disneyland for the first time since October 8, 1982. Previously, it resided on World Drive near Orlando, Florida at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios), where it was a part of the Studio Backlot Tour until 2014.
The newly repainted plane has been updated with wing edges and windows that include various rare exhibited items from the aircraft’s interior. This includes a galley light switch, food warmers, flight bags, a telephone handset that Walt used to communicate with the pilot, and much more!
Palm Springs Air Museum Exhibit
Following the D23 Expo 2022 in Anaheim, the Gulfstream plane will travel to Palm Springs, California where it will be celebrated mid-October when it is displayed alongside the Palm Springs Air Museum collection. Additionally, a new exhibit will be constructed at the Museum and will open on Walt Disney’s birthday, December 5, 2022. The exhibit will showcase the plane’s significance to The Walt Disney Company’s history and its relevance to the Palm Springs Area.
“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,” said Walt Disney Archives director Rebecca Cline of the plane, which will be on long-term loan to the Museum. “It is the ideal setting for this incredible icon.”
When guests pay a visit to the Palm Spring Air Museum, they will have the opportunity to 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 ride.
“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). It also made 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, who has ties to the Desert.
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, also frequent visitors to the Palm Springs area.
As one can see, Walt’s beloved “The Mouse” personal aircraft is a plethora of memories, memorabilia and a priceless artifact not only honoring Walt, but honoring and recognizing the rich and abundant history of the Walt Disney Company.