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The First Mouse House

April 08, 2001|HANK ROSENFELD

If you want to tour Walt Disney's original studio, take Vermont Avenue north and turn right at Kingswell Avenue in Los Feliz Village. Next to the venerable Dresden Room nightclub parking lot, at 4647 Kingswell, is the Extra Copy shop, where Ben Chaaban welcomes you with eight copy machines and a crudely drawn display of Mickey and the gang.

A placard describes this small space as the first location, between 1923 and 1931, of what became the Magic Kingdom. The Disney brothers, Walt and Roy, made their first silent cartoons here.

While Dave Smith of the Disney Archives department concedes the site's place in company history, he also claims for the record that the sign in Extra Copy has the dates wrong. Officially, the Disneys were on Kingswell for only three years, from 1923 until 1926, before these "just a couple of guys with a dream" moved to Hyperion Avenue near Riverside Drive, where the Mayfair Market now stands. The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission has designated the Hyperion site with a marker on a lamppost declaring it the location of "Walt Disney's original animation studio in Los Angeles."

Why has Disney never officially recognized the Extra Copy site? "When I ask Disney, they always say, 'Next time,' " Chaaban says.

Chaaban, however, has done what he could. His display covers nearly an entire wall and includes articles and photographs of the Disney brothers and their wives. For thrill seekers, he also has mounted a copy of Walt's death certificate.

A staffer from the Cultural Heritage Commission says she'll send Chaaban the paperwork if he'd like to apply for historic designation for the Kingswell location.

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