Efforts continue to save the endangered Disney Building

Photo by Mike Sinclair.

(The Midtown KC Post is profiling the buildings on the Historic Kansas City Foundation’s Most Endangered List for 2013. More about our series of stories.)

In 1922, Walt Disney rented an office at a brick building in Kansas City and founded Laugh-O-Gram Films.

That led to his animation career in Hollywood, but the building he left at 1127 E. 31st St. fell into decay.

It is now among the top 10 endangered historic buildings  listed by the Historic Kansas City Foundation.

But people working to save it say its prospects have much improved.

About 15 years ago, a group called Thank You Walt Disney bought what was listed as a dangerous building and saved it from city demolition.

With support from the Disney family and private contributions, they’ve worked on it bit by bit – a new wall, a new roof, a new second floor, a first-floor concrete slab.

Last year, there was an architectural design contest that aimed to find new uses in addition to a museum.

Dan Viets of Columbia, Mo., leader of Thank You Walt Disney, said Monday that the group expects to appeal to major donors in the next year or so.

“We are persistent if nothing else,” he said.

“We’ve done so much work in the last few years that people drive by it and think it looks the same way it did years ago,” he said, “but it wouldn’t if we hadn’t done all that work.”

The building went on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, but by then no tenants remained and it decayed for decades.

Disney’s studio filed for bankruptcy in July 1923, after it had created seven fairy tale cartoons, Wikipedia reports.

Several Disney’s employees there also were pioneers of animation who shaped the industry: Ub Iwerks, Hugh Harman, Friz Freleng and Carmen Maxwell.

Disney said a mouse there that ate crumbs in his waste basket gave him the inspiration for Mickey Mouse.

When he left for Hollywood, Disney said, he carefully carried the mouse to a backyard in a nice neighborhood and set him free.

Comments are closed.