Look Closer: Carthay Circle Restaurant at Disney California Adventure Park
by Michael Ramirez, Editorial Content Director, Disneyland Resort
Transport yourself to Hollywood in the 1930’s with a dining experience at Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge at Disney California Adventure park! Inspired by Carthay Circle Theatre — the Los Angeles movie theater that premiered Walt Disney’s first feature-length animated movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937—enjoy a fine dining experience surrounded by the glitz and glamour of the cinematic Golden Age. Stardust lingers in the air with an homage to Hollywood and rich architectural details, but what hidden gems of information can we dig up? Say “Heigh-Ho!” and let’s look closer.
Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge is located in a lively central location off Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Boulevard, serving a similar purpose to the Central Plaza at Disneyland park. In a sense, it’s the “castle-like” hub of Disney California Adventure park.
When you enter the front doors, you are placed back in time at a sophisticated lounge. The look of the two-story space draws on the dramatic interior styling of the original Carthay Circle Theatre, which featured designs inspired by Mission Revival, Art Deco, Baroque and Western American art. Many of the design details in the Carthay Circle Lounge were inspired by the few interior photos of the Carthay Circle Theatre that still exist. Also, the designs of the lights and other fixtures are authentic and were manufactured by some of the same companies that produced the originals back in 1926.
Once you travel to the second floor, a star-studded hallway transports you into the main dining room area. The mural above the centerpiece of the room is a replica of Snow White’s forbidden forest. Try not to get lost in it!
Adjacent to the main dining room, there are three semi‐private dining areas: the five-seat Hyperion and Buena Vista rooms, named for the streets on which two of Walt Disney’s studios have been located, and the 12-seat Premiere Room where Snow White is also paid homage to. In the Premiere Room, there is a chandelier dangling above the table. These crown-like fixtures were designed to represent the evil queen’s reign over the castle. An apple-shaped applique pierces the center of the chandelier to represent the poison apple from the story.
There are two solarium dining areas and dining terraces as well. You can see photographs of stars and producers from the 1930’s all the way to the 2000’s with Oscars in hand, including Walt himself! One special photo is of Audrey Hepburn congratulating Julie Andrews on her Oscar win for Best Actress in “Mary Poppins.”
Here’s an interesting fact: Audrey Hepburn secured the role as Eliza Doolittle in the film adaptation of “My Fair Lady” after Julie Andrews’ run on Broadway as the character. Although she was disappointed to have not been cast for the film version, Andrews was free to play the role of Mary Poppins. For her amazing performance, she won the Oscar for Best Actress next to her Broadway counterpart Rex Harrison for the Best Actor award in the “My Fair Lady” movie.
For Walt’s work on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” he received an honorary Academy Award in 1939—one full-size Oscar along with seven “dwarf” statuettes. Shirley Temple is pictured next to him with this special award.
There is another little girl in a photograph after you get off of the elevator, but it is not Shirley Temple. Do you know who she is? That little girl with Walt and Roy Disney is Margie Gay — one of the actresses that played Alice in the Alice Comedies from 1925 to 1927. Thanks to Walt’s persistence, the Alice Comedies secured his ability to keep animating in California.
While we may have looked closer at the details about Walt and his movie legacy in Hollywood, Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge has a wealth of history and nostalgia for all ages, not to mention exceptional cuisine. Next time you dine at this favorite spot, be sure to take time for a closer look.