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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Walt Wednesdays: Walt Disney and the Queen Mary

Walt Disney rarely took vacations. He was always worrying about something or other at the studio. It's somewhat ironic that he would build and design a theme park in which hundreds of millions of people would spend their vacations. Whenever his family could get him to take a trip, they often found a cruise to be the best way to make him break away from the stress of the studio. His favorite ship was the Queen Mary.

Mrs. Disney loved spending time with Walt on the ship, where he was mostly free from the grind of work. In 1969 when the ship was ready for retirement, Jack Wrather, who coincidentally owned and operated the DISNEYLAND Hotel, brought the ship to Long Beach where he planned to permanently dock it and operate it as a tourist attraction and hotel.

Mrs. Wrather personally oversaw the redecoration of the ship, preserving its historic look and feel. The company ran the ship until the late 1980's when it sold the DISNEYLAND Hotel to the Walt Disney Company. Bonita Wrather didn't want to deal with the various other companies her husband had amassed, so she required Disney to buy everything, including the Queen Mary. Walt Disney's favorite ship was now part of the Disney family.

DISNEYLAND planned a huge expansion of the area surrounding the ship called Port Disney. Guests would take a monorail between the two projects to make one Disney vacation. The project fell through and Disney lost interest in the properties. The ship is now owned by the city of Long Beach and operated by a non-profit historic group.