110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Dec 27, 2013 - 1:10:04pm
The historic Enterprise Elementary School building crawled with actors, extras, camera crews, caterers, producers and directors Dec. 19 for filming of the movie Walt Before Mickey.
The film chronicles the early years of Walt Disney and his rise to fame, and the 1930s building made the perfect setting.
The book by Timothy Susanin on which the film was based and from which the movie takes its name was the only book ever supported by the Disney family, according to PR Newswire.
The movie is being filmed almost exclusively in West Volusia, and it's a coup for the new Creative Industry Alliance in DeLand, which is working to bring movie and television productions to the area.
Armando Gutierrez, one of the film's producers, portrayed Disney as a young man in scenes shot at the schoolhouse, which is now home to the Enterprise Heritage Center, operated by the Enterprise Preservation Society.
Gutierrez said he grew up in the Orlando area, and he's always been fascinated with Walt Disney.
"I've been going to the Magic Kingdom since I was 5 or 6 years old," he said.
Movie magic turned one of the historic building’s classrooms into an art-design studio where the young Disney worked. The Beacon watched filming of one short scene in the “studio,” authentic with old drawing tables, design work, fans and equipment.
"Great!" director Ari Taub said after each take. "Let's do it again."
Matt Cook shared the scene with Gutierrez. Cook plays Walt Disney's oldest friend, cartoonist Ubbe Eert Iwerks.
The two worked together at the Kansas City Slide Newspaper Co. early in their careers, and then Iwerks joined Disney in Los Angeles to help create Mickey Mouse. Cook, who's also an amateur cartoonist, said he shares the fascination with the man behind the mouse.
Roy Disney, Walt's brother, is being played by Jon Heder, who rose to fame as the title character of Napoleon Dynamite.
Other scenes were shot in West Volusia during the week, including filming in Pierson of rural scenes, and scenes at the Athens Theatre featuring Walt Disney as a child.
All this is good for West Volusia, said Mark Shuttleworth, member of the Creative Industry Alliance formed this year by producer Giuli Schacht and others who want to bring more film projects to West Volusia.
Shuttleworth said production people started to scout the area in April.
"I showed them the old courthouse and Conrad Realty building. The producer, Armando, fell in love with the place," he said.
Enterprise Preservation Society member Sandy Walters said she showed Schacht the old schoolhouse in early November.
"Giuli said it would really fit in the film as an art-department setting," Walter said.
Walters didn’t really expect anything to come of it, but a crew of around 60 people was in the historic schoolhouse with the actors Dec. 19 — some hired locally, providing jobs and pumping money into the economy — and others brought in, boosting business at local hotels and restaurants.
Shuttleworth said more scenes will be filmed in DeLand.
"The City of DeLand has been favorable toward the film industry," he said.
Movie production people scoured local antiques shops for props, and the movie is providing work for artists and painters, Shuttleworth said.
Getting this movie filmed here is part of a continuing effort to bring film people to Volusia County, Shuttleworth added, noting that more film projects will be coming to West and East Volusia in the near future.
Director Ari Taub said Schacht and the Creative Industry Alliance have given the project terrific cooperation, getting scouts access to homes and property.
"Without her, we couldn't do it," he said.
Taub said he expected more interest and support from the County of Volusia, but didn't get it, though he spent three hours at a County Council meeting hoping to speak to council members Dec. 12. Taub was never able to talk to them.
He has a number of movies and television productions under his belt, including the 2004 movie The Fallen, about Italian, German and American soldiers during World War II. He recently completed '79 Parts, starring Eric Roberts, which will be released soon.
The Dec. 19 filming created a buzz in Enterprise. Members of the Enterprise Preservation Society, happy for the publicity for the Heritage Center, kept watch over barricades to keep the set closed.
They expect the movie to be good for the society and Enterprise, too.
Walt Before Mickey, earlier titled The Dreamer, is expected to be in theaters in early summer. Along with Gutierrez, producers are Melissa Gruver and executive producer Arthur Bernstein.
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