Efforts to restore the original Laugh-O-gram Studio building along Troost Avenue are getting a bump from a Missouri Humanities grant and a matching donation from a longtime local supporter of the arts in Kansas City.
Thank You Walt Disney — a not-for-profit dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Walt Disney’s first animation studio, the shell of which still stands on Kansas City’s east side — recently announced a $5,000 grant toward developing a film to chronicle the studio’s historical significance.
Funding from the Missouri Humanities grant will be matched by a local donation from Richard E. Fagerberg, a financial backer of the Kansas City Symphony, Kansas City Ballet and other local art institutions.
Fagerberg joined a task force of Thank You Walt Disney board members to assemble a comprehensive narrative and rare photographs to help convey the film’s visuals. The newly announced funds are expected to help pay for direction and production of the movie. The completed film will be used for educating local and national communities to the crucial role the Laugh-O-gram Studio played in animation history, said Dan Viets, president of Thank You Walt Disney, which has been on a decades-long journey to save and repurpose the structure.
“This grant will not only allow us to creatively shine the spotlight on Laugh-O-gram’s historical significance, but also showcase how Kansas City has been, and remains at the forefront of innovation,” said Viets. “We hope the final product will serve as a motivator for digital media entrepreneurs.”
Designed by famed architect Nelle E. Peters in 1922, the McConahay Building at 31st Street and Forest Avenue briefly housed the animation studio for Walt Disney’s Laugh-O-gram Films, Inc. Known as the “Cradle of Hollywood Animation”, this historic studio provided the training ground for some of the industry’s most groundbreaking animators including Ub Iwerks, Rudy Ising, Hugh Harman and Friz Freleng.
More than 101 years after its initial construction, Thank You Walt Disney looks to reimagine the Laugh-O-gram Studio for a new generation. Key components for the planned redevelopment include an immersive museum, state-of-the-art teaching facility, co-working space as well as a theater and lecture hall.