The Digital Storytelling Center of Kansas City has been working with several Kansas City organizations to develop a plan that would renovate Walt Disney’s Laugh-O-Gram Films building at 31st & Forest. The historically restored building would feature four program areas:
- Welcome Center
- Museum of Animation
- Flex Center
- Co-working Office Space
Under this plan, the KCdigiSTORY Center’s offices would be located in the co-working office space and digital storytelling courses would be offered in the flex center. The co-working office space would be shared with new start-ups in digital media as part of a new media incubator program.
Walt Disney rented the west end of the second story of this building when he started his Laugh-O-Grams Film business in 1922. Here he hired several staff members whom he trained in animation. The experience that he and his staff gained in animation there helped them to become the founding animators of many of the leading animation studios that still dominate the animation scene today.
The building is owned by the Thank You Walt Disney organization, a non-profit group that has restored the crumbling exterior, replaced the roof and repaired floors. Thank You Walt Disney has worked with the BNIM architects, KCdigiSTORY Center, Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), KCEDC and others to identify solutions for renovating the building and making it a museum and digital media innovation center. MARC secured an EDA Planning Grant that provided funding to conduct a feasibility study for renovating the building and offering programs that would expand KC’s growing digital storytelling industry. The report from that study, Re-Imagine: Laugh-O-Gram Center for Animation & Innovation, provides several recommendations for achieving those goals.
Principals from this Laugh-O-Gram initiative recently met with the City of Kansas City, Missouri to secure their support for tax incentives and other support for the redevelopment of this building and the surrounding area. Plans are underway to secure an EDA Public Works grant and to start a capital campaign to secure the funding needed to renovate the building and equip it for programming. The development timeline projects that the building could be open to the public as early as the first quarter of 2018.