How a Tampa man turned his home into a Disney sanctuary
TAMPA— Bruce Michaud lives in a quiet, restricted community. Muscovy ducks walk across manicured lawns, past homes with neutral paint and American flags swaying in the breeze. The exterior of his gray house blends in with the rest.
You would never suspect the Disney explosion inside.
Michaud opened the door, holding out an arm covered in a Tower of Terror tattoo. Her other limbs were encased in more Disney ink: a Space Mountain car on the front of her left leg, as well as Angelina Jolie’s mug as Maleficent on her calf.
Behind him, four mannequins dressed in Haunted Mansion uniforms stood guard in the entrance hall. The chorus of “It’s a Small World” played over loudspeakers.
Almost every room is beautifully decorated with its own Disney theme. That’s what happens when you cling to a childhood dream long enough to fund it.
“It took me about 10 years,” Michaud, 59, said with a laugh.
Michaud grew up in fantasy, spending hours watching the “Wonderful World of Disney” at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. When he was a child, his family traveled to Florida for the grand opening of Disney World.
“I was in the design work, in the detail work, the little bricks that they put in front of the haunted mansion,” he said. “I thought to myself at the time, ‘If I ever have my own house, I’m going to design it like Disney,'” he said.
After Michaud’s father moved to North Tampa, their family began taking regular trips to the parks. Later, Michaud got jobs for the mouse: at a Disney call center, as a security guard and a bus driver. He even did design and Imagineering. And at the end of each working day, he watched the night show at the Magic Kingdom.
“Working at Disney was the best thing,” he said.
He was earning enough to buy a house in North Tampa, but his first wife didn’t share his vision of living at Disney.
“The whole house was white and I couldn’t paint a wall,” he said.
They divorced about ten years ago. He climbed up on a stepladder and started tinkering the day she moved.
Michaud has no payment for the house or the car. He has lived in this 1,600 square foot home for over 30 years. At the time, he paid around $80,000 to build it (it’s worth around half a million now.) There are three bedrooms, plus an office and two bathrooms. Most are stuffed with memorabilia, replicas and costumes.
His second wife, Barbara, rolled her eyes but let him go wild. She is a consultant and travels a lot, which leaves her a lot of time alone to develop her projects.
“It’s kind of like an odd couple,” he said. “She doesn’t exactly run with Mickey Mouse ears.”
Michaud cooks in a retro kitchen inspired by Tomorrowland’s Carousel of Progress. Blue light strips and mid-century pendants illuminate old theme park menus and a signed photo of Walt himself. Teal appliances, from a jukebox to a gumball machine, add to the kitsch factor.
Next is the living room, a hybrid of “The Mummy” and “Indiana Jones” with a hint of other films. A “Jurassic Park” dinosaur head bursts from the wall while a large Egyptian god statue lurks on the other side of his television. In the center of the room, Michaud proudly displays his coffin-shaped coffee table. The lid opens to reveal a purple storage cavity filled with goblets and wine bottles. It was inspired by the Haunted Mansion ride.
You can exit through a sliding glass door to the “Jungle Cruise” themed backyard, engulfed in palm trees and a large jasmine trellis. Or take the “Bates Motel”-inspired hallway, complete with bloody slashes in the wall. Michaud was very excited to show off the one piece where he showed restraint.
“I have something normal for you!” said Michaud. “A normal bathroom!”
On the other side of the house, the master bedroom and bathroom are another story, inspired by his favorite swashbuckling movie. Johnny Depp’s kohl-coated Jack Sparrow look is puffy and glued directly to his bed. Michaud created a 3D effect with wooden planks surrounding the actor.
“When I die and someone gets it, they’ll have to sand it all down,” he said. “I destroyed this house.”
The master bathroom is a sleek take on the franchise. Hanging pendants look like rum bottles. The mirror is circular, framed to look like a porthole.
Some of the design work he did himself, inspired by theme park queues and executed with wallpaper and spackle. He hired Eva Nesbitt from WoodWorks Kitchen & Bath Designs in Odessa for the master bathroom and his kitchen.
“The first thing he asked us was, ‘Are you an annual pass holder? ‘” Nesbitt said.
Michaud was fired when the pandemic closed the theme parks. The extra time – and the stimulus checks – inspired him to finish his house. Also, people needed money fast and many enthusiasts were desperate to unload their treasures.
“As soon as the plague came, I bought out all the collectors in the country,” he said. “You couldn’t go to Disney, so I thought I’d do it here. My vacation for the past two years has been at my house.”
His office, a sharp right turn from his Haunted Mansion-themed entrance, contains some of his favorite things. Platinum recording plates for the soundtracks “Cars”, “Who Frame Roger Rabbit” and “The Little Mermaid”. Framed pictures autographed by Tim Allen and Johnny Depp. A chair from the Haunted Mansion ride, which he sits on while working at the desk. He is particularly proud of Disneyland’s green turnstile, which dates back to when Walt Disney would have been alive.
“It would be something he experienced, or at least checked the numbers,” he said.
Among the free weights and washing machine in his garage, Michaud stores surplus collectibles that he plans to sell. Although the economy was still in a weird spot, he started seeing big profits on the items he bought from 2020. His wife finally started turning to his obsession when she got him. seen selling $6,000 worth of stuff for $37,000. That’s a lot of money, but he still drives the trams to Busch Gardens on the weekends to make money.
Michaud does not intend to offer tours to the public. He doesn’t want to sell the house anytime soon, even though he said he’s had offers from Universal, Disney and Busch Gardens. For now, he’s more than happy to stay at home, in the fantasy he’s created.
After all, he still has to finish the “Alice in Wonderland” guest room.