Whether you’re a fan of animation, live action films, theme parks, art, costumes, American history, or even antiques, be it Disney or otherwise, D23’s Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit offers something for everyone. Located two hours north of Disneyland in Simi Valley, CA, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is hosting the largest exhibit ever created by the Walt Disney Archives with over 500 items on display, many of which have never before been seen by the public. Continue reading for more details and photos of this special Walt Disney Archives exhibit.
Update July 18, 2013
D23’s Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit is heading to Chicago! From October 16, 2013 – February 17, 2014, the exhibit will be on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. This exhibit is not included in Museum Entry and requires an additional timed-entry ticket ($9 for adults, $9 for seniors and $7 for children 3-11). Advanced purchase tickets available at msichicago.org starting September 4, 2013. D23 Gold and Silver Members will receive a special discount on exhibit entry. Continue reading for our recap of the exhibit at the Reagan Library.
Original article from July 9, 2012 follows below
Upon entering the first room, you’re taken through Walt Disney’s early years. From his childhood, up through his first ventures into what would become his lifelong career, and leading up to the creation of Mickey Mouse. Photos and artifacts are in abundance here with items such as Walt’s Baptism certificate dated June 8, 1902, drawings Walt did as a young man, the Mickey flag he later donated to the city of Marceline, MO, an original piece of the contract he had with M.J. Winkler, the distributor of the Alice Comedies, a stock certificate from Laugh-O-Gram Films, Inc. signed by Walt and made out to his parents, original animation sketches for both Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Mickey Mouse, as well as original Mickey Mouse Memorabilia from the 1930’s.
When I first entered the exhibit during the preview, there was just one other person in the room with me. However, this wasn’t just anyone; it was Disney Legend Dave Smith – the very person who started the Walt Disney Archives in 1970! Since he’s now retired from the company, he was there simply as a guest and this was his first time walking through the exhibit. We had a brief conversation and were looking at the items in the memorabilia case. He recalled that most of the pieces in there were found at the Rose Bowl Flea Market over a span of several years, and he remembered obtaining each one of them. He also pointed out the Waddle Book, which was donated to the Archives from a Disneyland Cast Member, noting that it was probably the rarest item in the case because all of the waddle’s are still intact. As a Disney fan, this was one of those moments that won’t soon be forgotten.
Moving into the next room marks the transition into “The Golden Age of Animation”. Here, you’ll find the patent for the multiplane camera, a replica of an animator’s work area, Disney Legend and one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” Frank Thomas‘ desk, to be specific. There are original maquettes from Pinocchio and Fantasia on display, a piece of original artwork from another Disney Legend, Mary Blair, as well as the original storybooks from the opening sequences of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
The next room is one of the largest, and features many of the most interesting pieces. Here you’ll find the original design for Disneyland by artist, and yes, Disney Legend, Herb Ryman. In this case, the piece displayed is a replica of the original, which is housed in the Imagineering Archives. According to Disney Archivist, Steve Vagnini, the original is too fragile to display; however the artwork and design is so beautifully detailed that it’s understandable why they still chose to include it in the exhibit. Some other items also on display are the first ticket into Disneyland, Walt’s very own Disneyland name tag as Cast Member #1, and the rough draft for the signage that greets you as you enter the tunnels into the “world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy”.
Arguably the most impressive display in the entire exhibit is the re-creation of Walt’s formal office. This display took hours to produce and is so painstakingly detailed that they even counted the number of paper clips and pencils on the desk. The scale of this display is so massive that it would be easy to assume it’s a replica, however, I had a chance to discuss the display with Disney Archivist Steve Vagnini. He assured me that every item in here is original, save for the Norman Rockwell drawings of Walt’s daughters which Diane Disney-Miller and Sharon Mae Disney requested to keep when his office was dismantled in 1972. This is where Walt would “entertain”, and the piano is where the Sherman Brothers would play their tunes for Walt. There is a door to the far right that led to Walt’s working office, which is currently on display at Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.
When Walt passed away in 1966, the only people that had a key to his office at the time were the janitors on staff. In 1972, Dave Smith was given a key and tasked with cataloging and preserving every item in Walt’s offices. As a result, we’re able to “visit” his office today, just as he left it 46 years ago.
From here, the exhibit transitions into live action films, featuring costumes and movie props from Mary Poppins, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Flubber, to name a few.
The next section focused on the animation renaissance of the late 1980’s & 90’s. I have to admit, this is the one area I was truly disappointed in. The only real display was a case featuring various maquettes, which were neat, but the space as a whole just felt empty. I was surprised to see they didn’t include any concept art or story sketches in here. Given that these films are more recent, I would think the archives would have quite a few items on hand, ready to display.
National Treasure was the next display, featuring several movie props, which acted as a segway into the presidential room.
The presidential room gave Walt’s office a run for its money. All of the presidential busts used in creating the audio-animatronic figures for the Hall of Presidents attraction at the Magic Kingdom are featured in this room, which is something that has never been shown to the public before. The walls are filled with photos of presidents and their families visiting Disney parks, as well as letters from them to the Disney Company. In the center of the room is a case filled with Ronald Reagan’s personal items related to Disney. You really get a sense for what a great relationship the Reagan family has with Disney, even tying back to Ronald Reagan acting as host to Disneyland’s opening day in 1955. This was truly a remarkable display.
The final room is a huge tented space filled with costumes, movie props, and items from various theme park attractions.
Be sure to bring your wallet because there is a lot of merchandise for sale in the gift shop! Quite a few of the items are exclusive to the exhibit, including clothing and pins, etc. Also released in conjunction with the exhibit is a soundtrack entitled A Musical Tour: Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Reagan Library featuring 23 songs from Disney attractions and films. The soundtrack is sold as a downloadable MP3 exclusively through Amazon.com.
Overall, the exhibit is an extremely impressive display, particularly the pieces that focus on the early years of the company, and the relationship between Walt Disney and Ronald Reagan. The exhibit is now open and is scheduled to run through April 2013. I would highly recommend experiencing this to anyone and everyone!
Ronald Reagan Library and Museum Information can be found here, please note it’s strongly suggested that you pre-purchase your tickets to ensure there is availability for your preferred date/time. If you’re a D23 member, discounts are applied, just be sure to link to the ticket engine through their site, which you can find here. The museum offers much more to see than just this exceptional Archives exhibit, including a piece of the Berlin Wall, President Reagan’s Air Force One and motorcade, and his memorial.
For more photos, click here or any of the images in the gallery below to see over 120 pictures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit as well as a peek around the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum!
Disclosure – Chrysty Summers received complimentary admission from Disney’s D23 to cover this media preview of the exhibit for Adventures by Daddy, but all opinions expressed are her own. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.