On March 7th the Bowers Museum, located in Santa Ana, California, will play host to an extensive exhibition of rare Disney memorabilia: Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic.
Originally developed as an adjunct to D23 Expo Japan 2018, the exhibit was successful enough to tour around Japan for over a year before returning to the US to be retooled and readied for a domestic tour.
At a recent preview, AllEars was invited to take an early look at the exhibition which opened with a brief presentation by by President & CEO of the Bowers Museum, Peter Keller; Michael Vargo, VP, Corporate Communications, The Walt Disney Company; and Becky Cline, Director, Walt Disney Archives.
Once inside, the 10,000-square-foot exhibit holds over 400 objects and is presented in such a way as to recreate the Archives and give guests insight into its organization and function, and a peek at the wondrous items it collects.
The first room introduces visitors to the Archives and recounts its formation. [Some of this was mentioned at the Walt Disney Archives’ 40th Anniversary celebration ten years ago. I was there too! In other news, the Archives and I might be getting old.] Informative plaques dot the walls giving supplementary information about the different items and messages from various Archive staff, including one from Archive Founder, the late Dave Smith.
One of the highlights of this room is a reproduction of Walt’s office, as seen in Saving Mr. Banks.
[If you want a look at the real thing, I took a tour of Walt’s office suite as reproduced by the Archives around four years ago.]
A look at the type of display cases that ring the lobby of the Frank G. Wells building where they Archives is situated on the Walt Disney Studio lot shows some of the concept art for Disneyland including a reproduction of the famous Herb Ryman initial drawing.
[The same recreation of that artwork, along with a few of the other pieces in the exhibit were shown at the exhibit they held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum back in 2012.]
Having gotten a feel for what it’s like approaching the Archive, the next room mimics the Archive entry into the Reading Room, where a rotating collection of paper ephemera bears witness to the early days of the Studio and the history of the Disney brothers, and researchers come to find out details for a variety of films, television series, and books.
Here, a focal point is a display of an original Kem Weber animator’s desk, mocked up to look like it would if the artist was working on Fantasia.
In the Back Room of the Archives, items of particular significance to the company are stored–some of the crown jewels of the collection.
In their Original Art Collection, pieces of concept art and props from their live-action and animated films mark the wide range of properties the studio has attempted throughout the years.
In the Dimensional Collection lie a sampling of the costumes, props and other memorabilia the Archives have salvaged from various projects through the years.
Among the largest of the props are those in the Vehicle Collection.
Props and set decor can range from shows as old as the original Mickey Mouse Club, or as recent as the live-action Beauty and the Beast.
In the areas where they describe a little of the Archive involvement with Digitization and Streaming projects for the new Disney+ platform, video clips from an upcoming Disney+ show “Prop Culture” plays on screens and shows actors such as Christopher Lloyd and Rick Moranis revisiting their old costumes and props from Roger Rabbit and Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
In the final room, a mock-up of the Legends Plaza on the studio lot shows depictions of some of the handprints left by Disney Legends and talks about the Archive’s role in honoring people who have made significant contributions to the company.
[Although once purely an internal affair, the Legends Ceremony has now become a regular part of the D23 Expo programming.]
More, but certainly not all, items pictured below:
On the whole, although not as large as some of their past exhibits, Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic is a well-compiled collection of significant and symbolic items from the Walt Disney Company that gives a nice overview of its many and varied accomplishments. Anyone with an interest in Disney history should find some gems to peruse, particularly considering there are some pieces, such as the Fantasia sketches, that have never been displayed before. The fact that it will tour around should be a particular boon to those fans who haven’t had the opportunity to attend many D23 or Archive events in the past.
There are a large number of related events planned at the museum in conjunction with the exhibition, including a weekend lecture series. This weekend, Becky Cline will be giving an Opening Day Lecture on March 7th, and Producer Don Hahn will talk and sign books on March 8th. Disney Artist and Historian Stacia Martin is presenting “Theme Songs of Disneyland” on March 14th with subsequent appearances by such Disney Authors as Jeff Kurtti, Mindy Johnson, and David Bossert, as well as Animator Mark Henn and Documentary Filmmaker Leslie Iwerks.
In our next installment, we’ll talk about some of the exciting Disney-related culinary events that will also be taking place at the museum. Dates, times, and other ticketing information for the exhibit and all its related programs can be found at http://Bowers.org.
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