Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

As chronicled in the last couple of blog posts, I made a recent visit to Southern California to see Disneyland during the Christmas holidays and to visit the Reagan Presidential Library.    The Reagan Library is current hosting (through April 2013) an exhibition entitled Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives.

The exhibition is presented by the Disney Archives, and includes many unique items from throughout the history of the Disney organization.    Because of the venue, some of the items selected for the display highlight Disney’s connection to Reagan (his work for Disney included emceeing Disneyland’s opening day broadcast) or to the presidency in general (Hall of Presidents sculptures, for example).   But the exhibition is far broader than just a few tie-ins.   Some of the items have been displayed before (such as at similar exhibitions at the D23 Expo in 2009 and 2011), but some are being displayed to the public for the first time.

In the earlier galleries, we see items such as a movie poster from one of the Alice comedies.  (These early films combined live action and animation and were loosely based on Alice in Wonderland).   We also see a pencil sketch of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit — the animated character that Walt developed prior to Mickey Mouse.   And of course we see the early Mickey Mouse, including some of the early merchandising efforts for the character.

Poster from an Alice comedy

Poster from an Alice comedy

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit pencil sketch

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit pencil sketch

Early Mickey Mouse merchandise

Early Mickey Mouse merchandise

There are cels here from some of the most notable early Disney animation shorts, including Academy Award winning Silly Symphonies Flowers and Trees (the first color cartoon) and The Three Little Pigs (famous for the song “Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf”).

Cel from Silly Symphony "Flowers and Trees"

Cel from Silly Symphony “Flowers and Trees”

Cel from Silly Symphony "The Three Little Pigs"

Cel from Silly Symphony “The Three Little Pigs”

While animation buffs (such as myself) are likely to be familiar with a lot of the short features highlighted here, it was the move into feature length animation that really set Disney apart from what every other studio was doing.   One of the interesting artifacts on display was a partial Snow White costume, worn by Marge Champion when doing live action reference for the animators.


Several of the feature length animated features started in the same fashion — with a shot of a story book.   As the camera zoomed in, the story book would open, and we would dissolve into the animated scene.   Several of these storybooks (from Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella) were on display, including some of the interior pages.


Also on display was Herb Ryman’s original Disneyland sketch.   The story of this sketch is that Walt needed something to show to investors, and Herb produced this very detailed sketch over the course of a weekend as Walt described what should be in the various areas of the park.


Another fascinating exhibit was a full-scale re-creation of Walt’s formal office — every detail just as he left it, right down to the ordering of books in the bookcases (including one that is shelved upside down, because that’s the way Walt had left it).

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After leaving this area of the exhibit, we start seeing props and costumes from some of Disney’s most well-known live action films from the early days.   This includes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Nautilus submarine model), The Absent-Minded Professor (Model T), and Mary Poppins (Julie Andrew’s costume).

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Still more costumes … we get costumes and an office set for Cruella de Vil (from the live-action 101 Dalmatians movie), Belle’s ball gown from the Broadway Production of Beauty and the Beast, several costumes from Annie Leibovitz’ Disney Dreams photo series (Tiny Fey’s Tinkerbell,  Scarlett Johansson’s Cinderella, and Rachel Weisz’ Snow White), and Whitney Houston’s fairly godmother costume from a TV production of Cinderella.

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Yes, we do have more costumes — here are 3 from Enhanted:  Giselle’s wedding dress (Amy Adams), and costumes worn by James Marsden (Edward) and Susan Sarandon (evil stepmother / wicked queen)

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We also have some props and costumes from Alice in Wonderland . . .

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. . . and also from Tron (both the original and the recent sequel)

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We have quite a bit from the Pirates of the Caribbean series:

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Last of the movie stuff:  props from Marvel movies (Iron Man 2, Captain America, and the Avengers)

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We also get to see some interesting items from the theme parks:  Malificient in dragon form (from Fantasmic!), hitch hiking ghosts from the Haunted Mansion, a ride vehicle from Mr. Toad, and busts of all the presidents from the Hall of Presidents:

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This is far from everything that is on display at the exhibit, but I hope serves to give a good flavor of the kind of items that are on display.    The Reagan Library and the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit are both worthwhile, and I really enjoyed the day I spent there.

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