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Thursday Treasures

March 6, 2014

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Museum of Science and Industry

Chicago, IL

by Dan Baggott

My brother and I recently attended Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago. The purpose of this exhibit, opened on October 16, 2013 and runs thru May 4, 2014, is to celebrate the 90th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company. It showcases the great accomplishments of Walt Disney (born in Chicago) thru his early years of his animation career and the Disney Parks. Robert Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, said that the exhibit 'showcases the creativity and innovation that has defined Disney for 90 years and we are proud of this heritage and pleased to share this rare glimpse into our rich history with Chicago's world-renowned Museum of Science and Industry.' MSI chairman David Mosena echoed Iger's words saying 'through this exhibit we're pleased to showcase Walt Disney as both a master storyteller and innovator whose creative legacy continues to inspire people of all ages. Guests will be immersed in Walt Disney's 'can do' spirit, optimistic outlook and never-ending curiosity that propelled him thru his impressive career. This spirit continues to be the creative inspiration behind many of the incredible experiences created by Disney today.'

The exhibit, which contains more than 300 artifacts, is divided into eight sections; the early years, early Hollywood, Animation Tools and Technique, Walt: Showman of the World, Mary Poppins, Theme Parks, Disney Today, and Animation Academy. Each of them provides some very rare and never seen before photos and artifacts but others may look familiar to the average Disney fan.

In the early year's section, it shows Walt's first illustrations as a boy on a postcard and in his sister's original school book in 1917. Also, guests can see the stock certificate of his first animation studio, Laugh-O-Grams, Inc. and various photos of his childhood home in Chicago.

After spending many years in the Midwest, it was time for Walt Disney to move west to Hollywood and start his career. In the Early Hollywood section, guests will learn how he started out with various silent animated films and the creation of everyone's favorite character, Mickey Mouse that was featured in the short film Steamboat Willie. Also on display is the original storybook for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

As Walt's career flourished in the 1940s so did the technology of producing animated films. In the Animation and Technique section, guests can learn how he contributed to the production of these films through the invention of the storyboard, perfecting character development, creating stylized backgrounds and the creation of the multiplane camera which the model version can be seen on display. Finally, there is a full re-creation of a typical animator's studio on display from The Walt Disney Company.

When Walt Disney became a household name, he decided to take his movie producing talents to the next level by doing live-action films. In Walt: Showman of the World section, guests can see a recreation of Walt's office at the The Walt Disney Studio, his many awards including a Grammy for Mary Poppins, and Annette Funicello's original Mouseketeer outfit.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Mary Poppins there is a special section in the exhibit devoted to the movie. Some of the feature items that guests can see include artifacts from the film, drawings of the different costumes worn by the characters, the original sheet music, and interviews with the movie's creators.

One Sunday afternoon when Walt and his daughters were at the local amusement park he watched them riding the Merry-Go-Round and thought there ought to be some sort of park where both the parents and their children could have a little fun together. This thought turned into Disney's next big idea, the creation of Disneyland and subsequent parks. This section of the exhibit celebrates Disneyland, Disney World and his vision of EPCOT. Some of the artifacts include a ticket for the invitational press preview of Disneyland on July 17, 1955, the first ticket purchased by Roy O. Disney for Disneyland, and the Abraham Lincoln Audio-Animatronics head from Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

The next to last section of The Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, explores how people today enjoy the recently released Disney films. Some of the artifacts include a surfboard from Teen Beach Movie (2013), the tuxedo Tom Hanks wore while portraying Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks and the costume worn by Mila Kunis as Theodra from Oz The Great and Powerful.

The last section of the exhibit, Animation Academy, guests will learn the storytelling and technology still used in today's Disney animated films like morphing and 3D painting/rendering techniques. On display are models of Scar, Simba, Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King and models of Ariel, and Sebastian from The Little Mermaid.

As we left the exhibit, it felt like a 'mini-Disney' trip as there was a small gift shop containing some Disney merchandise including pins that commemorate the exhibit. Overall, it was a great display of Walt Disney's life and career but a little more could have been added about the theme parks. For all you Disney fans living in the Midwest, find some time to visit The Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives presented by Walgreens at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. You will not be disappointed.


Treasures of the Walt Disney World Archives, Press Release, October 16, 2013

Treasures of the Walt Disney World Archives Walkthrough, October 16, 2013

Link to photos I took.


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