Disney fans dream of walking through the Walt Disney Archives. So many of us love to see props, costumes, set pieces, and more from our favorite Disney projects and company history. I know that I personally had a freakout moment when I unexpectedly came across the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” shrink-ray at a Walt Disney Archives 50th anniversary exhibition. Seeing these pieces of entertainment history that we’d only previously witnessed on a screen makes for a different type of magic. Although there have been numerous opportunities to see Walt Disney Archive exhibitions, I really wish there were a permanent location that guests could count on instead of being at the right place during the right time.
Few Hollywood studios have an archive of entertainment memorabilia as expansive as The Walt Disney Company. The company is in a unique position where fans of its content are often fans of its founder, Walt Disney, as well. Almost everyone knows who Walt Disney is, even it’s very surface-level. In a lot of other studio’s cases, I’d be surprised if most people even knew the founder’s names. This unique trait for Disney seems to encourage more interest than normal in the studio’s history.
Whenever the Walt Disney Archives puts together an exhibition, it’s impressive. In the past, I’ve been able to experience their displays at numerous D23 Expos. Their most recent Expo installment was called “Heroes & Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume.” But beyond a place like the D23 Expo, where you would expect something like that, the Walt Disney Archives have also produced traveling displays. At the Graceland Exhibition Center they presented “Inside the Walt Disney Archives.” I remember seeing the original “Fantasmic!” dragon head on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. And currently, there is the “All That Glitters: The Crown Jewels of the Walt Disney Archives” on exhibition at the Bowers Museum.
The fact that there is enough interest for the Walt Disney Archives to produce exhibitions all over the world makes me think that perhaps guests would be interested in seeing a permanent exhibition in a place where folks could come to visit. Perhaps a place like Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort would be a good fit. It sounds fairly obvious, I know, but I can’t help but wonder why this hasn’t happened yet.
We do have small versions of this in places like “Walt Disney Presents” in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and rotating exhibitions in the Main Street Opera House at Disneyland, but I would love to see a multi-hour experience on-property. I believe the most obvious locations would be Downtown Disney and Disney Springs. Both of these locations tend to have available space, and Disney fans love when even more Disney content is infused into these locations.
There does seem to be a bit of an uptick in permanent entertainment exhibitions. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures recently opened in Los Angeles, telling the story and history of the motion picture industry. Later this year, the Museum of Broadway will be opening in New York City celebrating the art of theatre. I would love to see the Walt Disney Archives join this list of permanent entertainment museums available to the public on a regular basis.
Have you ever experienced a Walt Disney Archives exhibition? If so, what was one of your favorite pieces? If there were to be a permanent Walt Disney Archives home, what is one piece of Disney memorabilia that you would like to see included. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
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Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.