At D23 Expo 2015, held Aug. 14-16 in Anaheim, Calif., Walt Disney Archives offered attendees its biggest exhibit in the Disney fan event’s history. The display celebrated the 60th anniversary of Disneyland by showcasing various aspects of the park’s six decades and themed lands.
“Walt Disney Archives Presents – Disneyland: The Exhibit” offered Disney fans more than 300 items on display in nearly 12,000 square feet of exhibit space. Together, the celebrated Disneyland by looking at its history and how it has changed, reflect on how people have viewed the park, and show how the “Happiest Place on Earth” continues to reflect Walt Disney’s philosophies.
Themed areas of the exhibit were dedicated to Disneyland’s history, an eclectic collection: park attractions, costumes, props and Audio-Animatronics; parades and other entertainment; restaurants and merchandise; and photos, letters, tickets and other ephemera. The exhibit also used areas to represent six of the theme park’s iconic lands: Main Street, U.S.A, Fantasyland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square, Bear Country/Critter Country and Tomorrowland.
Upon entering the Archives’ exhibit, D23 Expo attendees saw an area devoted to Disneyland’s early planning, construction and promotion, and opening day. It included a reproduction of Herb Ryman’s Disneyland drawing, the original pitch book for the park, survey equipment, and a display for “Walt Disney’s Little Man of Disneyland,” a Disney Little Golden Book that introduced the leprechaun Patrick Begorra in order to build anticipation for the theme park.
On display nearby was the first Disneyland ticket, sold to Roy. O. Disney. This item has been a feature of previous exhibits, and has becomes something of an introduction to what rare treasures the Archives offers.
Guests could wander throughout the space, which snaked back-and-forth to create an unstructured flow, in order to see its artifacts and take in accompanying text and video. A full accounting of the hundreds of items in “Walt Disney Archives Presents – Disneyland: The Exhibit” isn’t possible, but some of its highlights included:
- Pirates of the Caribbean vignette, including an Audio-Animatronic figure, character heads, a pig and a nickel postcard machine;
- Country Bear Jamboree, featuring Baby Oscar, characters’ heads and a small-scale model of Henry;
- A vignette for Club 33, with a table with place settings, menus; and material related to the Trophy Room Show;
- A model of Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A.;
- Mickey Mouse Club costumes as well as original art for Mickey Mouse Circus;
- America Sings, featuring several Audio-Animatronic figures and character costume elements and props;
- Alice in Wonderland, including an Alice figure, prototype vehicle, and finished vehicle, while a Cheshire Cat from Main Street Electrical Parade was featured in the area devoted to night-time spectaculars;
- Matterhorn Bobsleds, including one of the sleds and the original Matterhorn Abominable Snowman (nicked Harold by fans);
- Ride vehicles for Autopia, Peter Pan and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride;
- Star Tours, with a special appearance by RX-24 (Rex);
- Fantasmic!, featuring the original head of the “Sleeping Beauty” dragon (1992), Malificient costume, and the neon-colored monkey costumes for dancers;
- Costumes for Mickey Mouse, the Golden Horseshow Revue, parade entertainers and attractions hosts;
- Larger items such as a popcorn machine,
- Smaller displays with figures, models, maquettes and art from such Disneyland favorites as Jungle Cruise, Adventure Thru Inner Space, the Mark Twain riverboat, Coke Corner, Monsanto’s House of the Future;
- Small props and elements, such as nametags and badges, patches, survey markers, record albums, and Disneyland memorabilia;
- Park ephemera included a number of Disneyland guidebooks, tickets, photographs, letters, vintage menus, and information on park sponsors (Aunt Jemima’s, Coca–Cola, Upjohn, Kodak, among others).
- “Disneyland: The Exhibit” rounded out its offerings with several Disneyland attraction costumes, reinforcing Disneyland and the Archives’ use of themed lands. The exhibit’s very last look was a large backdrop featuring a photo of Walt Disney, encouraging guests to stop for a photo opportunity.
D23 Expo 2015 marked the first year the Walt Disney Archives exhibit was housed on the event’s show floor. The exhibit took advantage of its prime location on the floor by keeping the enclosed area as open and visible as possible.
D23 Expo attendees could see some artifacts from outside the exhibit’s official area, an attendee-friendly decision. The location and layout also provided Walt Disney Archives with higher visibility, tangentially promoting its smaller stage presentations – “fireside chat” experiences with such experts as animators, historians, Disney Legends, and archivists and preservationists.