Preserving the legacy of the Walt Disney Company is important. You can only imagine the sheer amount of props, photographs, costumes and historical documents they would have since 1923. Luckily, the company had the foresight to collect and maintain all these important pieces and they are all now housed at the Walt Disney Archives at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.
Not only do employees of the Disney Archives collect & preserve, they also serve as a valuable resource for those who need information about our past. The Disney Archives were used greatly in the production of Saving Mr. Banks, an iconic movie about the creation of Mary Poppins. And most recently, Tomorrowland producers relied on several key items from the archives to recreate the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.
On my recent trip to the #TomorrowlandEvent, we had the special opportunity to visit the Disney Archives to learn more about the items the Tomorrowland crew used and see some other special pieces of the collection.
What are the Walt Disney Archives?
The Disney Archives was founded in 1970 by Disney legend, Dave Smith, and was one of the first corporate archives in the country to be institutionalized. They are responsible for looking at Walt Disney Company history and chronicling it from 1923 until today. The Disney Archive collection includes documents, photographs, historical costumes, merchandise, books, oral recordings, hand props, and more.
One of the first large collections that came into the Disney Archives in 1970 were the contents from Walt Disney’s offices. Disney had 2 offices – a formal office to entertain and one where he rolled his sleeves up to work. In the display cabinet in the lobby, you will find his phone, his razors, a pen, and a few colored pencils from his desk.
One of the most exciting things were were able to see during our visit to the Disney Archives was a Disneyland Press Preview Ticket & Parking Pass for July 17, 1955 and the VERY FIRST TICKET to be sold for Disneyland. It was purchased by Walt’s brother, Roy O. Disney, the “perfect business man”. The ticket cost only $1 and got you into the park. The rides actually were an additional cost.
Disney Archives & Tomorrowland
The Disney Archives were able to work with the Tomorrowland production team to help recreate several key scenes in the movie. The Tomorrowland production team wanted to know more about the New York World’s Fair, so the archivists were able to provide them with several items such as books, tickets, pins, posters, etc.
These historical items helped Tomorowland producers recreate the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. This original fair poster helped to create the Unisphere that shows up in the movie.
Also in the archives, this original It’s a Small World Doll from Disneyland. This wonderfully classic ride was introduced at the New York World’s Fair and plays a key role in Tomorrowland. It was really cool to see the size of the doll up close. You can see the amount of detail that goes into the costumes. When you are on the ride, you see them from a far for only 10-20 seconds.
Here’s a peek at some of the scenes from Tomorrowland that show the World’s Fair & It’s a Small World:
No visit to a Hollywood Studios is complete without getting to hold a real life Academy Award. We were all invited to hold it for pictures (and reminded to hold it with both hands – it’s heavy!) This particular award was for White Wilderness (one of Disney’s true life Adventure films). Disney Studios did several of these Adventure films. The legacy is now carried on through DisneyNature films, most recently with Monkey Kingdom.
What was it like to hold an Academy Award? It was much heavier than I expected it to be. But what a thrill to hold an actual Oscar!
Are the Walt Disney Archives open to the public?
Unfortunately, they are not. With only 12 employees, their job is to continue to collect & preserve archive items, as well as help historians and production crews with their research. They are still finding items all over the studios that need to be archived. Remember the infamous 1952 box that was found and became the inspiration for the Tomorrowland story? That came from the archives.
Now there is one way you can get a peek into the archives. D23 – the Official Disney Fan Club- hosts tours 4 times a year that you can register for.
It was a pretty amazing experience to go behind the scenes at Disney Studios to hear how the Disney legacy is being preserved. And being the movie geek that I am, it was impressive how much work production crews will do to maintain historical accuracy in a film. When you see the larger than life New York World’s Fair scenes in Tomorrowland – out on Friday, May 22, 2015 – remember how it all started with a visit to the Disney Archives.
Tomorrowland – Family Summer Movie – May 22, 2015
Tomorrowland hits theaters on Friday, May 22, 2015. It’s great summer movie for the whole family.
Want to hear more about Tomorrowland??
Here’s why I think you should take the whole family to see the movie! Find out what prop George Clooney may or may not have taken from the set of Tomorrowland in my exclusive interview with him. Also, find out what valuable lesson his costar, Britt Robertson learned from Clooney. And find out what inspired Director/Producer Brad Bird and Screenwriter/Producer Damon Lindelof to create Tomorrowland in my exclusive interview with them.
After our time in the Walt Disney Archives, we headed over to Disneyland’s Tomorrowland- here’s 13 Fun Facts You Don’t Know about Tomorrowland. Visitors to Disneyland can get a special sneak peek at Tomorrowland and see props from the movie. And check out all the fun that Disneyland has planned for it’s 60th Anniversary, starting May 22, 2015.
Disclosure: I was an invited guest at an all expenses paid trips to Los Angeles for the Tomorrowland Press Junket by Disney Pictures. I was not compensated for any of these articles. All opinions are my own.