Okay, this is where the pictures stop. I did not take, or even attempt to take, any pictures once inside the archives. While I was not expressedly forbidden from taking photos, access to the Archives is a rare thing and I did not want to press my luck.
But I will describe to you as best I can much of what I saw, and let your imagination do the rest.
We first entered the library room (the wooden door in the two pictures before the Multi-Plane camera one). It was a small room, about the size of an apartment. Across one large wall was nothing but bookshelves, containing books detailing the history of Walt and the company. Atop the bookshelves were models, including characters from Fantasia and Pirates of the Caribbean (the ride).
There were also several large tables, for those doing research. There were several display cases filled with artifacts covering the other walls. One of them was filled with nothing but Donald Duck food items (from way back when). Here's some of the other stuff I remember:
- The actual, original Wordrobe from the Chronicals of Narnia. Close inspection of the wardrobe shows that, at the request of the director, the carvings actually depict the story of The Magicians Nephew, the prequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which tells the story of the creation of Narnia.
- The Aztec medallion necklace from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
- Dick Tracy's wrist radio from Dick Tracy, as well as a special rubber replica the stunt men wore.
- A small model of Walt's Lilly Belle train.
- Walt's personal camera and projector.
- An Oscar for The Living Desert.
- Many other items, including papers and photographs from Walt's life. One was a script with Walt's comments on them, and then the actual grease pencil he used to make those comments.
- Many original records and albums from Disneyland Records.
Jeff gave me a chance to look around. What I described was just a tiny portion of the items just contained in that one room. We then went to one of the office doors in the room, and I was introduced to...
David Smith, founder and head archivist of The Disney Archives. There he was, just sitting there in his office. Of course he was! This was the Disney archives, his place of work, where else would he be? I was somewhat stunned to be meeting a genuine Disney legend; we shook hands and were introduced.
Dave is, among other things, author of the book Disney A to Z: An Official Encyclopedia
Here's some more info on Dave from the Disney Archives Website. And here's an article by Dave about the creation of The Disney Archives.
It is thanks to Dave and his staff that the history of this great company has been preserved, when it would otherwise have been literally just thrown out (more on that later).
We left the library room and went upstairs. This room was a relatively new section of the Disney archives, where they keep the larger items that aren't just papers and photos.
We were introduced to Rebecca Cline, assistant archivist at the archives. Here's a sampling of some of the stuff that was on display:
- A helmet from Tron
- Lindsay Lohan's helmet from Herbie Fully Loaded
- The stone version of Mr. Tumnus from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Which and the Wardrobe, which was hand carved and is irreplcacable.
- Susan's costume from the film, used in the earlier scenes.
- Toys from Babe's in Toyland.
- Props from The Prestige, such as the Bird Cage (and it's mechanical contraption) and the diary.
- Props from 101 and 102 Dalmations, including some (fake) dalmation puppies and a beautiful dress worn by Glen Close in the film.
- Costumes from Shakespeare in Love.
- A model of Pete's Dragon (which I, much to my embarassment, incorrectly identified at The Reluctant Dragon)
- Boots worn by Hilary Duff in Lizzy Maguire.
- An actual Disneyland Mailbox from Main Street USA.
- An actual Devil from (the now closed) Mr. Toads Wild Ride at Walt Disney World.
- The little bear (I forget his name) anamatronic (with his teddy bear) from The Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland.
- An actual suitcase belonging to Walt Disney.
- Props and models (such as the bell from the Charlotte) from National Treasure.
There was also every book you could possibly imagine on Disney and the Disney Theme Parks (as well as several of Jeff's, which he was happy about). On another wall was every DVD of every Disney movie you can think of, including the Disney Treasures sets and Disney BluRay discs. Then there was every CD you can think of, including movie scores, Disney Channel CDs and the Musical History of Disneyland set.
As we were looking around, a man walked in. He was carrying a model, perhaps a foot and a half to two feet tall, of Will Rogers. I immediately recognized it as being from the American Adventure attraction at Epcot. The archivists were intrigued, because this statue was a greenish-copper color, and the other models they had from that attraction (many of which were on display in the lobby downstairs) were white.
The model had been found in the Disney Prop shop. Now here is an excellent example of stuff which otherwise would have gotten thrown away, as mentioned above. The Disney Prop shop is currently closing, to make way for another soundstage, and they had given the archives just one month to take what they wanted. Everything else would be either sold or thrown away. This model, which even featured a minature leather lasso, was safe.
Rebecca also told us of when she had recenly been to Disney World, and they had been allowed to take the props that are being removed from The Haunted Mansion for the refurbishment, such as the bride from the attic scene. They also mentioned something to be added during the refurb which I have not heard discussed anywhere online...but I'm not telling what it is.
Sensing we were enjoying ourselves, Rebecca went back into an employees-only section of the room and came out with some things for us to look at.
One of the items was Annette Funicello's original cowboy boots (which her name written in them) from The Mickey Mouse Club
. Another was Dick Van Dyke's straw hat from Mary Poppins.
We sat on the couches and chatted for a while, talking about the Theme Parks, the upcoming NFFC convention (Jeff apparently used to be the go-to guy to do a presentation if somebody dropped out at the last minute. Speaking of the convention, which is next month, Disney Archivist Dave Smith will be there presiding over one of the panel discussions). We talked about the removal of the Wand at Epcot, the Haunted Mansion refurb (as mentioned above), and even a bit about the Disney online world.
Oh, appearantly the Carousel of Progress is to be removed soon (or so they had heard). This has come up many times before, so maybe the CoP is safe for now, but then again, maybe not. Only time will tell. Rebecca did say that if WDW decides to get rid of it, The Archivists will be there to save as much as they can for future generations.
We thanked Rebecca for her time and started to leave. She suggested I check out the display on Epcot downstairs which she had put together. With that thought in mind, I asked her: "Say, do you have anything from Horizons?"
She dissapeared for a moment. Then she reappeared, carrying a small plastic baggy. In it were several original props from Horizons... exactly where in the attraction they were each from is not coming to mind now, but it was very cool to see pieces of this now Yesterland attraction.
We walked back downstairs and Jeff bid us adieu. It had been a fun time at thw Walt Disney Studios, as we walked back through the lot and too our car. It was a truly once in a lifetime experience- but hopefully one day I'll be back on that lot, I just feel a certain touch of destiny about it.
Perhaps I'll also get a chance to visit the Magic of Disney Animation building (the one that looks like a film strip that you pass by on the freeway). If I do, I'll be sure to tell you guys all about it.
I hope you all have enjoyed this little trip to the Walt Disney Studios. I'd like to thank all of the Disney people who made this possible and who took time out of their days to show me around. It was a truly magical experience I will never forget.