I had the opportunity to visit the Walt Disney Archives during my latest Disney press event for the recent theatrical release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. All travel, accommodations and activities were covered by Disney, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
The Walt Disney Archives were created in 1970 to collect, preserve, and research the rich and unique history of the Walt Disney Company. The Archives are fascinating collection of Walt Disney memorabilia – from some of the first Disneyland souvenirs, admission tickets, and badges, to movie props and costumes, to sketches, designs and plans. I could spend hours looking at the individual pieces in the collection, each with a story behind it.
I could have spent weeks – no years! – looking through the shelves and shelves full of books written about or inspired by everything Disney – some of which I recognized from my own childhood. I was amazed but not entirely surprised to learn that what we saw in the Archives was just a small representation of the collection of Disney-inspired books, for children and adults!
Although the Pirates of the Caribbean items were already packed up to get ready for D23, we learned some interesting facts about the ride, including the fact that Pirates was the last ride that Walt Disney himself personally over-saw before his death, though he was sadly never able to ride the completed attraction. I think the most interesting piece of Pirates trivia that we learned was the fact that Pirates of the Caribbean was originally planned and designed to be a Wax Museum! In fact, one of the reasons that you start the ride by going down a series of waterfalls is that they needed to utilize the space under the building to accommodate the ride.
Walt Disney thought that a boat ride using animatronics instead of stiff wax figures would be much more engaging. He was right! Even 50 years later, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland is one of the most beloved and sought-after rides in the park. I know I never leave Disneyland without riding it!
Among the exciting drawings and memorabilia in the Archives was one of Walt Disney’s Oscars – one he won for the 1958 film White Wilderness(you can watch it on Disney Movies Anywhere or rent it on Amazon! – affiliate link). Our guide uncovered the Oscar and was talking to us about it when all of the sudden I found it in my hands. I happened to be standing right next to him when he said that we could each take a turn holding the award and pose for a picture with it. I was totally caught off guard and wish that I could have captured the look my face when he handed it to me or when I walked across the room holding it. If you’ve never held an Oscar before, they are MUCH heavier than you would ever imagine. The physical weight of the award was a small example of the symbolic weight I felt for what I was holding in my hands – an actual award presented to Walt Disney himself!
What a fascinating experience it was to spend time surrounded by so much history – history of a man and a company that has inspired so many people!
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