Inside the Walt Disney Archives Exhibit Now Open at Bowers Museum
*I recently attended Bowers Museum on June 21, 2020. This post has been updated with new exhibit dates and what to expect when going with CDC guidelines.
In 2020, the Walt Disney Archives is celebrating its 50th anniversary! If you’re unfamiliar with the archives, it was started by a Disney cast member named Dave Smith, who had discovered a snow globe from Mary Poppins randomly at the Studios. It inspired him to start gathering and preserving props, storyboard drawings, cels, basically anything that was of historical significance. I had the honor of getting to hear Dave’s journey of how he begun the archives a few years ago when I attended the D23 member event “Lunch With a Legend with Dave Smith”:
Now for nearly 50 years The Walt Disney Archives has created an astounding collection of pieces of Disney’s history. To celebrate, the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, CA, just a short distance away from Disneyland, will have an exhibit that will give fans a rare look at some of the archive’s treasures. The D23 site says that:
“The traveling exhibit offers a rare look at some of the treasures from the archives, such as never-before-displayed production art from Fantasia, Walt Disney’s office set from Saving Mr. Banks, the original pitch portfolio used to secure investors for Disneyland, maquettes from animated films such as Peter Pan and Frozen, and much more. The 10,000-square-foot exhibit features more than 400 objects, including original artwork, costumes, and props that tell the story of the Archives, The Walt Disney Company, and Walt Disney himself. Guests will feel as if they’ve stepped into the Walt Disney Archives as they take in the dazzling display.”
The 50th anniversary exhibit, titled Inside the Walt Disney Archives recently re-opened on June 19th and the exhibit has been extended until October 18, 2020 due to it being closed for three months. The exhibit will tour throughout the United States, but exact cities and dates have not been announced yet.
The first few photos are from when I attended the press preview in early March, which will give you an idea of what is part of the exhibit. You can head down closer to the end of this post for information on what to expect regarding social distancing, etc.
Let’s first take a look at what’s inside the Walt Disney Archives exhibit. There are some absolutely incredible treasures! There are items ranging from Disney live action films, animation scripts, Walt’s personal items, Disney merchandise, Fox films, and Disney Parks. Below is a look at some of my favorite items:
The exhibit as a whole holds 465 items, with 50 pieces of original artwork, 15 original on-screen worn costumes, 12,000 animation cells, and the archives’ oldest artifact, a 100 year old megaphone Walt Disney used making films in the 1920’s.
Other Special Events During Inside the Walt Disney Archives
During the run of the exhibit, there will be many other ticketed special events. While they were originally set to be in person, the special events have been revised to be virtual, with a ticket cost of $5 for members to tune in and $10 for non-members.
- Virtual lecture on July 25th with Archives director Becky Cline: Making Holiday Magic at Disney Parks.
- Virtual lecture on August 9th: Walt Disney Archives Photo Presentation.
- Virtual lecture on August 29th: Designing Anna’s costume in Frozen 2
I was told by a museum staff member today that more virtual presentations may be added at a later date.
Walt-Inspired Menu on Site
Bowers Museum restaurant on-property is Tangata Restaurant, and is available for to-go orders or dine in. Plus you can even visit without museum admission! Walt Disney-era food expert and author of the book “Eat Like Walt” worked with Tangata Restaurant to create a Walt Disney-inspired menu for the duration of the Inside the Walt Disney Archives exhibit run.
Below is a look at the menu, and the vegetarian skewers I ordered. They tasted just like the skewers at Bengal BBQ in Adventureland at Disneyland! I absolutely loved the side of potato salad as well.
Visiting During COVID-19
After a three month closure, the Bowers Museum re-opened complying with CDC guidelines for a safe re-opening. We went on June 21st, and felt completely safe, were able to social distance very easily in all areas of the museum and restaurant. Below is a run down of what to expect:
- Purchase tickets online ahead of time with a specific entry time. By selecting your entry time, this allows the museum to limit the amount of people in the museum at a time.
- Masks are required to enter. Everyone was compliant with this. The only time masks aren’t required are when you are dining at the restaurant.
- Social distance markers are in the line to order at the restaurant, as well as in line to get into the museum before they scan your ticket.
- In the exhibit itself there are no markers, but since there’s limited capacity and reserved times required there are very few people inside. Plus with how spacious the exhibit is, it’s incredibly easy to stay more than six feet from others.
- Bonus: Since this is a museum with everything behind glass or ropes, you’re not really touching any surfaces. But regardless they have hand sanitizer dispensers in many spots.
- At the restaurant, I saw staff spraying disinfectants on tables after bussing.
- Also at the restaurant, they have a jar of “clean pens” and “used pens” when you sign your receipt, plus digital boards displaying menus. This way you never have to touch anything anyone else has.
- The restaurant dining has a very spacious outdoor seating area making it easy to stay far from others, but if you feel more comfortable they have to-go containers too.
The staff were very friendly and compliant, and everyone (guests included) were keeping a respectful distance from one another. Everything despite all the added steps felt very efficient and pleasant!
Ticket Info for the Exhibit:
You can purchase Bowers Museum tickets plus admission to the special exhibit , or buy tickets exclusively for the Inside the Walt Disney Archives exhibit for $23 here that runs until October 18th.
- Disney Archives Only
- Adults: $23 weekday, $25 weekend
- Seniors & Students: $20 weekday, $22 weekend
- Children 3-11: $5
Additional events happening in 2020 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Archives will be special throwback screenings throughout the year at the famous El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. There will also be a special 50 Years of The Walt Disney Archives exhibit at D23’s Destination D taking place at Walt Disney World Resort in fall 2020. Also for D23 Gold Members in 2020 will be a day at the Studio Lot in Burbank, CA which will offer a look into how the Archives preserves the history of The Walt Disney Company.