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D23 Presents the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Reagan Library

Overview: I was invited to attend a preview of this exhibit on June 30th. The official opening date is July 6th and it is slated to run through April 2013. This exhibit features over 500 items covering 12,000 square feet of exhibition space. About half of the items have never been on display before. The exhibit spans the full range of Walt's life starting with his birth certificate and going all the way up through current items such as costumes and props from the Avengers and samples from everything in between, movies, TV, and themeparks.

Nuts and Bolts: The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum is located in Simi Valley California. It is located approximately 45 miles from Downtown Los Angeles. The library is located on 300 acres atop a mountain. It features a total of 265,500 square feet of interior space including the Air Force One Pavilion. The library originally opened in 1991 and in 2004 was expanded to include the Learning center as well as Air Force One. The library is open Daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years from 10am to 5pm. Current admission is $21.00 for adults and various discounts for seniors, children, military. There is also an annual membership that starts at $65. For more information visit the library's website at http://reaganfoundation.org Lastly there is an audio tour add on if you would like to be guided through the library including the Disney exhibit.

A couple random thoughts and observations before I share my experience from the preview:

  • I was really excited to see this exhibit. In addition to really enjoying the Reagan Library and of course anything Disney I was also happy for once to not have to travel far to see it. I live in Ventura County so it was only a 15 minute drive for me!!! Usually it is a 75 mile trek to Anaheim or a cross country plane ride to Orlando, or even the 40 mile drive to Burbank can be long to experience some Disney Magic or history.

  • Before going into some impressions from the Disney Exhibit I want to put in a plug for the Reagan Library. If you have never ventured out to the North/West Los Angeles to see it you are missing something. I live near by and have been many times over the years and the setting and size of the library is impressive. They have recently upgraded many parts of the museum to feature more multimedia and interactivity. Add in the Air Force One pavilion, where you get to walk around and through the 707 that served as Air Force One for seven presidents which is displayed in an incredible manner elevated and looking out over the hills, and it is well worth the trip. Plus now with this Disney exhibit it is a definite must see for all you disneygeeks that can make the trek (namely all of you in Orange County that think Ventura County might as well be another state!).

  • A little history, this is actually the second Disney exhibit at the Library. Back in 2001 an exhibit titled Walt Disney, the Man & his Magic ran from March through September. I was able to visit that one, but no photography was allowed inside so only have the following two pictures from it. I spoke with Steven Clark and John Heubusch briefly about it and that original exhibit was primarily done through Diane Disney-Miller and the families collection. Many of those items are on display up at the Family Museum in San Francisco now. The archives were not heavily involved, but Dave Smith did play a part. So those of you that saw that original exhibit, this one is much more comprehensive and larger.

My Thoughts and Observations from the Preview:

  • The Disney Archives and the Reagan Library have put together an incredible exhibit. The scale and scope of what is included is impressive. There seems to be some nugget or artifact for almost any disneygeek whether your interest focusses on Walt, the Company, animation, film, television, themeparks, or even the intersection of presidents and Disney. There are galleries that feature displays on all of these topics and more.

  • As part of the preview we were given two hours to roam the exhibit. This may sound like a lot of time but given over 500 items to see and try and figure out which to photograph and get pictures, plus talking with the various D23, Walt Disney Archives, and Reagan Library folks on hand and the 120 minutes went by in the blink of an eye and I really only scratched the surface of what the exhibit has to offer. Also I should note that we were informed that when it opens to the public photography will be allowed, but no flash and no video.

  • I found the layout and organization of the exhibit to flow nicely and made sense. The area downstairs was a little more free form, but that was by design because it was less of a story and more about the stories (it featured movie props/costumes, and items from the theme parks mostly) where as the upstairs galleries chronicled Walt's life and the companies.

  • For those of you familiar with the Reagan Library the exhibit fills the usual exhibit hall and then they cut out a doorway and there is a staircase that leads to an extension in a tent structure. The expanded section more than doubles the available square footage and is tall enough to accommodate some of the larger items that were brought in.

  • A common question that I have already been asked a couple of times is how different is this than previous exhibits, namely the treasures ones from the first two D23 Expos. About half of the items on display have never been on public display before. So if you have seen every exhibit so far you have seen about half of it. And even the items you may have seen before things have been changed. For example Walt's formal office. Many of us saw it when it was at Disneyland in the opera house. For this exhibit they have recreated it down to the final detail, meaning the dimensions of the space are correct and even the alignment of the books on the shelf match what it looked like in Walt's Office on the studio lot. Unlike at Disneyland where some compromises were made due to the space, etc..

  • Another question that I have been asked already is what did I find most interesting. I found the first room that had the early items such as the telegrams about Oswald and the Laugh O Gram documents to be really fascinating reads. I also really enjoyed the last room that featured the presidential busts from the Hall of Presidents the displays on the interactions of several presidents and Disney over the years. The letter from Amy Carter was great! On the themepark side I thought seeing the Haunted Mansion items from WDW were great.

  • I am not a huge movie costume/prop person but seeing the Model T from the Absent Minded Professor was cool.

  • The Reagan Library and D23 are both anticipating the exhibit to be a big draw and are recommending you pre-purchase tickets so you can choose a date and time to tour the library and Disney exhibit. That will reduce your wait time and guarantee entrance when you want to visit. You can do this online at: http://reaganfoundation.org

  • I cannot really comment on how it will handle the crowds since my tour group was small, only a couple dozen people roaming around so it was no problem at all for me. I would assume weekends and holidays will be the most crowded as will the opening weeks.

  • Had a question about merchandise come in and the Reagan Library folks have confirmed that their online store will feature most of the items that will be available at the Library soon.

  • Someone had a question on the audio tour I mentioned in the opening. Here is some info on the option provided by the Reagan Library:

    Launched in February 2011 and called GuideCam.  This is an award-winning, patent pending audio guide which does the following:

    1. 50 audio stops, many in the voices of President and Mrs. Reagan, throughout the Reagan Museum
    2. A still camera
    3. A video camera

    At the end of your visit, when you return the GuideCam, they email you all your photos and video, straight to your email box, with all the social media tools to post to twitter, YouTube, FB, etc.
    For more information please visit their website

    The GuideCam is in English, Spanish, and has closed captioning for Hearing Impaired.

    They added 8 additional spots (English and hearing impaired) specifically for within the Disney area.

Do you have any questions? I am more than happy to answer, just drop me an email disneygeek@disneygeek.com

For My Pictures from this preview visit my D23 Picture Section

For pictures from a previous trip to the Reagan Library including Air Force One visit DGeeksTravels section.

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