"OKAY...START AN ARCHIVES"
When Walt Disney passed away in 1966, the team he left behind continued to build on his creative visions. These included films, the further development of Disneyland, and a new destination resort and community of the future he had planned for Central Florida, which was then to be called “Disney World.”
Walt’s secretaries kept most everything in place just as Walt had left it, and they spent a year indexing and cataloging his files for storage. When they finished their work, they closed up the office suite and locked the doors.
WALT DISNEY’S OFFICE
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
The creative team behind Saving Mr. Banks conducted extensive research within the collections of the Walt Disney Archives during pre-production of the film. Included in their research was a review of the materials in Walt’s formal office, visiting the Archives’ recreation of the space in the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, and seeking historical guidance from the original office inventory list compiled by Archives founder Dave Smith. The objects that you see here (including the desk) are near exact reproductions of items that existed in the offices of Walt Disney. All of these reproductions were curated for the film Saving Mr. Banks and used by actor Tom Hanks in his portrayal of Walt. For exhibit purposes, supplementary objects were added by the Walt Disney Archives staff to achieve a more historically accurate reproduction.
In the late 1960s, a young librarian named David R. “Dave” Smith visited The Walt Disney Studios to research their book holdings, for the first-ever attempt at a complete bibliography, or list, of Disney books and publications. Learning of the Company’s historical needs, Dave also came up with a plan for a Disney Archives and Museum.
As he recalled, “Roy O. Disney was very interested in the whole idea of the archives because he not only wanted to preserve the history of the Company but he wanted to make sure that his brother’s history was preserved.”
The Walt Disney Archives officially began on June 22, 1970. Dave would serve as the Company’s Chief Archivist for over 40 years, and even continued his historical work into retirement serving as a trusted consultant and Chief Archivist Emeritus.
At the celebration of the Archives 40th anniversary it was said: “The pieces that reside in the Walt Disney Archives are not just Disney treasures, they are Americana. They are pieces of American history, of world history, of world culture.”
DID YOU KNOW?
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During Disneyland’s second annual tour guide exchange with Denmark’s Tivoli Gardens, Hanne Plath, an information guide from Tivoli, brought a special gift to Walt Disney. It was a replica of Copenhagen’s famous statue inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story, “The Little Mermaid.” Produced by the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Factory, this figure was made from an original modeled by sculptor Edvard Eriksen, the artist who crafted the iconic bronze in 1913. Walt displayed this ceramic figure in his “working” office.
Constructing A Dream
Frank G. Wells Showcase
The first thing visitors to the Walt Disney Archives see when they enter the lobby of the Frank G. Wells Building at The Walt Disney Studios is a pair of giant glass showcases featuring regularly-changing displays. The Archives delves into its collections to create exhibitions that spotlight different moments in Disney history. On one visit, you might see artifacts, props, and costumes from films like Cinderella (with her delicate crystal glass slippers). You might find the history of Disney music, celebrations of character anniversaries, or props and set pieces from Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort attractions. You might even see personal memorabilia from Walt Disney’s travels around the world – with a collection as vast as what the staff of the Archives has at their fingertips, the possibilities are endless!
“To make the dreams of Disneyland come true took the combined skills and talents of hundreds of artisans, carpenters, engineers, scientists and craftsmen.”
When Walt moved his film operations from Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles to his new studio in Burbank, he was not only the Academy-Award®-winning producer of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, he was a dad to two little girls, spending his weekends watching them on pony-rides and at local amusements - and wishing he could have fun too.
His simple wishing became dreams of a “magical little park” on a sliver of land across the street from the Burbank studio. But his plans soon outgrew his property, and with consultants from the Stanford Research Institute, Walt found enough room to hold his dreams south, in Anaheim, California.
With the help of animator Herb Ryman and several other studio artists, Walt first created conceptual artwork and models to explain the novel new concept of “Disneyland” to potential backers.
To design the park, he “cast” the people that he knew best: animators, artists, sculptors, engineers, story-tellers, and special effects artists who had created magical Disney films for Walt. Others came from the world of Hollywood art direction and design. Imagineer and Disney Legend Marty Sklar once observed that all these artists had “two uncommon genes in their artistic makeup. They were willing to try anything, and they did not know how to say no.”
As one landscape architect put it - “This was Disneyland, a sort of fairyland. And Walt’s belief that the impossible was a simple order of the day so instilled this spirit in everyone that they never stopped to think it couldn’t be done – they just did it, with amazing speed!”