The Walt Disney Archives preserves almost all elements that are created during the filmmaking process. Pre-production materials (concept art, construction drawings, visual effects models, etc.), and production materials (props, costumes, set pieces, hair and make-up, etc.) from both film and television make up the bulk of this lot. When a production ends, or “wraps”, the physical assets created during that filmmaking process are delivered to the Archives. Some of the departments newest acquisitions are from films such as Dumbo (2019) and Mary Poppins Returns (2018), and from television shows such as The Little Mermaid Live! (2019) and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013-present) series. Ever evolving the Archives’ collection scope, the department has also begun to acquire film and television assets from Disney+, The Walt Disney Company’s recently-launched streaming service. With the acquisition of the 20th Century Fox film studio and library, the Fox Archive’s historical collection of film and television assets have been merged into those of the Walt Disney Archives. If that sounds impressive – and daunting – it is!


Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

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Julia Vargas
Digital Acquisitions Coordinator

For Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019), not only were costume designer Ellen Mirojnick and her team responsible for dressing over 600 villagers, they also had to create distinct looks for the powerful and independent women at the heart of the story – Maleficent (played by Angelina Jolie) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). A closer look at their costumes helps to reveal a deeper understanding of each of these characters.

As the title character of the film, Maleficent had to stand out amongst all others. In this film, Maleficent’s wings have been restored which required the costumes to be made with fabrics that were more fluid and allowed for movement. Along with her dark color palette, her bright red lips, and iconic sharp features, a stark contrast is created with her surroundings. She is the evil fairy in a picturesque, visually lush fairytale world.

Queen Ingrith, Queen of Ulstead and Aurora’s future mother–in–law, upholds an air of wealth and royalty. Her wardrobe is complemented with jewelry that makes a bold statement. Mirojnick states, “She has a presence that is both soft and strong at the same time, and her colors do not give any hint of her being fact, it’s quite the contrary.” Queen Ingrith proves to be a worthy adversary to Maleficent with her plan to divide humans and fairies forever.


In 2019, The Walt Disney Company launched its own direct-to-consumer streaming service called Disney+. This provided the Walt Disney Archives the opportunity to help create content for the burgeoning platform, and share the treasures of the collection with fans all over the world. One of the shows that worked closely with the Walt Disney Archives is called Prop Culture – an anthology series that celebrates Disney films through props, costumes, and the actors, artists, and filmmakers who brought those objects to life. Once an item was selected to be featured in an episode, a member of the Archives staff would personally courier and travel with the requested prop or costume to filming location across the globe to ensure safe handling on set. Imagine informing the gate agent at the airport that you cannot check your bag… because it contains a priceless piece of movie history…like Mary Poppins’ hat!



Having the chance to work with motion picture studio artifacts and historical collections is a rare treat few get to experience. The community of skilled archivists tasked with preserving the precious props, costumes, photography, and artwork of the entertainment industry represent small, but incredibly dedicated and hardworking cadre of respected talent from across Hollywood. Established in 1992 as the central repository to collect and preserve 20th Century Fox’s historical publicity and prop collections, the Fox Archives has grown to encompass a wealth of material chronicling the history of the motion picture studio from as early as 1915 to today. Primarily used to support brand awareness and production needs, the Fox Archives also chronicles the evolving process involved in day to day operation of film and television production. Tantamount to this history as well, is the work of the people involved in creating those productions and the spirit of the corporation that brought them to fruition. Earlier this year, the team from the Fox Archives joined the Walt Disney Archives, and their unparalleled collections merged.

Photo Library & Digitization

“One of the most well-used collections in the Archives is the Photo Library Collection, which numbers over 20 million images.”
—Becky Cline, Director, Walt Disney Archives

When Walt and Roy opened the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio on Kingswell Avenue in Los Angeles, they documented their activities and events with photographs which were often used for publicity purposes. This practice expanded at the Hyperion Avenue studio in the late 1920s and 1930s. Once in Burbank, the Studios’ Still Camera Department cared for the original photo negatives, and produced prints as needed. The need for photos grew as more cartoons and then feature films were made, released, and re-released. The Studios’ Publicity Department developed a huge collection of ready-made photographs that could be sent out to newspapers, magazines, and even fans who wrote to Walt Disney.

When the Still Camera Department closed in 1985, the Walt Disney Archives took over managing the photo collections of both the Still Camera and Publicity departments. As the Walt Disney Archives Photo Library, it instituted archival practices in the care and maintenance of the collection.

With the advent of new and developing technology, now the Walt Disney Archives is at the forefront in bringing new life to some of the oldest, yet vitally important, materials in its collections.

Using the state-of-the-art equipment, image capture specialists are digitizing the Archives’ collection of some 20 million negatives and prints, including the 20th Century Fox photography collection, in the highest definition possible. Quality control specialists restore and color-correct the images, which are then turned over to metadata librarians who catalog every image with subject keywords that provide unparalleled access to the content.

Photo archivists reveal that finding “new” content for classic films and events takes a lot of research. Originally lists were made of every photo taken; comparing these lists with the catalogue of known images in the collection, they discover images that were never printed. It is painstaking, time-consuming detective work: but they are discovering visual treasures of never-before and rarely-seen Disney history.

The photo archivists work closely with researchers both inside and outside The Walt Disney Company, helping them identify imagery that is exactly what they are looking for. These photos are used in books and other publications; film, television, and home entertainment productions; and consumer products.

With cutting-edge digitization equipment and programs for its media collections, and a deep knowledge of the history of The Walt Disney Company, the Archives is making these materials more accessible—and more useful—than ever.


A Moment Frozen in Time

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Mike Buckhoff
Manager, Disney Photo Archives

For a company that pays homage to its past more than any other, the photographic history of Disney is vital to explaining the rich heritage that it holds. Recent books such as Mindy Johnson’s Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation (Disney Editions, 2017) and Yesterday’s Tomorrow (Disney Editions, 2017) by Don Hahn utilized the vast photo collection of the Walt Disney Archives to help visually tell their respective stories. Since The Walt Disney Company has recorded its history so well through photographs, extensive collections exist that can be used to help immerse an individual in almost any era they are looking to learn more about. Whether it be photos of Walt Disney himself or those of his greatest creation, Mickey Mouse, a moment frozen in time can be shared for many generations to come. Of the millions of images in the Walt Disney Archives Photo Library this photo from the movie Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus (1960) is one of my favorites. Shot on The Walt Disney Studios’ backlot, it gives the viewer a behind-the-scenes peek into all that goes into a production: from sets and cameras, to the actors and crew.


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