Disney100: The Exhibition recently opened its doors to visitors in Philadelphia at The Franklin Institute, offering a unique opportunity for fans of Disney to explore the history and evolution of the entertainment giant. The exhibition features 250+ artifacts from the historic Walt Disney Archives, showcasing the company’s journey from its humble beginnings to its current status as one of the most influential entertainment companies in the world.
As with previous Walt Disney Archives and D23 exhibitions, this one to celebrate the centennial of the company features rare and never-before-seen artifacts that have been carefully curated to provide a glimpse into the iconic company’s history. Visitors can expect to see a range of items, including original sketches, concept art, props, costumes, and more.
According to Becky Cline, the Walt Disney Archives director, the exhibition was five years in the making, starting in 2018. “I knew we were going to have this celebration, so I wanted to plan it way ahead to make it the best experience possible,” said Cline to us in a video conference interview.
Cline went on to describe the exhibition, saying that it is composed of 10 galleries that each revolve around a theme that is important to The Walt Disney Company and its stories. In regards to why they decided to shape the narrative of the entire exhibition thematically instead of chronologically, Cline said it was “much more compelling to us” and to others as well who may not find everything Disney their interest. “We want to speak to a family audience that spans generations, ages, and cultures,” said Cline.
To appeal to those wide-ranging audiences further, Cline and the team also mixed up the assets and objects in each gallery so that there would be something compelling for everyone. “That’s why you’ll see assets from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs tied in with something from Tangled in our ‘Importance of Storytelling’ gallery. It’s all curated and editorialized to support these themes that we hold very dearly,” Cline elaborated.
And in case you’re wondering, there is a dedicated gallery for Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm (Spirit of Discovery and Adventure), as well as Disney theme park memorabilia (A Day in the Parks). Some of the other fascinating galleries focus on Disney’s innovative spirit with behind-the-scenes looks at the making of The Mandalorian using Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)’s StageCraft technology, and a gallery dedicated to the Disney fan showcasing a scrapbook of memories compiled from real-life fans over the decades.
All 10 galleries together will showcase items from the Archives that, while may have been on display before, will be presented in new ways. For example, the snowglobe from ‘Mary Poppins’ (and one of Cline’s personal favorites) will be on display, but features projections that will show birds in the snowglobe actually moving. “It gives new life to these objects and hopefully new meanings to those who see them,” Cline said.
Technology plays a pivotal part in the actual exhibition as well from the moment you step foot into the space. Walt Disney himself will welcome you to the galleries. If you’ve seen the now-viral videos that have made it onto the internet, the life-like appearance of the man himself does greet you and beckons you to the stories in the galleries that follow.
While Cline said it is not a hologram, Walt showing up is a showcase of a new technology called Disney MagicStage which was created through a collaboration between The Walt Disney Archives, Disney StudioLAB, DisneyResearch | Studios, and ILM. Essentially, it’s a combination of technologies: 1) a powerful artificial intelligence tool that takes historical footage and audio that updates it to high-definition quality, and 2) multi-level projection technology that allows for a three-dimensional projection. Cline said, “Altogether, we love that it turned out the way it did and that Walt could welcome our guests after all these years!”
The Disney100 exhibition will tour the United States and North America for the next five years. Additionally, there will be a second unit that will debut in Munich, Germany in April that will be a version of the North American unit but focused more on an international audience.
No matter where you are in relationship to the brand and its history, Cline hopes that anyone who visits Disney100: The Exhibition will walk away with more wonder about life. “You can choose to dive deep into the history of our storied company, or you can just observe and be in awe of what we’ve created. In whatever you choose to do, we hope you get to experience the magic that we’ve made for the world for all these years,” Cline stated.
More information on the exhibition can be found on the official website. There will also be a TV special debuting called Disney100: The Exhibition– Making the Magic coming soon to ABC OTV stations and Hulu.
Our thanks to Becky Cline and DisneyD23 for contributing to this story!