Monday, November 15, 2010

Disneyland Presents The Walt Disney Story

What Walt Disney and his staff did was to create for the world a realm of wonder and make believe never before experienced — and that fabulous world has become a part of our lives, a part of our culture. 

Walt Disney shown in his "formal" office at the Disney Studio in Burbank.
Most Americans and much of the world have grown up with pleasant memories of Dumbo, the Three Little Pigs, Cinderella and dozens of other characters of fact and legend as they were pictured by Disney. A whole generation watched television's Mouseketeers and thrilled to the exploits of Davy Crockett and Zorro. Millions of people have visited Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida. 

The man behind it all, Walt Disney, received nearly 1,000 plaques, scrolls, Emmys and Academy Awards for his work. The Walt Disney Story at Disneyland's Main Street Opera House exhibits many of these awards in honor of the man who always remembered that "it all started with a mouse." 

The exhibit is presented free by the Gulf Oil Corporation, and features Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln in the Opera House's 500-seat auditorium. 

One of the most intriguing displays of The Walt Disney Story concerns Disneyland. Surrounded by photographs taken during the building of the Park, a small viewing screen shows a speeded-up movie of the actual construction. Thus, the one-year-plus-one-day construction project, which turned an orange grove into a Magic Kingdom, is seen in only three minutes. 

The highlight of the attraction for many is a capsule history of Walt Disney's career. The short film features Disney himself as he tells the story in his own words. 

Guests see film clips from the earliest Disney cartoons (the "Alice" series), Mickey Mouse's first appearance in "Steamboat Willie," and how Disney advanced the art of film animation, beginning with his "Silly Symphony" series right up to "Mary Poppins." He also explains the philosophy behind the "Audio-Animatronics" figures developed by Walt Disney Productions for use at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. 

From the beginning, people began to collect anything bearing the imprint of Mickey Mouse or the other Disney characters — watches, toothbrushes, games, cups, bracelets, soap, candy. 

A few of these rare and valuable collector's items are displayed in a glass case towards the back of the exhibit area. There is an original Mickey Mouse watch, manufactured by Ingersoll in 1933, plus the five millionth and 25 millionth Mickey Mouse watches produced. 

On view also are books, clocks, dolls, glasses, plates, a toy stove, Christmas lights, an Emerson Mickey Mouse radio (circa 1933), records, a tea set — most of all of them manufactured in the 1930s or '40s. Today they are eagerly sought by dedicated collectors of Disneyana. 

Disney supervised his operations from two offices at the Disney Studio in Burbank, about 35 miles from Disneyland. They have been re-created as part of The Walt Disney Story, authentically furnished with pieces used during his lifetime. 

His "working" office was used for conferences with directors, writers, artists, and almost anyone involved in creating Disney projects. Behind his desk are a few of his favorite awards: a 1938 award for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" from the International Film Festival in Venice, Italy; the very special Irving Thalberg Award, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1942 for consistent high quality of Disney films; and an Oscar, symbolic of the 51 Academy Awards received by Walt Disney and his staff throughout the years. 

The other office, also re-created for The Walt Disney Story, is the "formal" office. It was used for appointments with special guests visiting the Studio and contained a baby grand piano. Leopold Stokowski played some of the music for "Fantasia" on it more than 39 years ago, and Richard M. and Robert D. Sherman used it to play songs from "Mary Poppins" in the 1960s. 

Behind the desk are two sketches of Disney's daughters, drawn by Norman Rockwell. Between them is a portion of Disney's miniature collection — animals, dolls and small figures gathered from around the world. 

The Walt Disney Story also includes a section on Disney's famous television creations: the Zorro and Davy Crockett series and the Mickey Mouse Club. Featured are Zorro's cape, sword and mask, an original Mouseketeer hat, and two Emmys, on for Best Variety Series (1955) and the other for Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming (1964). 

One award that held a special place in Walt Disney's heart was the Oscar presented to him in 1932. This special award was given to him for the creation of Mickey Mouse, who, in a few short years, had become famous the world over. The Oscar presented to Disney now stands in a place of honor in The Walt Disney Story, surrounded by photographs from some of the early Mickey Mouse cartoons. 

A third film, shown in an area designed as an old-fashioned schoolroom, is devoted to Walt Disney, the Naturalist. The short movie, narrated by the "Audio-Animatronics" figure Y. Zol Owl, contains film clips from several of Disney's True-Life Adventure series. 

Launched in 1948 with the release of "Seal Island," the films are a continuing reminder of Disney's deep interest in ecology, the environment and the condition of man. 

Also on display in this area are various international awards and three Oscars, representative of the eight Academy Awards won by the 13 True-Life Adventure films. 

There is more: other international awards, pictures and posters of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, honorary degrees. 

The Walt Disney Story pays fitting tribute to a man whose genius made dreams come true — for himself, and for the world. 

From the Spring 1976 edition of Vacationland magazine, published by Disneyland.

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