Walt Disney Archives at Bowers Museum
Walt Disney Archives at Bowers Museum

High above the brick-lined streets, trolleys and through the echoing caverns of the Matterhorn, Nicholasa Nevarez found his passion for all things Disney as a child. The days of the Skyway ride at Disneyland in Anaheim are long gone, but that passion for Walt Disney’s legacy continues for Nevarez, now president of the Disneyana Fan Club.

He’s going to be one of the first people in line to see “Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic”—a new exhibition opening March 7 at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.

“I’m hoping that people will go as quickly as they can to see it, because it’s a very rare opportunity,” the Van Nuys resident says.

The 10,000-square-foot traveling exhibit premiered at the D23 Expo Japan in 2018 and includes several rare items only on loan to the Bowers. It was co-curated by the Walt Disney Archives and the Bowers Museum.

Visitors can view more than 400 objects, including original artwork, costumes and props that tell the story of the Walt Disney Archives, The Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney himself. Items include never-before-displayed sketches for Fantasia and ghouls from the Haunted Mansion attraction. Modern-day favorites such as superhero costumes and maquettes (scale models) from Frozen will also be included.

The exhibit includes a “crown jewels section” with items exclusive to the Bowers exhibit.

“It includes the original “Mary Poppins” carpet bag, props from “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” Davey Crocket’s coonskin cap and more,” says Victoria Gerard, Bowers vice president of programs and collections. “Also, we customized one of the introductory sections to include artifacts and archival documents related to the founding of Disneyland.”

Bowers staff are excited to see the reaction from the public.

“I am most looking forward to seeing visitors interact with the sections of the exhibition that replicate the Walt Disney Archives’ Reading Room,” Gerard said. “Allowing visitors to really step into this space will be a magical moment, as the ‘Reading Room’ in Burbank is not publicly accessible. In these spaces, visitors will feel like Disney researchers and historians, discovering the history of the archives and The Walt Disney Company through artifacts and an immersive environment.”

While the exhibit will draw many Disney and Disneyland fans, it’s also an event that may interest people who like animation, design and entrepreneurship, as it relates to Walt Disney’s story and other topics, says Kelly Bishop, director of communications and branding.

Nevarez says the Los Angeles chapter of the Disneyana fan club plans to go as a group to the exhibition. He plans to attend a sneak peak of the event with the D23 fan club.

“I’m so pleased that the Bowers is having this, because it’s right inthe heart of Orange County where many of our members live and gives them accessibility that they wouldn’t normally have,” he says.

The Bowers Museum has hosted well-known exhibitions including “Terra Cotta Warriors”—statues discovered in the tomb of China’s first Emperor Qin Shi Huang and later termed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The museum has also hosted “Mummies of the World” and 2019’s “Guo Pei: Couture and Beyond”—a display of the world-renowned fashion designer’s runway pieces.

The Bowers also has eight permanent galleries on view, including the “Ancient Arts of China,” “Ceramics of Western Mexico,” and “California Legacies—Missions and Ranchos.”

“Inside the Walt Disney Archives” will be open through August 30 from 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Weekday costs are: adults, $23; seniors (62 or older) and students (12 or older), $20; children (3 to 11 years old), $5; free for children younger than 3 years old. The event is considered a “timed-entry” exhibition, which means visitors will purchase tickets for specific dates and times that they’d like to enter the exhibit.

Bowers Museum
1802 North Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92706  /  714-567-3600

Article Published in the
Mar / Apr 20 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Melissa Pinion-Whitt photos provided by Walt Disney Archives
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