Walt Disney Studio Archives, Saving Mr. Banks Exhibit and D23
Walt Disney Studio Archives has to be, by far, one of my most favorite places to visit. You have to realize this is coming from a person that didn’t really enjoy world history, well anyone’s history. (I liked math). There is just something about delving into Disney history that I find more than interesting. I love the black and white pictures that show just how old the photography is; and the older looking styles of clothing.
Animation Research Library
We were welcomed into the archives by a woman named Mary. She gave us some history on the archives which was so informational. The animation research library is also known as ARL. They are the repository of all of the original animation artwork that still exists within the company that was created for the animated feature films and the short films.
Did you know?
- . Their collection dates back from the 1920s to present day. They estimate that they have about 65 million pieces of animation artwork in this collection.
- They are by far the largest animation art collection in the world. They feel really fortunate that the Walt Disney Company from very early days, in particular with Walt, understood the value of keeping the artwork.
- It is not only meant for repurposing, reuse for future films, but also product development, and most important, for inspiration, education, and reference.
- This library is only open to Disney employees. It is not open to any other public entities.
- We do a lot of support for press junkets for the release of our films, because a lot of the filmmakers, in particular in the animation segments, come and do research here before their films, or when they’re in early development.
- When in the archives you are only allowed to use a pencil to take notes. You are not allowed to touch the artwork with your hands/fingers as our skin has oils that could do a lot of damage due to the aged paper.
- The workers in the archives wear white gloves to keep everything free of smudges, dust and dirt.
- In the old days the ARL was called the morgue. But it wasn’t where art went to die. It was actually where work was preserved, so that the artists and the people at the Walt Disney Company could always go back to it or reference it. This helped them either learn how they animated or drew their characters or painted their backgrounds .
- In some cases, even art is even reused for ensuing productions. Just like what Disney Toons Studio did with The Pirate Fairy, artists from the animation studios over the years would go back to the legacy of the animation studio’s work so that they could reference that and be inspired by that.
- Our job here is to celebrate the legacy of Walt Disney Animation by preserving the art as best as possible in the time we’re here.
- They have a collections team, a research team, a design team, and an image capture team.
A bit of interesting information we were told on the tour:
Peter Pan was one of those films that was somewhat dear to Walt Disney because, when he was about 13 or 14, he saw a stage production, a traveling roadshow production, of Peter Pan.
Starring Maude Adams. And that had an influence on him. He had actually saved up his money, he and his brother, and I guess he tells a story about breaking up a couple of piggy banks and spent the money to go see it. And interestingly enough, when he was in high school, the school had put on a production of Peter pan. And, you know, it almost, as fate would write it, he was actually cast as the part of Peter Pan.
So, it was he, up on ropes, swinging back and forth, as Peter Pan, flying around, and I guess as the story goes, he even landed in the audience once. And, later, then in 1923 and 1924, he saw a silent film version of Peter Pan. And what is interesting about that silent film version was, is that that version was the first version of it, the telling of the tale, where you actually saw a physical Tinker Bell.
Because, up until that point, she was just a sparkle of light on the stage. So, and, Walt, as he was growing up, he would tell the story about how his grandmother would always tell him fairy tales. He’d pull out the Grimm’s Book of Fairy Tales and things like that. So he was very, very attuned to tales and fanciful tales, and things like that, and I think that this just touched a nerve in him. And he always filed it in the back of his head, that somehow, it was a story that was dear to him.
- Our collections team, worked on rehousing, cataloguing, story sketches, just story sketches for Sleeping Beauty…for 18 months.
- Three years ago, we got a package in the mail. No return address. Inside were some Snow White drawings, some Winnie the Pooh paintings, and something, I don’t even remember what it was. I don’t think we could identify it. We’re always getting something from somewhere. Maybe some artists over in the animation building shifting or moving offices. Saying, “Well, you know, I’ve had this. I’ve had this since Pocahontas,” so there’s always something.
This tour had so much information that I know I am leaving quite a bit out. I am hoping that I hit enough highlights to give you a chance to see a bit into the Animation Research.
Saving Mr. Banks Exhibit
There were so many great parts of the exhibit for Saving Mr. Banks. We were able to view his office area and places that he frequented while he was there. I wish I had been able to meet him, as I think he was more than a businessman, but a man who wanted to bring joy and happiness to those around him.
Walt Disney & P.L Travers Conversation
If you look at the picture to the left above. This is who spoke to us about the whole making of the movie Mary Poppins. This is what the movie is all about, Walt Disney wanting to get the story of Mary Poppins to film, a promise he made to his girls. Walt Disney just didn’t realize it would take 20 years to keep that promise.
P.L Travers was quite particular and a bit crochety; where as Walt Disney was more easy going, but wanted to win her over. The recording you could tell was old as it was crackly in parts, and it was mainly them talking about what she expected and what Walt wanted to do with the movie of the nanny, Mary Poppins.
This movie is not a documentary, but a movie so some of the ideas in the movie could be made more for humor. The core of the movie is infact the story of how Mary Poppins came into being.
Although this picture really has nothing to do with the archives or Saving Mr. Banks I wanted to include it. It is one of my favorite pictures of Walt Disney and Shirley Temple. Shirley Temple passed away right around the time we were in LA for this event. When I was little, Shirley Temple was by far my favorite actor. I watched and rewatched as many of her movies as I possibly could.
Another interesting part of our tours while we were in LA was by Jeffrey at D23. You probably are wondering what D23 stands for; D stands for Disney and 23 stands for 1923 which was the year the company was founded. This is when Walt moved to Southern California to be with his brother Roy and set up shop in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. In 1940 Walt came to this lot after purchasing a parcel of land to set up Disney Studios.
Jeffrey said, “Tours like like this are a benefit for D23 Gold and Silver members. We do three levels of membership. But D23 members do get to do these kinds of tours. We do two-and-a-half hour tours that are very historic about the lot and we take them into the archives, very cool stuff. We’ are starting here because this happens to be one of the places that was shot for Saving Mr. Banks, when Emma Thompson as PL Travers pulls up to the studio lot and she meets, Don DaGradi and the Sherman brothers for the first time. It was right here in front of Stage A although, where Babes in Toyland in the film.”
At D23 they do not take themselves as seriously on the tour. We like to have a little fun so it’s not a boring, solemn tour. Stage A actually was original to the lot. There are a bunch of buildings, which is very interesting, that were moved over from the Hyperion Studios. They actually moved them over the hill, in the ‘30s and put them here rather than build a new building. You may wonder if new buildings wouldn’t have been cheaper to build. This was actually during war time and the materials were at a premium so it was actually more economical for them to move an entire building over the hill than it was for them to build new structures. We were able to see a few buildings that were originals to the Hyperion lot.
Did you know that Stage A (although not one of the original buildings brought over) was:
- A recording stage. It could hold an 86-piece orchestra. Many of our favorite Disney movies like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Lady and the Tramp, and Peter Pan were all recorded right there on the soundstage.
- This building had the first truly soundproofed room within a room soundstage. This was technology developed here at the Walt Disney Studios.
- Due to an airport near by, they created the sound proof room as you could hear the planes flying overhead in the tapings.
- Soundstage A is used for the mixing of television shows, so some of your favorite ABC Studio shows are mixed here on the lot.
- If you look right there you can see the gate, um, and you can see the gates that are swinging open and sort of the brick there. That actually almost exactly where the original entrance to the studio was.
- A couple of other interesting things, the Mickey topiary was a gift from Walt Disney World in honor of Mickey’s 60th birthday. It is our only topiary on the lot.
- The two flag poles here are from the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley for which Walt Disney served as the chairman of pageantry.
- The commissary is also original to the lot, though it has been expanded several times over the years.
- One of Walt’s favorite dishes, though they don’t mention it in Saving Mr. Banks, is chili. In honor of Walt and his love of chili, everyday they serve a different kind . Sometimes they do serve Walt’s chili, which is an actual kind of chili recipe. Other days there will be a vegetarian chili, or turkey chili, chicken chili, so there’s always a chili in honor of Walt.
- One interesting, fun fact about that sign, if you actually try to use it to get anywhere you would get completely lost ‘cause none of those buildings are actually where those signs say. (I wondered that on my last trip as it wasn’t a tour) In fact, most of them aren’t even there anymore. The two actual true things are Mickey Ave and Dopey Drive. We are on Dopey Drive. That is Mickey Ave and that is Minnie Ave right there, so those are true.
- Another neat fact is that Walt actually had two offices. He had a formal office and a working office.
Information on D23.com‘s Memberships:
- That’s in D23. We are the official Disney Fan Club, D23.com. Feel free to visit. Say hello, drop a note.
- We have three levels of membership.
- There is our free level, so everyone here should be a member by tomorrow. It gives you, all access to gated content. Our website is gated for members only, but it has terrific reference material, particularly if you’re ever doing a Disney story. We have the complete Disney A to Z which was written by Dave Smith, Disney legend, and the founder of the archives. It has thousands of entries. If you are doing research on anything Disney. You don’t want to go to Wikipedia, log into D23.com and get your information there. So we have our free level of membership. You have access to all of our exclusive, fabulous merchandise at Boutique 23, access to some discounts and then access, a discount on the D23 Expo.
- We call it the ultimate Disney fan event. It is the greatest gathering of all things Disney under one roof, and Gaby and her team and the Walt Disney Studios played a tremendous part in that. As someone was saying, they got to hear Idina sing Let It Go. It was the first time she sang it in public. We do our Disney Legends ceremony there. We had a concert of Disney music. Alan Menken and Richard Sherman did a concert. They brought, they brought a pavilion from Imagineering that took up half a convention hall. It was unbelievable, and we will be doing it again in 2015 in August, so, hopefully some of you will be able to come back and join us for that, it’s pretty amazing.
- The Silver level of membership you get an annual member gift, a membership card, a membership certificate, access to all of our discounts. We have over 50 discounts, many of which are online and available to anyone across the country, which is a piece of feedback we got. So we have discounts on Disneystore.com, the ABC TV store and then things that aren’t necessarily Disney branded but may be helpful for Disney.
- Gold level of membership which is $74.99 get one more perk above and beyond, and that is Disney 23 Magazine. It is available exclusively to our gold members. It is a 64-page quarterly magazine, no ads. It is full of Disney information from the past, present and future. This particular issue that you are all receiving actually is one that was dedicated entirely to Mary Poppins. It was very unusual for us. We rarely do a themed issue.
I know this is a huge amount of information. I am hoping you will enjoy reading about the interesting facts and history of the different subjects I have covered. Stop by D23.com to at least sign up as a free member; and explore all they have to offer.
Thank you for sharing in yet another awesome part of this trip. If you would like to read any of my previous articles I have included the links below:
Follow SAVING MR. BANKS on Twitter: https://twitter.com/
Follow SAVING MR. BANKS on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/
Visit the official site here: www.disney.com/savingmrbanks
Wife, mother, grandma, blogger, all wrapped into one person, although it does not define her these are roles that are important to her. From empty nesters to living with our oldest and 2 grandchildren while our house is rebuilt after a house fire in 10/2018 my life is something new each day.