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Disney Museum of Science and Industry 1

Mitch Goldich/MEDILL 

Mickey Mouse announces the opening of the new Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry amid schoolchildren and confetti canons.

Disney exhibit opens at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry

by Mitch Goldich
Oct 16, 2013

Disney Museum of Science and Industry 2

Mitch Goldich/MEDILL

The Museum of Science and Industry will host the new Disney exhibit until May 4.

The Walt Disney Company opened a new exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry Wednesday, to celebrate Disney's 90th anniversary.

The Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives collection includes nearly 300 pieces of memorabilia, some of which have never been on public display before, celebrating the life and career of Chicago native Walt Disney.  The exhibit helps visitors understand the scientific innovations that made possible some of their favorite films of the last 90 years.

"It's right in the sweet spot of our mission," said David Woody, director of design and exhibit development for the museum.  "Our goal is to inspire everyone who comes here."

Nicholas Vega, manager of collections and exhibits for Disney, said that because of the museum's focus on science, this exhibit is different from others Disney has displayed. 

"We are showcasing treasures," he said.  "In addition to showing the story, we're telling the story.  We wanted to provide guests with that back story." 

Vega noted the multiplane camera in particular, a Disney innovation that brought cartoons to life by putting multiple focus points in one shot so they had a lifelike depth.

Representatives from Disney were on hand to celebrate the opening, including Mickey Mouse himself, who took the stage and counted down the final seconds before the opening amid local schoolchildren and confetti canons.

Artifacts in the exhibit include movie props like alphabet nursery blocks and a chimney sweep from “Mary Poppins,” costumes from modern movies like the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series and a variety of awards.

One station allows visitors to listen to iconic songs from movies, like “When You Wish Upon a Star” from “Pinocchio” in 1940 to “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King” in 1994.

The Animation Academy section teaches visitors how to draw their favorite Disney characters.  Other displays outline the company’s advances beyond the silver screen, into ventures like theme parks, radio stations and a cruise line.

Woody said the museum has had its eye on a Disney exhibit for a couple years, but that the formal planning process took about eight months.  Setting the opening for exactly 90 years after Walt Disney signed the contract that set his company in motion was initially a coincidence, but turned into a nice detail. 

Vega said a Disney exhibit had recently been set up at Ronald Reagan’s presidential library, and the Museum of Science and Industry’s name came right up when the company started thinking about new places that shared the same values as Disney.

“Disney was not just a dreamer but a doer,” Woody said.  Disney and his company not only had a vision for what was possible but invented the tools to do it, he said.

More recent advances include software that enables Disney to morph one object into another, allow characters in large crowds to move independently without having to animate each one, and a new technique to produce 3D backgrounds.

The Disney exhibit will remain open until May 4.