For the past several months, The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley has been hosting Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, presented by D23. This exhibition is truly a must-visit for any Disney geek and it runs through April 30, 2013.
For me, one of the most exciting displays was the three prop storybooks that open at the beginning of “Sleeping Beauty,” “Snow White” and “Cinderella” to introduce each of the films. They’re so iconic, it was a thrill to see them in person.
Also impressive was the re-creation of Walt’s formal office at the Burbank studios, including his actual desk and personal items like Norman Rockwell sketches of his daughters.
According to the information card, songwriter Richard Sherman — co-composer of “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” with his brother Robert B. Sherman — would often play “Feed the Birds” (Walt’s favorite song from “Mary Poppins”) at that customized baby grand piano.
Speaking of “Mary Poppins,” this traveling costume from the movie was featured in a section dedicated to Disney’s early live-action filmmaking. Apparently you can spot openings near the pockets where piano wires were attached to her suspension harness for the flying scenes.
And then around the corner I was delighted to find the magician’s case of The Great Emelius Browne, along with the spell book, “Isle of Naboombu” book and bedknob from “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.” (If you can’t make it out there to see this all for yourself, there’s a photo tour online of the entire exhibit.)
A giant area downstairs presented props and costumes from more recent projects like “Alice in Wonderland,” “Tron,” “The Avengers” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” such as this 23-foot-long special effects filming model of The Black Pearl.
There were also things from the Disney theme parks, like the giant Maleficent dragon head originally used in Fantasmic, which caused a bit of a stir on our local streets and highways when it was transported to the museum.
So what does all this have to do with tiki? Well, it was this automaton singing bird (manufactured by Bontems in France in the early 1900s) that inspired Walt to develop Audio-Animatronics, and the first attraction to feature that innovation was… the Enchanted Tiki Room. I actually first saw this item at the Walt Disney Archives at the Burbank studios, which are not open to the public unless you’re on a special tour. This temporary exhibit is a rare opportunity to see this interesting piece of tiki-related history.