Art of Disney on display at MSI

Staff Writer

Walt Disney’s father moved to Chicago to help construct the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and 120 years later the only building that still stands is hosting an exhibit for the man’s most famous son.

“Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives” opened at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., last Tuesday. The exhibit profiles the life, career and technical innovations that Disney and his company made since its founding 90 years ago.

Disney is not often associated with his Chicago roots. The man who would later go on to found the entertainment empire was born on the city’s northwest side. His father, Elias Disney, moved to Chicago to find carpentry work preparing for the Columbian Exhibition in 1893.

The exhibit features 300 artifacts, ranging from drawings he made in his sister’s school book in 1917, to the suit that Tom Hanks wore to portray Disney in the film “Saving Mr. Banks,” which will premiere in December.

Adults visiting the exhibit may have a sense of nostalgia as they see the hammered brass book from the opening sequence of “Sleeping Beauty” or the 11-foot long Nautilus model used in filming “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.”

The text-heavy exhibit with few interactive elements may bore kids visiting the exhibit but everyone can enjoy the step-by-step Mickey Mouse drawing class.
Visitors will see silent films like the live-action-meets-cartoon “Alice Comedies,” which were some of Disney’s first successful films in the 1920s. They’ll also get to see props and costumes from “Mary Poppins,” including Julie Andrews’ seemingly bottomless carpetbag.

Disney bet the figurative farm on three separate occasions while building up the company. He poured all the studio’s finances, as well as mortgages for his and his brother’s homes, into making “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” “Mary Poppins” and to construct Disneyland in California.

His industrial innovations included the multiplane camera, also on display in the exhibit. The camera allowed greater depth of field in traditional animation. The innovation won the studio an Oscar award in 1937, another artifact on display.

At the center of the exhibit – much like the center of the empire – is a recreation of Walt Disney’s office: a tidy wooden desk surrounded by family portraits and whimsical toys.

The exhibit first premiered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Nick Vega, manager of collections and exhibits at the Walt Disney Archives, said while they were assembling the exhibit they noticed strong connections to the Midwest and thought MSI would be a good fit to show off Disney’s innovations.