Disney100: The Exhibition Opens in Philadelphia

“It was all started by a contract.”

Becky Cline

Director/Archivist – Disney Archives

With a ceremonial snip of a silver ribbon with a larger-than-life pair of scissors, Disney 100: The Exhibition opened to the public at Philadelphia’s famous Franklin Institute. Museum officials joined with Disney legends and executives in opening the global premiere of the unique show celebrating the centennial of the Walt Disney Company.

“We should always remember that this was all started by a mouse,” Walt Disney has fondly reminded us that the beginning of his company was started by Mickey Mouse. Taking creative liberty with that quote, Becky Cline, Director and Archivist at the Walt Disney Archives explained at the opening festivities that “it was all started by a contract.” A reproduction of that agreement, signed by Walt and Roy Disney, establishing the Walt Disney Company on October 16th, 1923, is part of the entertainment giant’s display. Also featured in the opening act of the show is a reproduction of the Western Union telegram Walt sent his brother Roy when he lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

The contract and telegram are just two of the many highlights of Disney 100: The Exhibition now open at the Franklin Institute. From the minute you step into the exhibit, guests are immersed in everything Disney from early photos of the Disney family to where the Disney parks are today and where they are going in the future. There are artifacts from the company’s humble beginnings like the Laugh-O-Gram megaphone used by Walt Disney in 1923, to a replica of the Disneyland map drawn by artist Herb Ryman to authentic Disney ride vehicles like the bobsled from Disneyland’s Matterhorn and Peter Pan’s Flight pirate ship.

But perhaps the first tug-of-the-heartstring moment is when you enter the mainstage of the show and Sorcerer Mickey introduces Walt Disney who welcomes visitors to the exhibit. Disney artists used archival footage of the company founder to create a special hologram to greet visitors to the display.

As part of the media preview for the exhibit, Disney Legend and Imagineer Bob Gurr was on hand to talk about the exhibit, his work for the Walt Disney Company and the maestro himself. Don Hahn who was responsible for such Disney classics as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame was also in attendance to meet members of the press.

The Walt Disney Archives boosts that more than 250 “crown jewels” have been culled from its expansive collection in Burbank, California to be showcased at the exhibit. The Philadelphia global premiere is one of two presentations opening this year marking the company’s 100th anniversary. Cline said a second exhibit will open this spring in Germany similar to the Philly show but with some unique touches for the European market. “We have the carousel horse from Mary Poppins which was used by Julie Andrews,” Cline notes adding that a second carousel horse that transported Dick Van Dyke in the 1964 movie will be part of the Germany exhibition.”

Some of the other artifacts that are on display at the Franklin Institute include the Nautilus special effects filming model from 1954’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Zoetrope which sat in the studio offices of Walt Disney to Wendy's necklace and Captain Hook's hook from Peter Pan & Wendy scheduled for release later this year. Other rarities include the snow globe from the “Feed the Birds” sequence from Mary Poppins, Walt Disney’s cast member badge from Disneyland, to animation drawings from “Steamboat Willie” to the Spell Book from Hocus Pocus.

Star Wars and Marvel fans will also get to see from of the studios prized possessions including the Black Panther costume from the 2018 film, to an audio-animatronic of BB-8 from that galaxy far, far away. And Pixar is also represented in the show with an early computer from the studio that helped revolutionize computer-generated animation.

Ten interactive galleries are available for visitors to explore. Some 15-thousand-square-feet of exhibit space features footage and photography from all of the Disney theme parks as well as more than two-dozen maquettes of iconic Disney characters from the Wonderful World of Disney animation.

Larry Dubinski, President and CEO of the Franklin Institute, said the museum’s success with recent exhibits featuring Disney’s Marvel and Pixar franchises helped to land the world prepare of Disney 100.

Disney 100: The Exhibition will be on display at the Franklin Institute through August 27th when it is scheduled to travel to other U.S. cities.