Disney Brings A Century Of Magic To Chicago

Disney100: The Exhibition celebrates a century of film, entertainment and recreation created by or connected to the company that Walt Disney founded in 1923. Featuring hundreds of items and dozens of interactive installations within the cavernous Exhibition Hub Art Center, it kind of defies reality. 

Imagine Cinderella’s glass slipper all you want, but it probably won’t sparkle like the one from the 2015 live-action version of Cinderella, which represents a tiny fraction of the showcase.

The pieces were selected from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library, the Walt Disney Archives, Walt Disney Imagineering, Marvel Studios, and the Pixar Living Archives. In addition to visual, audio, and interactive elements, the exhibition boasts “unique and rarely seen” works of art, artifacts, memorabilia, costumes, and props.

Original storyboards from ‘In The Bag’ (1956)

Disney’s legendary stories, characters, music and dreamscapes come to life in ten galleries presented by Walt Disney Archives and Semmel Exhibitions, who partnered with global live-entertainment operators Exhibition Hub and Fever to get it done.

Visitors can browse freely or take a winding, self-guided tour through the 35,000 square-ft facility. 

The journey begins in a dark room where an LED screen plays a message from Walt himself. A little bit expected, yes; but when trails of pixie dust zip across the walls, you wonder: is there a fairy in the house?

The first gallery contains the carousel horse that Julie Andrews rode in 1964’s Mary Poppins, a marionette that helped create the lead character for 1940’s Pinocchio and a pop-up storybook prop from the first animated musical, 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

A hall of marquees leads to a gallery favoring music. It features original scores from classic Disney films, costumes galore and the vinyl record albums that supported them. 

Conductor Mickey

Take a left and there’s an ode to Disney theme parks. A Bobsled from the Matterhorn, a boat from the Pirates of the Caribbean and a teacup from the Teacup Ride. The accompanying music and sound effects to create the sensation of actually being there. 

Down the line, there’s a gallery with enough tools and records to supply a feature-length documentary about Disney’s pre-production efforts. There are conceptual sketches, animation cells and visual development renderings in watercolor, pastel, colored pencil, digital paint, grease pencil, crayon, gauche and graphite. All contributing to the likes of PocahontasBambiFox and the Hound and what seems like a hundred other films. Decades of storyboards line a wall next to Walt Disney’s original multi-plane camera. 

According to Mr. Disney, the multi-plane camera was invented to “make cartoons more realistic and enjoyable” by filming multiple levels of scenery painted on glass panels stacked about an inch apart from one another. The technique creates the sensation of foreground, middle ground and background, a worthy testament American creativity. 

Glass slipper from the live-action version of ‘Cinderella’

Throughout the exhibition, there are one-offs and tchotchkes and Disney-related items reminding us about all the creations that we almost forgot about: BambiBeauty & the BeastPhantasiaThe Incredibles, The Mickey Mouse Club20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Everything at first seems, okay, worth a peek, and then stirs a memory, sparks a conversation. What kind of tone do you think a Mickey Mouse guitar plays? 

Disney100: The Exhibition and runs every day of the week except Tuesday through January at Chicago’s Exhibition Hub Art Center, 2367 W. Logan Blvd. For tickets and information, click here



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