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Blowing the Pixie Dust Off Disney?s Archives


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Anyone who likes Disneyana and lives in SoCal should get a kick out of this:




September 9, 2009

*Blowing the Pixie Dust Off Disney?s Archives*



GLENDALE, Calif. ? For the last 50 years, inside an unmarked warehouse here, a historic movie prop has rested in a deep, deep sleep. Last month a Walt Disney Company archivist awakened it.


Wearing white gloves, Becky Cline, manager of the sprawling repository, gently opened a crate containing the giant bejeweled storybook used for the opening scene of ?Sleeping Beauty,? the animated classic from 1959. ?We have to be really, really careful with this,? Ms. Cline said, almost in a whisper.


The prop, along with dozens of other specimens from Disney films that have long been kept under lock and key, will headline an unusual exhibition of memorabilia that opens on Thursday and runs through the weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California. Also included: the coonskin cap that Fess Parker wore as Davy Crockett (leading to a national craze), Annette Funicello?s Mouseketeer shirt, a costume from the 1950s TV series ?Zorro? and the four-wheeled star of ?The Love Bug.?


The exhibition, ?Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives,? will also include modern grails (Miley Cyrus?s blond ?Hannah Montana? wig) and items from Walt Disney?s own office (like the rotary-dial telephone, dingy cord and all). ?We would never clean it ? that?s Walt?s grime,? Ms. Cline said.


The exhibition forms the centerpiece of Disney?s attempt to stage its own version of Comic-Con International, the giant annual gathering for fans of comics and science-fiction entertainment that has become a major event on Hollywood?s calendar. Called D23 Expo, Disney?s show will include elaborate pavilions where the company?s theme park, movie studio, television and consumer products branches will promote their wares ? both existing and planned. Over 30,000 people are expected to attend.


It?s an overt sales pitch for the Disney brand, already considered one of the strongest in the world. But the company is also keenly aware that the Internet has given consumers added muscle in determining public sentiment ? over 1,000 blogs parse all things Disney ? and is trying to ?superserve? that constituency.


D23 is the brainchild of the company?s public relations branch. (The 23 is short for 1923, the year Walt Disney opened his California studio.) Disney will auction a handful of items in conjunction with the exhibition, including animation cels from films like ?The Jungle Book,? a pirate galleon vehicle from the Peter Pan?s Flight ride at Disneyland and props from ?High School Musical 3: Senior Year.?


The event is also emblematic of a philosophical shift at Disney. In previous decades the company?s point of view was imperious: we are the great and powerful Disney, and we will tell families how best to spend their leisure time. That approach made some consumers resentful, a sentiment that a new executive team has spent recent years working to soothe. Moreover, Disney now feels competition from Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation, among others.


The archives are a good example of the attitude change. The company has given independent researchers access and has occasionally lent or donated items. The Smithsonian Institution has one of Disneyland?s famous teacups, for instance. But most of the trove has been almost entirely hidden from the public.


Ms. Cline estimates that 80 percent of the collection, which the company says contains over a million items, has never been exhibited. That mandate partly came from Walt Disney himself, who died in 1966: we do not talk about how we make the magic.


The holdings were even a bit of a mystery to Robert A. Iger, who became Disney?s chief executive four years ago. He toured the archive after taking over and was surprised at what he found. The 92-item exhibition may ultimately be mounted as a traveling show, similar to what Warner Brothers is doing with its successful tour of ?Harry Potter? props.


?It became increasingly apparent that the crown jewels of eight decades of Disney history needed to be shared with the world,? Mr. Iger said in an e-mail message.


Ms. Cline and her seven archives colleagues are still trying to catalog everything, while crossing their fingers that some vanished items, like the carpetbag that Julie Andrews carried in ?Mary Poppins,? will turn up. (?In decades past, studios either threw this stuff away or let it walk off the lot ? it just wasn?t deemed important,? said Tim Luke, a memorabilia dealer in Hobe Sound, Fla., who organized sales that included Disneyana when working at Christie?s in the 1990s.)


Since Mr. Iger put a renewed focus on the collection, archivists have added about 15,000 items, partly by combing through storerooms. They discovered Walt Disney?s travel trunks from the 1930s (he often gave his old personal items to the props department) and a matronly dress Bette Davis wore in the 1978 film ?Return From Witch Mountain.?


One particularly good find was a costume used to prepare ?Pinocchio? in 1940. (The studio shot footage of costumed actors pantomiming action in the script so animators could study their movements.) It was rotting off its hanger in the back of a wardrobe building.


?Sometimes we have to get really down and dirty,? Ms. Cline said, recalling the time she and a colleague donned hard hats and dust masks to salvage items at a Walt Disney World ride being refurbished.


Less arduous was a recent trip to George Lucas?s compound in Northern California. Ms. Cline flew there to fetch the white leather uniform Michael Jackson wore in ?Captain EO,? the film that was a 1980s-era attraction at Disney?s parks. Mr. Lucas, who produced and was a co-writer of the mini-movie, agreed to lend the costume for the D23 exhibition after Jackson?s death.


But much of Ms. Cline?s attention has been focused on the ?Sleeping Beauty? storybook. With its hammered brass cover and hand-painted pages, the prop cost about $1,500 to make (or $11,000, when adjusted for inflation). Time has not been kind, however, and some of the colored-glass frills need repair.


Ms. Cline will hand carry the book to the Anaheim Convention Center. ?It?s not just a movie prop ? it?s part of our bedrock,? she said.



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Thanks to the Disney Archives and them dragging a few mementos out of the Disney vault when they came out with the "Snow White DVD" and showing what the original 78 soundtrack look like, I was able to obtain the 3 disc 78 soundtrack of the movie. This records are virtually new, manufactured by the Gramophone Corporation.


Historically, this was the very first soundtrack of *any* movie ever released. Most people, because of the Great Depression couldn't afford the yellow label 3 disc set, could buy the single individual seperate disc on the black label Victor records.


Here is an internet photo of one of the yellow label soundtrack disc. ( mines a more cleaner, *brighter* yellow).



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I've played them a couple of times. I have a Panasonic turntable that has a very light tracking tonearm that is only used for playing 78's. It does not place any wear on them.


My main 33 / 45 turnatables are a ReVox and a Technics.


The 78's are in new sleeves I got from "Bags Unlimited".

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Nope, I have no plans to give up vinyl, matter of fact I don't even own an MP3 player and rarely use my computers MP3 capability. I still buy 45's once in a while i.e. this evening.


If you have watched on the History Channel "Modern Marvels" the episode "Retro Tech" that was made last year, there is a company that still makes vinyl records and according to the manager, they sold 33,000 lps last year. LP is not dead.


Footnote: Vacuum tube is still not a thing of the past. Still used in some high end audio equipment.




Message was edited by: hamradio - oops forgot to type Modern Marvels

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Thanks for posting the cool original 78 record label. Love looking at that kind of stuff.


But regarding the comment about the affordability of the yellow label records over the black label ones, it was actually a case of where one lived, not which they could afford, that determined which they purchased. The yellow label is that of the British "His Master's Voice" release, while the black label 78's were the U.S. Victor releases. So unless the British version was imported and sold in some U.S. record stores at a higher price, each country had its own different version of the records, and that's what was available for purchase in each country.

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I should have mentioned that the 3 disc soundtrack came in a special foldout jacket which was heavier made. I took 2 pictures of it showned below.


I am comparing a 3 disc soundtrack along with the foldout jacket next to *single* Victor record that only came in a very thin paper sleeve. Also don't forget the buying power people had during the 1930's.





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