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Ruminations: “Behind The Magic” exhibit comes to Oakland

Ruminations: “Behind The Magic” exhibit comes to Oakland

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Okay Disneyland fans. Here is an opportunity that you truly will not want to pass up. Especially if you plan to visit Northern California this summer…
If you are one of the folks who have been reading the site for a while, then you may recall that the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, along with Walt Disney Imagineering put together a truly wonderful exhibition entitled, “Behind The Magic – 50 Years of Disneyland.” JHM guest writer Dan Viets treated us all to an advance preview last September and the exhibition went on to garner rave reviews.
With Walt having visited the Ford Museum several times (including a now legendary excursion to the Midwest with Ward Kimball in 1949), it is fair to say that there is enough room to credit some inspiration for the layout of Disneyland to that of the Ford’s Dearborn Village or as the saying goes a very “sincere form of flattery.”
Having seen this now traveling exhibit on the history of Disneyland, I think the same can be said of the efforts behind the preparation of a fine look at the first 50 years in Anaheim. With similar efforts having been prepared by Disney for various events and locations, it might be natural to assume that all of the best gems from the history of the “Happiest Place on Earth” have been shown to Disney theme park guests at one time or another.
I’m happy to say that such an assumption would be wrong.
Last Saturday evening, I was fortunate to be an invited guest of the Oakland Museum to attend a preview of this exhibition as part of the Museum’s 2006 Golden Gala event. Acting as chairperson for the event was Diane Disney Miller, accompanied by husband Ron Miller. There were other notables were also in attendance including Imagineer Tony Baxter and Pixar director Pete Doctor, to name only two.
Before I delve further into what you can expect to see and experience, let me share a real treat with you! For the opening day of the exhibition, this coming Saturday, May 6th, the Oakland Museum is rolling back the price of admission to match that of Disneyland’s opening day (Monday, July 18th) to only $1.00 for Adults and 50 cents for Children. (That price is in addition to the  Museum's regular admission of $8 for Adults and $5 for Children, but  still a heck of a bargain.)After that, the prices will be $14.00 for Adults and $10.00 for children. That also includes full admission to the rest of the Museum. So if you might be in the Oakland area this Saturday, I wholeheartedly suggest taking full advantage of this wonderful opportunity.
Now back to the exhibition at hand … You know you are in the right place when your first glimpse of what is in store is exactly what Disneyland visitors saw for many years on arrival along Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim. 

The stylized “D” from the Disneyland marquee

From here, the exhibit tells of Walt Disney and how the concepts for a theme park became reality in Anaheim. Guests will walk past stations with an interactive video centerpiece for the various “lands” with concept art and interesting artifacts.

  Don’t stop yet! There's plenty more to see ... 

For example, this sign once welcomed guests to climb the stairs and listen to the “Swisskapolka” as they explored this attraction.

  A guest favorite, the “Swiss Family Treehouse"

Here’s something I thought that I would never see. Trash cans displayed as artifacts. And on display behind a railing, to boot! Who would have guessed?

Save your "waste" for the real trash cans at the museum, okay? 

In another part of the exhibit, you'll also find a display of classic Disneyland arcade games. Including several machines that used to be found in New Orleans Square's "Pieces of Eight" shop.

Do you remember your high score?

There are also a great number of concept art pieces for all kinds of things found in the park. Everything from reference works right down to costume designs. Here is one that has been a particular favorite of guests over the past 39 years.

Yes, it really is “the hair of the dog” – the dog from the jail scene from Pirates of the Caribbean. The color reference and hair sample chart for this classic AA figure. 

Okay, how is this for an interactive display? Guests can sit in one of the flying pirates ships from the “Peter Pan Adventure," complete with a bit of audio to bring the moment to life. 

  “Off to Neverland! Come on everybody, here we gooooooo…”

So, there is a brief glimpse into some of this wonderful exhibition of Disney theme park magic. But it isn’t all I have to share about it. Check back for another chapter in this story complete with some comments about the exhibition from Diane Disney Miller and Imagineer Marty Sklar. And you’ll even find a couple of hidden Mickey’s along the way as you travel through the Oakland Museum. I’ll have some clues for you about where to look next time, too. 
Okay, last week I mentioned that there was an opportunity to win a pair of tickets for the May 26th premiere of “Cars” at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. On my recent visit to Charlotte, I picked up two tickets. And seeing as I won’t be able to join everyone for that evening, I thought that a lucky JHM reader might enjoy them instead. 
I will be giving these tickets away to the lucky reader that I think tells the best story of a car trip to a Disney theme park. Please submit all entries to my new JHM mailing address, [email protected].  Once I pick the story that I like best, I'll announce the winner in this "Cars" premiere contest when I post the next installment of my “Behind The Magic: 50 years at Disneyland” coverage.

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  • Looks pretty cool! Thank you for sharing with us. Is this exhibit going to be doing any more traveling? It would take some money - but this could be an awesome touring exhibit that could hit all the big museums.  It would probably end up being a money maker for Disney.
  • I would love to see this...but I live on the other side of the country.  It'd be great if it was a traveling exhibit.  Very neat to see some of the "artifacts"!  Thanks for sharing!
  • Have they removed the "No Photography" policy?   I saw it during its opening weekend at the Henry Ford Museum and Photography was strictly prohibited.  Which made the attraction vehicles that you could sit in to make not much sense in the end...
  • Too bad it's so expensive!!
  • "Dearborn Village?"

    Is it possible you're referring to Greenfield Village, maybe?  Or the complex as a whole, which I believe is now called "The Henry Ford" for who knows what reason?

    It might be because I'm young, but I've been in Michigan for all of my life and don't recall hearing the attraction called by that particular name before.  :)
  • Great job as always, Roger. I can't wait to get up to the Bay Area to see the exhibit!
  • I also had the opportunity to attend the event Saturday night. I was disappointed that they wouldn't let me take any pictures.

    The exhibit is fabulous - my wife and I missed the entire appetizer and cocktail time cruising the exhibit. Even got an opportunity to speak at length with a reporter from the Oakland Tribune and she mentioned us in the article!

    There are some fabulous pieces on display. I loved the model of the original Adventureland/Jungle Cruise Boat House from 1954! What a treat to see.

    My only disappointment is that the exhibit is so large that it is broken up into three sections and spread around the museum. I will definitely be back a few times before it departs in August.
  • Couple of points... First, the admission price for Saturday is in addition to the regular museum admission of $8 for Adults and $5 for Children, and still a great bargain.

    Second, the press was allowed limited photography of the exhibition, and alas, there will be no public photography allowed.

    Look for more details and good stories in part two next week!
  • I actually live within biking distance from this exhibit so should be going soon. I'm excited. Though less excited than when i thought i could go on sat for $1.
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