Classic Hollywood: Exhibit reveals Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney bond


Did you ever want to peruse Walt Disney’s real office and bask in the beauty of the newly restored prop books featured in the opening frames of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,””Cinderella” and Sleeping Beauty”? Now’s your chance.

Thanks to D23, the official Walt Disney fan club, visitors to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley will be able to view 500 items from the Walt Disney Archives — the largest-ever exhibition of Disney archival material.

“D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives,” which opens Friday and continues through April at the Reagan library, is the largest-ever exhibition of Disney archival material. Though some of the items have been seen at the D23 Expos, Disneyland and Disney World, about half of the material has never been viewed by the public.

The Reagan library approached Disney last year about doing an exhibition. “It’s always our task bringing to the library unique and special things that may draw more and new visitors, not only for the story of Ronald Reagan, but everything he stood for,” said John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

When he was still an actor, Reagan and Disney developed a strong bond. He was one of the hosts of “Dateline: Disneyland,” the live 1955 broadcast of Disneyland’s opening day and after Disney’s death he lobbied the postmaster general for a Disney stamp.

“There’s a terrific linkage between President Reagan’s history and Disney,” said Heubusch. “He was involved with the Disney company in so many facets.”

One area of the exhibit is devoted to Disney’s relationship with the late Reagan as well as other presidents. The original busts that were used to design the animatronic Hall of Presidents at DisneyWorld will be on display as well as the first-day of issue Disney stamp, Reagan’s letter to the Postmaster General and correspondence from other commander-in-chiefs.

Two weeks before its official opening, workmen and archivists were busy putting the finishing touches on the exhibition. The Disney legacy items are located in a 6,000-foot gallery.

Highlights include Disney’s actual office as it looked at the time of his death in 1966, complete with the baby grand piano that was played by Richard Sherman and Leopold Stokowski, his baptismal certificate, Julie Andrews’”Mary Poppins” costume, the Model T from 1961’s “The Absent-Minded Professor,” the Borgia painting from the original 1959 “The Shaggy Dog” and a piece of the Nautilus from the Disney sci-fi movie, 1954’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

To accommodate larger pieces, library workers blew a hole in a wall “and built this tent for us,” said Steven Clark, vice president of corporate communications and head of D23 and the Walt Disney Archives.

A second section of the exhibit features items from more contemporary Disney films, as well as theme park memorabilia, including Cruella De Vil’s office and flamboyant outfits from the live-action “101 Dalmatians” and “102 Dalmatians,” the tea party set from Tim Burton’s”Alice in Wonderland” and a replica ofRobert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man costume.

The crown jewel of this section is the treasure trove of “Pirates of the Caribbean” booty, which features one of the animatronics from the famed ride that inspired the movie franchise, as well as the 23-foot-long model of the Black Pearl pirates ship.

MORE: Are you an aficionado of iconic Hollywood films and stars? Like our Classic Hollywood Facebook page to get more Times coverage.


‘D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives’

Where: Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley

When: Opens Friday and continues through April. Museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas andNew Year’s Eve

Tickets: Admission ranges from $6 for children 3-10 to $21 for general admission

Info: or