By Justin Arthur
Walt Disney famously said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”—and our friends at the Walt Disney Archives seemingly achieved the impossible this week when they opened the doors to an exhibit worthy of 100 years of Disney history. At the iconic Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA, the dazzling Disney100: The Exhibition made its grand debut on February 16, 2023, and D23 Gold Members were the first to experience it!
Upon checking in, D23 Members were treated to a private continental breakfast spread, and a surprise opportunity to meet with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse—in their brand-new Disney100 looks! After finding seats alongside an enormous statue of Ben Franklin himself, in the grand atrium, D23 Members excitedly took in the opening ceremony of this centennial exhibit.
The ceremony began with the Philadelphia Pops playing the familiar stringed sounds of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and Michael Vargo—Head of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club and the Walt Disney Archives—welcomed the special invited guests, including our D23 Members! After Vargo spoke, Becky Cline, Director of the Walt Disney Archives, gave a peek into the making of this grand exhibit, alongside Larry Dubinski, President and CEO of the Franklin Institute, and Christoph Scholz, Director of Semmel Exhibitions. Also on hand were two Disney Legends—Walt Disney Imagineering empresario Bob Gurr and animator/producer extraordinaire Don Hahn. Mickey and Minnie were welcomed to the stage, and a giant “platinum” ribbon was unfurled, which Cline cut with much enthusiasm (and confetti), officially opening Disney100: The Exhibition!
D23 Members were then welcomed into the exhibit for the first time. Diving into 10 galleries spanning 100 years—and beyond—the exhibit begins with an incredible effect of Walt Disney himself welcoming guests to this collection of more than 250 artifacts, artworks, costumes, props, and more. The exhibit’s galleries highlight Disney stories in new and innovative ways, such as allowing guests to flip the pages of the oversized and richly illustrated prop storybook from Sleeping Beauty (1959); listening to an array of Disney songs alongside a wall of hundreds of Disney record albums; and controlling the movements of an Audio-Animatronics® figure themselves!
Treasures big and small include Cinderella’s Swarovski slipper from Cinderella (2015), an 11-foot Nautilus model from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954,) the original snow globe from Mary Poppins (1964)—which comes to life with the help of a bit of magic!—and Tchalla’s Black Panther suit from Black Panther (2018). The thematic galleries, from “Where Do the Stories Come From?” to “The Wonder of Disney,” highlight familiar “Crown Jewels” from the Archives collection alongside rarities never before seen by the public in fresh (and often interactive!) ways—giving generations of Disney fans stories to be inspired by.
As if being the first to see the exhibit wasn’t enough, D23 Members were also treated to a gift bag featuring a chocolate bar inspired by the exhibit, a Disney+ mouse ear hat, and a collectible coin inspired by the exhibition’s beautiful artwork. Congratulations to the team at the Walt Disney Archives for the debut of this incredible exhibit, and thanks to all of our D23 Gold Members who celebrated this historic milestone with us. Be sure to visit Disney100: The Exhibition—now open at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. And stay tuned for our very special D23 Member European Premiere, coming to Munich, Germany this April!
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