In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic's Disney void, I rejoiced at an opportunity to get my fix of pixie dust. Thanks to the Bowers Museum, I was able to get a glimpse into the wonderfully archived world of Disney.
The Bowers Museum is situated in a sleepy corner of Santa Ana near the Discovery Cube, a sight many SoCal natives have seen from the 5 Freeway. The museum's mix of Spanish plus modern chic architecture is the perfect representation of current-day Santa Ana - an area influenced by both the classics and the progressive future. In a social media-driven world where museum giants like LACMA and The Broad command prime digital real estate, places like the Bowers Museum provide a welcome respite from the fast paced.
I had purchased tickets in advance for a specific time slot (11AM). I decided to invite my friend Connie, a current cast member and Disney lover. I knew she would appreciate the exhibit, and I could gush over all things Disney with no judgement.
Upon entering the museum, staff guided us to the temperature scan, an automated, free standing digital machine that scanned us and let us know we were okay to proceed. Next, we stepped forward to the ticket counter where I read off my order number and we received our "D" stickers to wear. We were informed the Disney Archives Exhibit was a one-time visit only and included the rest of the museum.
Stickers on, we approached the exhibit and were greeted by Dumbo and several screens showing clips from the Disneyplus series, "Prop Culture." I could feel the excitement welling up inside me, especially since I thoroughly enjoyed that series and hoped that it was a hint as to what we would see in the exhibit.
One of many special attributes of this exhibit was the spotlight on the Disney Archives team. There were plaques to accompany the items on display, which included some fun commentary from the team members. I enjoyed reading their perspectives, which often provided more context that lead to a deeper appreciation for whatever was displayed. And of course, I was insanely excited to see Copenhagen represented!
The exhibit began with the humble beginnings of Disney, including more "mundane" details such as Walt's desk, his telegrams, and many documents related to the actual construction of the parks. Soft piano covers of iconic Disney songs played in the background as we made our way through the different sections of the exhibit.
I learned a lot, but one of the most wonderful surprises was learning that Walt commissioned a designer to design custom work spaces for the animators. I believe these kinds of investments became the solid foundation for Disney to grow into the empire that it is today.
The details included in this exhibit told a magical story full of ups and downs, struggles and creativity. There was even a telegraph sent from Walt to Roy when he had lost creative control of Oswald. Instead of lamenting and allowing himself to wallow, Walt wrote, "everything ok" even when it wasn't entirely okay. This telegraph seemed like an insignificant relic to be featured, but to me, it served the purpose of showing us a real glimpse into the mind of Walt Disney - one that lived up to his words, "Keep moving forward."
Once we moved past the more traditionally archival displays showing documents, small trinkets and handwritten notes, the exhibit transitioned to show us more easily recognized items and iconic props from a variety of Disney films.
These items, of course, are not necessarily special in themselves. These seemingly ordinary items possess so much nostalgia and dare I say, Disney magic. Seeing them up close made me feel so much closer to the films I grew up watching.
One item that particularly struck my fancy was the prop story book from Sleeping Beauty. Although this is not one of my favorite movies, seeing the book in person was strangely magical for me. The book was about 3 times the size I expected it to be, and it looked magical. I can't properly articulate this, but somehow, seeing this book in person made the film seem all that more real.
There was a section of the exhibit that specifically showcased items related to Disney parks. My heart was definitely aflutter when I saw Captain Rex and parts of my favorite attraction, the Haunted Mansion.
It was so neat to see the hitchhiking ghosts up close! So much detail goes into Disney attractions and we often don't get to see those details close up.
Towards the end of the exhibit, there was a section for costumes and larger props. We were able to get an up-close look at some very iconic costumes. Disney spares no details with props and costumes, which is why their creations are so amazing. They truly know how to create a "universe."
There were several "non-Disney" items also on display, such as a Dharma Initiative computer from Lost, prosthetics from the Shape of Water, and costumes from Pretty Woman, Queen Elizabeth and more.
From Herbie to Mulan's sword to Mary Poppins' infamous carpet bag, it was a privilege to see these props up close and gain a deeper appreciation for Disney's creativity and attention to detail.
Once we exited the Disney portion, we did take a peek at some other areas in the museum, particularly enjoying the gold and silver from Taiwan, along with the gem stones room. However, our curiosity was short-lived, as hunger got the best of us.
A quick 5-minute drive later, we arrived at Ponzu Sushi Bar. Tucked away in an unassuming shopping center corner, this sushi bar has a broad menu of sushi options as well as non-sushi Japanese fare. Since I considered this a "treat yo'self day," I ordered an appetizer of cream cheese crab wontons before enjoying my amazing sushi roll. Connie also ordered a roll, and it was gigantic! I loved the presentation of both of our rolls.
If you are in the area, I highly suggest stopping by this spot! While it's not exactly a budget option, the menu options more than make up for a pricier bill.
After such a satisfying savory meal, it only made sense to walk over to Macchiato, a boba spot in the same shopping center.
I couldn't help myself - even though I was full on sushi, I ordered a tiramisu and a "Potted Plant" style royal milk tea with boba. What in the world is a potted plant tea? Well, any of their iced drinks can be ordered that way - with whipped cream, Oreo crumbs and a little sprout, providing the perfect Instagrammable drink. Both were absolutely delightful!
After some wonderful conversation and sweet treats, we went on our final adventure: Company D.
A couple hours before we began our Disney adventure, Connie texted me asking if I would like to visit Company D. I had no idea what that was, but when Connie told me Company D is the cast member discounted Disney store, I gave a very enthusiastic absolutely.
So to end our day, we shopped until our heart's content. Everything was at least 50% off, and my little Disney heart couldn't handle it! I bought quite a few things and let me tell you, it was very difficult to control myself. There were so many items on sale - items that did not sell sell, items whose seasons were over, and so much more. To visit company D, you must be a cast member or be signed in with a cast member. I highly recommend a visit if you have an opportunity and you love Disney merchandise.
For the first time in a year, the Disney void in my life was filled just a little bit more thanks to the Bowers Museum and my friend Connie's kind offer. Even though we can't visit our favorite parks right now, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to enjoy a little bit of Disney magic during a dark time.
Here's to more Disney adventures soon...
Until next time,