Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Disney: The Making of the Magic

DA: For an exhibition on a history as creative and artistic as Disney’s, it is no wonder we had to be a little bit creative ourselves. At the beginning of our planning phase we walked into our empty temporary exhibit gallery, looked around and could only imagine the enormous transformation that had to take place…. not to mention the enormous amount of work it was going to take to do it! This was to be the biggest change our gallery had ever seen.

First the walls had to be moved, patched and painted. Two days, four coats and a handful of dirty clothes later we had gone from beige walls to bright red and yellow. The fresh coat of paint hinted at the fun and exciting atmosphere this exhibit was going to create at the Western Center.

After the paint dried, Margaret, Amanda and I got to work on the Disney character stencils. We had made transparencies of 5 recognizable Disney images that were going to be painted on the walls, and began tracing the projector's outline in yellow and red paint. The stencils reached to heights of 10 feet, and required a bit of flexibility to refrain from painting your own shadow onto the wall! Margaret began with Pinocchio, while Amanda and I tackled the Disney theme park castle. The stenciling process was slow and meticulous, not to mention difficult depending on the light coming in from our large windows. Over the course of 2 days, and with help from Holly, we managed to finish Pinocchio, Genie, the Castle, the New Mickey Mouse Club, and Mickey Mouse himself. We became such fans of the outlines that we began to brainstorm about ways to incorporate stenciling into all of our exhibits…..anyone up for stenciling a mastodon?! ☺

With a little bit of creativity and a cast of our own Western Center “characters” we were able to create the atmosphere and appearance you see in the exhibit

DH: Disney descended upon us in a whirlwind of trunks, crates, and boxes. When opened they began to release the magic contained within. Each item they held was packed with care, from the music scores, to the records, to the clothing and memorabilia. All had to be removed from their protective layering of box, acid free paper, and foam layers. Like all museum objects they had to be examined, held with white cotton gloves, and their condition noted in a report. And each has an unique story to tell, from the jacket worn by Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, the Davey Crockett doll, to the dress worn in the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast.

DJ: There was a lot of technical work that went into the installation of the Disney exhibit. It's by far the most technically advanced and interactive exhibit we've had at the Western Center, and getting it up and running by opening day meant overcoming a lot of technical challenges. TVs, speakers, and headphones were the easy part - the real challenge was with the more complicated displays, like the Disney Challenge game and the sound effects recording booth. There were a lot of wires that all needed to be run just right - and kept away from anywhere any curious young fingers might wander, as well! There wasnt a single electronic exhibit in the gallery that didnt give us some kind of trouble, but, of course, we managed to solve all the problems by opening night.

Beyond the cords and wires, there were challenges just to put some of our pieces on display, like hanging the sun backdrop on our Lion King stage, which weighs over 40 lbs and hangs 10 feet off the ground, suspended by cables only 1/16" thick.

Once all the exhibits were installed, the lighting had to be adjusted, too - and that meant climbing into a portable lift and going up over 30 feet, to the top of the ceilings in the parapets - the highest point inside the museum - and adjusting all the lights by hand. You might notice some of our windows have been blocked out, too - this is to protect our Disney artifacts from direct sunlight, which can be very destructive to paper and ink. All those windows had to be blocked out by hand, way up on the lift, as well. It felt pretty good to get back down on solid ground after waving back and forth up there all day

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