I have some friends, Miguel & Bernie, who are big Disney fans, and when they heard that D23 had an exhibit at the Reagan Library, they wanted to go… with me. So, I went online, and found that the recommended thing to do is to purchase tickets before going to the Reagan Library. I got tickets for the 11:15-11:30 entry.
We left in plenty of time to get to the Library, however, I did not pay attention to directions, and as we drove through the Simi Valley hills we could soon see the Pacific Ocean. Whoops, we realized that we were going the wrong way, and I quickly made a U-turn and sped through those hills back in the right direction. I mention this, because this “scenic route” caused us to arrive late to the Library. I was concerned that we might have missed our window due to the warnings on the website. It turned out that the entry times are suggestions and not hard times, so it worked out fine for us. Entry times are guidelines, so do not worry if you arrive earlier or later.
From the time we entered the parking lot, we were impressed by the grounds. As you approach the Library entrance you walk past picnic areas, flowers, trees, and benches to enjoy the scenery.
The setting is beautiful in Simi Valley. The Reagan Library sits high, and overlooks rolling hills. I was surprised that the Library is larger than what it appears to be. When you enter the lobby, you purchase your tickets for the tours if you haven’t already done so online. If you continue through this lobby you come to the posterior grounds.
The first thing you see is a piece of the Berlin Wall. The west side is colorful, while the east side is blank, a stark reminder of the two sides during the Communist occupation of East Germany.
To the right is a café with indoor and outdoor seating.
To the left is the monument where President Reagan is buried.
After viewing the outside, we went inside and began our tour. The entrance to the tour is lined with memorable quotes and full-sized statues of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
I won’t go into too much detail of the museum, but I was really impressed how they laid out his early life, movie life, and political life in various rooms, including a replica of the Oval Room with genuine artifacts from the time he was in office.
This display contains hundreds of note cards that President Reagan wrote quotes that inspired him.
The Oval Office is a replica, however, the chair behind the desk is the actual chair President Reagan used.
We also were able to enter Air Force One and walk through it, though we could not take pictures.
Air Force One is located on the 2nd floor of a large room, and after touring it, guests can go down below to see Marine One and a sample of a presidential cavalcade. There is also the O’Farrell Irish Pub there that was donated since President Reagan enjoyed going there so much. We bought Jelly Bellies there.
We continued the tour to see references to the Cold War, news clips showing when he was shot, and scenes from his ranch life.
There is also a Washington exhibit there, where we saw a letter signed by our first president, and the letter from King George, who couldn’t write the word “independence.” He crossed it out and wrote “separation.”
As interesting as the sites were in the museum, we were happy to finally come to the “D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives.” The exhibit is really large, going through several rooms and even to a tent.
The first part of the exhibit is dedicated to Walt Disney’s early years, with samples of his drawings while he was in school, telegrams about drawing Oswald the Rabbit, the script for Steamboat Willie, and costumes and props from the earlier animated movies. I really enjoyed seeing the real fairy tale books that were used in the beginning of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty all together.
Image: Costume from Pinocchio
The next room has a replica of Walt Disney’s studio, including his actual desk and the piano that the Sherman Bros used to play on those Fridays he wanted to hear “Feed the Birds.” There is also the actual map that Herb Ryman drew over one weekend at Walt’s house, with Walt Disney standing over his shoulder. I actually got a little emotional just thinking about that map, and everything that has happened since that map was drawn and presented to potential investors for Disneyland.
Then to see the very piano that the Sherman Bros used when playing their songs for Walt… well, for Disney fans this is a real treat, and I truly appreciated seeing it all there.
This case has items from Disneyland’s first day, including the original ticket purchased by Roy Disney. It’s so tiny!
From the studio we then saw the costumes and props from various live action films, like Mary Poppins, Absent Minded Professor, The Shaggy Dog, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, National Treasure, Tron, 101 Dalmatians, and more. I was very impressed with the models of the Black Pearl and Interceptor that were used in the movies. These models were HUGE.
In addition to all the movie props and costumes, the exhibit also brought a bit of the parks to the Reagan Library. We saw ride vehicles from Mr. Toad and Peter Pan, the Hitch Hiking Ghosts from the Haunted Mansion, and most impressive for me, the dragon head from the original dragon in Fantasmic! This dragon head was HUGE!
The archives had a nice array of items from old movies that I appreciated seeing, and the newer movies that Bernie and Miguel enjoyed. I had to explain the story of the Shaggy Dog to them. It was a favorite of mine as a young girl, so I was very excited to see the paintings and the actual ring used in the movie.
Image: Scene from the movie 101 Dalmations.
There were several beautiful outfits, including the ones from Enchanted, as well as well as other movies and from the artistic photos of celebrities as Disney characters.
Image: Scene from Alice in Wonderland
Miguel and Bernie sit in front of the original “Murphy,” the dragon in Fantasmic!
The next part of the exhibit represented the Hall of Presidents with busts of all of the presidents from Washington to Obama. Some of these were very basic, and some were fully finished, demonstrating the various stages of work that goes into creating these for the Hall of Presidents. There was also a video showing how these busts are made and brought to life.
The last room was dedicated to President Reagan, with Mickey Mouse ears that say Mr. President on them, and a neat picture showing President Reagan at a press conference, surrounded by Disney characters.
As we exited the exhibit we found ourselves in the gift shop (how appropriate). There were quite a few Disney/Reagan Library related items there. There were also pins, but I do not think they were exclusive of the Reagan Library.
I really enjoyed our visit to the Reagan Library and the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archive, and highly recommend visiting there, especially before the Disney exhibit goes away.
The D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives Exhibit will be at the Reagan Library through the end of April. The next exhibit opening in June will be the Lincoln Exhibit.
The most direct route from the Disneyland resort is to take the 5 Fwy (Santa Ana) north to the 118 (Ronald Reagan Fwy) west. It is a little under an hour and a half to get to the Reagan Museum from the Disneyland area. From the LAX airport it is a little less than an hour and you should take the 405 to the 118.
I recently talked about our visit to the Reagan Library. If you would like to hear more details be sure to listen to our DIS Unplugged Disneyland edition of the podcast.