It’s a big day for Disney fans, with an auction and exhibition set to open that’s filled to the brim with some 1,500 Disneyland and Walt Disney World archival materials and retired objects. A History of Disneyland & Walt Disney World is open to the public at Van Eaton Galleries until a two-day auction event, where Disneyland memorabilia will go under the hammer on Saturday, December 7, and Walt Disney World the following Sunday, December 8.
Fans of the parks can enjoy treasures from their inception and making, including original studio file copy of Walt Disney’s first pitch documents for financing Disneyland park. There is a hand-colored map that constitutes one of the first renderings of the park, and the prospectus is valued between $10,000 and $20,000, due to its cache and rarity. A ton of other original promotional materials are included in the auction, some dating back to the 1950s.
In addition, a few pieces of the park are for sale as well, including animatronic “Tiki Birds” from the “Enchanted Tiki Room” at Walt Disney World. The birds retain all their original mechanics, and are still able to sing and move along to the Enchanted Tiki Room Theme Song — these enchanted creatures are expected to go for the very real price of $80,000–$100,000). For those dying to see behind the magic, a set of construction slides by Marvin Davis (estimate is $600–$800) show the actual building in progress of iconic Disneyland structures like the Sleeping Beauty castle. Fans of the Haunted Mansion ride will scream for two original hand-painted “Stretch Paintings” from the Haunted Mansions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World (estimate is $100,000–$150,000). There are also attraction posters, models for Tomorrowland, and actual carriages from rides like Space Mountain and the People Mover.
There’s even an opportunity to buy one of the tragically racist singing dolls from “It’s a Small World” — no longer quite so fitting in our relatively more woke world. Disney — the brand and the man — has a checkered past when it comes to matters of ethnic representation, from the allegations of antisemitic leanings on the part of Walt Disney personally, to a history of appalling racist stereotypes in Disney movies. While “Small World” might be seen as conveying a progressive message about global unity in the context of its time, the insanely reductive representations it made of world culture and ethnicities in the process are jaw-dropping from a modern vantage point.
Complexities of the Disney legacy notwithstanding, it is hard to imagine a US upbringing in the last 50 years that was not somehow touched by the Disney canon of animated fairytales and magical, swashbuckling adventures. Even this salty dog was touched to see the original concept art for the Peter Pan ride entrance mural as part of the collection; it called to mind the first time that me, my sister, our mother, and a family friend flew out the nursery window in a pirate ship conveyance that took to the sky above a miniaturized London nightscape. In the moments the mechanism lifted from the track, it felt like we really did fly. This auction will raise and answer the question: What price can we put on the wonder of childhood?
A History of Disneyland & Walt Disney World continues at Van Eaton Galleries (13613 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, Calif.) through Friday, December 6, with a two-day auction event on the following weekend of December 7–8.