Behind the Magic

by Frank Anzalone, staff writer

Editor's note: The Oakland Museum of California is host to "Behind the Magic—50 Years of Disneyland," a special exhibit open through August 20. Before the exhibit opened to the public this past Saturday, MousePlanet staff photographer Frank Anzalone attended a special question-and-answer presentation for media on Wednesday, May 3. Today's article is Frank's narrative of his experience at the presentation, woven in with his images. He writes:

I was able to take pictures inside the museum of most of the exhibit with the exception of the Mr. Lincoln audio animatronics figure and any Lucas involved attractions (Star Tours and Indiana Jones). They asked that I did not use a flash—that is why the images are not as vivid and a little grainy.

Marty Sklar and Diane Disney Miller speak to the audinece at the question-and-answer session for the Oakland Museum exhibit "Behind the Magic: 50 years of Disneyland" Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Marty Sklar and Diane Disney Miller attend the Oakland Museum exhibit "Behind the Magic: 50 years of Disneyland." Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Lori Fogarty, the executive director of the museum, welcomed the attendees at 10:30 a.m., thanking sponsors USA Today, Oakland Museum Women's Board, Ron and Diane Miller, KGO Radio AM 810, KMKY Radio Disney, and ABC/KGO TV.

The entrance to the Oakland Museum exhibit "Behind the Magic: 50 years of Disneyland" includes some familiar imagery that makes fans of Disneyland feel immediately at home. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Marty Sklar stands at the entrance for the Oakland Museum exhibit "Behind the Magic: 50 years of Disneyland." Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Christian Overland, vice president, museum and collections for the Henry Ford Museum spoke for a few minutes about the partnership between the Henry Ford Museum and the Walt Disney Company (they have a great deal of past history).

Possibly the most valuable display in the exhibit is the original Herb Ryman concept drawing for Disneyland. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

A close-up view of the Herb Ryman concept drawing for Disneyland includes the Disneyland Railroad and Main Street areas, and shows a remarkable amount of detail. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

The Q&A with Diane Disney-Miller and Marty Sklar, vice-chairman and principal creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, lasted about 20 minutes. They took a few questions from the audience and also reminisced about Disneyland—from groundbreaking to today.

A close-up view of the original Herb Ryman concept drawing for Disneyland shows a startling level of detail of the Sleeping Beauty and Fantasyland area. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

An interactive kiosk provides a 3-D view of the park in the form of stationary 3-D "binoculars" for both the adults and children. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Diane was asked about her dad as a family man, and she said how she knew he was “Walt Disney,” yet how he was so warm and loving to them and all the people he knew. Both Marty and Diane mentioned how Walt was such a “people person”… how whatever he did, he did because he loved “people” and wanted to bring joy and entertainment to them.

The exhibit includes Disneyland Monorail concept art. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Interactive kiosk areas include walls filled with artwork. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

When asked about their favorite ride/part of Disneyland, Diane said, “All of it. I have no favorite ride, I just enjoy the feeling and being there.”

In this archive photo, a family celebrates being the 25 millionth guest, while on May 2, 2006, Disney announced that the "2 Billionth guest" went through the park turnstyle. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Disneyland Hotel art. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Marty had a similar comment, but he also said his favorite attraction was “it's a small world.” He very much liked the sense of the message of peace and harmony. He commented about the lyrics the Sherman brothers wrote for the attraction, “And a smile means friendship to everyone…” “That just says it all,” Marty said.

Disneyland details, down to the trash cans themed for each land. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

ABC reporter Don Sanchez interviews Marty Sklar. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Diane was asked, “What do you think your dad would think of Disneyland today?” She replied, “He would love it! He knew it would grow over time (the size and the trees). He was the first one to change attractions that didn't work—even if they were there for less than a year.” She went on to say, “Yet, I enjoy the touch and nostalgia of some of the attractions that dad worked on that are still there, and I hope those attractions and special details always find a place—and somehow remain in the park.” She specifically mentioned the Enchanted Tiki Room as one such example.

Interactive kiosk. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Interactive kiosk. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

At the end of the question-and-answer session, Marty added that Disneyland (to him and many others in the company) is the “heart” of the Disney theme parks. “It is the only park that Walt walked in (although he was extensively involved with the initial planning and design of WDW), and it holds a certain magic like none of the others.”

Interactive kiosk with the opening day speech. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Concept art for "it's a small world." Photo by Frank Anzalone.

After the formal gathering, we all went over to the exhibit, which is actually in three separate places of the greater museum. The main entrance has a curved mural with the “D” in the script from the old marquee sign—very nostalgic. The exhibit is very open and easy to navigate, with lots of art and informational plaques, made interesting yet simple for all ages to enjoy.

When you walk into the first main room, the wall art and other memorabilia are laid out in a subtle way, just like the lands in Disneyland. For instance, the Frontierland exhibit was on the left and Fantasyland exhibit straightforward. This main exhibit room was the largest of the three areas. There are a few interactive kiosks in this first section—giving you a hands-on experience to explore details and areas of the old Disneyland park, using both visual and narrative commentary.

Concept art and original ride vehicle for Peter Pan's Adventure. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Concept art and models for Toontown. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

The other areas had larger items on display, such as an original ride vehicle for Peter Pan's Adventure and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Around one corner is the actual audio-animatronic figure of Mr. Lincoln. The fully sculpted face is on the mechanism, but the rest is clear and see-through. You can see all the metal and wires that make this 'first human' audio animatronics work.

Original control panel for audioanimatronics for the Enchanted Tiki Room. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Marty Sklar stands in front of Herb Ryman's original Disneyland sketch. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

The most impressive item to me was the actual original concept art drawing that Herb Ryman did that one weekend with Walt before Walt went to the bank to secure the financing for Disneyland. The detail is incredible and the condition of this piece, whic is now about 52 years old, is remarkable.

As a personal note, I very much enjoyed this “traveling Disneyland exhibit” and plan to go back and really take my time looking, reading and learning about my favorite… happiest place on earth.

Exhibit Details

  • Behind the Magic: 50 Years of Disneyland
  • Location: Oakland Museum of California
  • Exhibit dates: May 6 through August 20, 2006
  • Admission prices: Adults $14; Seniors $10; Students $6; Children 5 and under free
  • Address: 10th and Oak Streets, Oakland, CA
  • Phone: 510-238-2200
  • Web site:



Oakland Museum of California hosts special exhibition May 6?August 20, 2006

Walt Disney's legendary theme park, conceived and created with his design wizards, the Imagineers, opened July 17, 1955, in Anaheim, on 160 acres of former orange groves. The rest is American history.

The Oakland Museum of California helps celebrate the first half-century of Disney's magical kingdom when Behind the Magic—50 Years of Disneyland opens on Saturday, May 6, 2006. The exhibition is on view through August 20.

Behind the Magic provides a rare look at American icon Walter Elias Disney and his vision for a new genre of family entertainment. Graphic designers, Disney aficionados, film historians, and generations of Disneyland visitors will find plenty of living history to explore.

The three-part exhibition features Disney's early life as a cartoonist and filmmaker; renderings and plans for his fantastic amusement park; and a section on the Imagineers, the gifted team responsible for creating and maintaining Disneyland's culture and magic.

Behind the Magic displays Walt Disney Imagineering art and artifacts from Disneyland rarely seen outside the Disney Parks. The 7,500-square-foot exhibition includes 250 pieces of original Imagineering artwork, hand-crafted models, construction drawings, and promotional materials tracing the growth and history of the California landmark.

Herb Ryman's 1954 vellum rendering (roughly six feet by four feet) of Disneyland, a key element in Roy Disney's successful pitch to bankers for initial funding for the park, is also on display. In 1953, Disney asked Ryman to sketch an idea for an amusement park that would appeal to both children and adults. Over a single weekend, Ryman translated Walt's dreams onto paper.

Visitors will have the opportunity to view—and in some cases, interact with—more than 40 three-dimensional artifacts, among them figures from “it's a small world,” original arcade games from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction, and the original vehicles used in “Mr. Toad's Wild Ride” and “Peter Pan's Flight.”

The rarest artifact in Behind the Magic is the Abraham Lincoln figure created for the 1964 World's Fair in New York City—the first Audio-Animatronics “human” to appear in a Walt Disney production. Abe emerged from preservation for the first time for Behind the Magic.

Fifty-two years ago Disney leveraged a partnership with ABC; the network provided financing for the park in exchange for exclusive programming. The program, Disneyland, built enormous national anticipation for Disney's namesake park—more than 28,000 visitors showed up on opening day, although only 15,000 had been invited. Since that day in 1955 an estimated 500 million people have visited Disneyland.

Marty Sklar, vice-president and principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, was hired by Walt Disney shortly after the opening of Disneyland, and worked with him for many years. “This extraordinary exhibit reveals the creativity and innovation Imagineers used to conceive and design Disneyland. It's a treat to see this showcased in California, where Walt Disney gave birth to an entire new industry that has spread around the world.”

The Oakland Museum of California is the first official tour stop for Behind the Magic after its inaugural launch at The Henry Ford, in 2005. The remaining tour schedule for Behind the Magic following the museum is being finalized, according to Michael Benghiat of ExhibiTour, which produced and manages the exhibition.

Admission to Behind the Magic is $14/$10 for seniors and students with ID, members $6/$5, and free for kids five and under. Online tickets are available at For details on public programs, visit


Behind the Magic was developed by The Henry Ford in association with Walt Disney Imagineering, a division of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. Produced and managed by ExhibiTour, LLC.

The Oakland Museum of California exhibition received generous support from the Oakland Museum Women's Board, Ron and Diane Miller, and Wells Fargo.

USA TODAY is the official media partner of Behind the Magic—50 Years of Disneyland. USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co, Inc. (NYSE: GCI) is the nation's top-selling newspaper and is headquartered in McLean, VA. USA TODAY has an average daily circulation of 2.3 million and is available worldwide. The USA TODAY brand also includes: USA TODAY Sports Weekly,, and USA TODAY LIVE.