Thelma Lyden didn't have high expectations for the extensive Walt Disney Archives exhibit that opened to the public Friday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley.
"In my mind, I was thinking, 'How much more can you have of Walt Disney?'" the Camarillo Realtor said as she was dwarfed by the "Black Pearl," a large, but not life-size, replica of a pirate ship used for special effects filming in Disney's wildly successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. "I mean, I was at the opening day, believe or not, of Disneyland in 1955. So I thought 'Oh, Walt Disney. No big deal. It will be the same old, same old.' "
Was she ever surprised as she and hundreds of others toured "D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives," featuring about 500 artifacts from almost nine decades of Disney history. It's the largest temporary exhibit ever housed at the Reagan Library.
Many of the items have never been displayed publicly, including the "Alice" contract signed by Disney in 1923 and the books used in the opening scenes of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty."
Disney's office was re-created, down to the order of every book on the far wall's shelves. Other items include his original screenplay for his first Mickey Mouse cartoon, "Steamboat Willie"; hand-drawn artwork and models used in the production of classic animated films such as "Bambi" and "Pinocchio"; and props and costumes from "Mary Poppins" and other live-action movies.
"This is so much more amazing," said Lyden, who took in the exhibit with her 16-year-old niece, Shayna Lange, from suburban Chicago. "I had no idea it would be this elaborate. So I'm definitely going to recommend it to my friends and family."
Shayna was equally impressed.
"It's spectacular," she said. "I love it. I grew up on Disney."
Nearby, Steve Hunter, 48, a marketing coordinator from Thousand Oaks, was viewing costumes from the film "Tron" and snapping non-flash photos, per museum policy, of the adjacent "Iron Man" movie display.
"It's amazing," he said. "I just grew up going to Disneyland all my life and just to see all the costumes and the props, it's like reliving my childhood."
Hunter was there by himself.
"My wife had no interest," he said with a laugh. "She didn't grow up around it."
Christie Weston, 33, her four children and her parents stood in a long line of Reagan Foundation members outside the museum waiting to enter.
Weston and her husband are Disney fanatics who wouldn't miss the exhibit for anything.
"We love Disneyland," the Thousand Oaks woman said. "It's where we first kind of got to know each other. Where we fell in love. Where we got engaged. Where we took our older twins 11 times in their first year."
Kent Yeager, 39, a commercial pilot from Granada Hills, pushed a stroller containing his 3-year-old son, Boeing, to the exhibit's finish line — a room featuring statuettes of the Seven Dwarfs on a display case with a large television showing Disney promotionals. On the opposite wall was a large color photo of Disney.
Preoccupied with stroller-pushing duties, "I think I missed a little bit" of the exhibit, Yeager said laughing at the understatement. What he did see he thought was "really neat."
Is he a big Disney fan?
"I've become one now that I have a little one," he said.
Yeager and Boeing then took off to catch what they had missed the first time, passing a wall displaying a Disney quote: "It seems to me that we have a lot of story yet to tell."
The exhibit is scheduled to run through April and is included in the $21 general admission ticket to the library and museum. Discount tickets are available for seniors, youths and children.