To order tickets, visit http://www.reaganfoundation.org/tickets.
Antiquing on a European holiday with his wife, Walt Disney came across a tiny brown bird perched in a cage. The lifelike creation moved its head and whistled, and its beak opened and closed — advanced for something thought to date to about 1900.
Disney wanted to unlock the secrets of the little device and brought it back to his Los Angeles studio for further study.
Today, the rainbow-colored singers of the Tiki Room, the crew of the Country Bear Jamboree and the star of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" can all trace their origins to that bird, which also inspired Audio-Animatronics, a Disney-patented form of robotics.
Decades later, the bird's whistle still welcomes new employees of the Walt Disney Archives, which just finished organizing the largest exhibit of the company's history.
Starting July 6, the bird and 500 or so other pieces of Disney assets will be available for viewing at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley.
The exhibit, "D23 Presents: Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives," features items never displayed publicly, including the "Alice" contract signed by Disney in 1923, sketches of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and the books used in the opening scenes of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty."
Stephen Clark, the head of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club, said half the pieces in the exhibit have never been seen, while others have had only limited viewings.
"This really is a rare opportunity for Disney fans," he said at media preview Thursday.
The Reagan Library's tight security and its temperature and humidity control helped make the exhibit possible, said Becky Cline, Walt Disney Archives director. Archivists could bring in things they normally wouldn't display, she said.
Those include original letters, sketches and small replicas of Disney characters. Disney's office was re-created, down to the order of every book on the far wall's shelves.
On the bottom level of the two-floor exhibit, the displays show several decades of movies via fashion and props.
A section designed to look like a runway stage features the original costumes worn in famous movies, including Julie Andrews' purple coat and bird-topped cane from "Mary Poppins" and several of Cruella De Vil's flamboyant dresses from "101 Dalmatians."
There's also the teapot featured in Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," the video games and skintight white suits of "Tron" and the original hitchhiking ghosts of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.
Next up are replicas of the ship in "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the submarine used in the underwater scenes of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
There's more for landlubbers: the Model T used in "The Absent-Minded Professor" and Captain America's motorcycle in "The Avengers."
Exhibit creators say there's something for everyone in the exhibit, expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors during its nearly nine-month run.
"It's going to prove to be one of our most popular and visited exhibits," said John Heubusch, executive director of the Reagan Presidential Foundation.
It's no coincidence the exhibit is at the Reagan Library — Reagan and Disney had a close relationship, Heubusch said.
Reagan, then an actor and host of "General Electric Theater," was one of three personalities to appear at Disneyland's opening day on July 17, 1955.
When he entered politics, Disney was a big supporter.
When Disney died in December 1966, a push quickly began to issue a stamp in his name. Reagan supported the idea and wrote a note dated April 3, 1967, that's part of the exhibit.
The short note — later typed and delivered to the postmaster general — ends this way: "There is no necessity, I'm sure, for me to itemize his contributions to humanity, they can be summed up by simply saying that because of him, the world is a richer, better, place."
Because the exhibit is expected to be so popular, the Reagan Library is allowing people to buy advance tickets online. Buyers can specify the time and date of attendance.
For trivia buffs, there is this: Disney and others hurried to get everything in order as Disneyland's opening day approached. In a memo dated June 22, 1955, Disney edited the words that to this day greet visitors soon after they enter the park: "Here you leave today and visit the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy."
It was almost: "Where you leave today and visit the world of fantasy, yesterday and tomorrow."