Walt Disney Archives celebrates 40th anniversary with fans, D23 members as special guests

in Disney, Events, Movies

Disney fans, cast members, Legends and celebrities came together Friday evening to honor the man that has preserved the Disney legacy for forty years. It was the 40th anniversary party for Dave Smith and the house that he built in the house that Walt built, the Walt Disney Archives.

Inside the Magic contributor Amy Rocchio was in attendance for the event, but not as invited media. Instead, she attended simply as a Disney fan and D23 member and here offers us her thoughts about the event:

A star-studded program included a welcome by Steven Clark, VP of Corporate Communications and Editor-in-Chief of D23, a speech from CEO Bob Iger and “A Conversation with Dave Smith hosted by Leonard Maltin” which was an interesting, in-depth look at Dave’s 40-year Disney career.

Here’s a video of Bob Iger and Dave Smith speaking at the event:

Disney CEO Bob Iger and chief archivist Dave Smith
Film historian Leonard Maltin interviews Dave Smith

After the interview, a series of Disney celebrities presented new objects to the Disney archives, the highlight of which was Karen Dotrice presenting her blue coat from “Mary Poppins.” Other newly-added items included a letter written by Walt Disney to his brother Roy and the Dead Man’s Chest from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

Attendees were then treated to the premiere of “Archiving the Archives” a documentary made in the vein of the “People and Places” segments from the “Wonderful World of Color.” It showcased the dedication Dave and his staff always had for their work. Included were a few hilarious re-enactments of some of the staff’s favorite stories such as Dave finding the “Mary Poppins” snow globe on the shelf of a janitor’s office.

The event culminated with a cake and champagne/meet-and-greet in the street between the theatre and the old animation building. This event was bursting with Disney celebrities and Legends including Leonard Maltin, Kathryn Beaumont, Bob Gurr, Tony Baxter, JB Kaufmann, Tony Anselmo, Russi Taylor, Richard Sherman and more. Only Dave had a line and table, but everyone was more than willing to sign autographs and pose in the midst of answering questions about everything. The new additions to the Archives were also on display.

Gathering of Disney Legends and fans after the ceremony
One of the special cakes for the event
Head of D23 Steven Clark, current Disney chief archivist Dave Smith, and future Disney chief archivist Becky Cline
Disney songwriter Richard Sherman
Film historian Leonard Maltin
Scepter from Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland' and the Dead Man's Chest from 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest'
Dress from "Mary Poppins"
Disc from "TRON: Legacy"
Letter from Walt Disney to his brother Roy

The night did have a shadow cast over it as Dave announced his retirement, effective this October. Becky Cline, 17-year Archivist and current Archives manager will succeed the founder and legend at the time and having met her a few times, I can assure you that she is the perfect person to succeed Dave and continue the great mission of the Walt Disney Archives. The celebration was truly that, a celebration of the man who literally saved decades of Disney history from heading down the garbage chute. Leonard Maltin said it best in the conclusion of his interview, “I can only think of two words… Thank You.”

So, indeed, thank you Dave Smith for dedicating 40 years of saving and preserving over 80 years of Disney history for the Walt Disney Company and all of its fans. You truly are a Disney legend.

Aaron Rifkind, also a D23 member who attended the event, wrote to us with a few additional comments from the event:

We were given a program for the evening, a pin to commemorate the event, and a wristband to ensure that we would make it into the theater.

The theater at the Studios is absolutely stunning. They redid the theater a little while ago, and it is fantastic! The seats are very comfy and it has an HD projection so the presentation looked absolutely wonderful.

Dave Smith said it was nice to have the Archives before Walt Disney World was built because they could start archiving from Day One of Disney World’s opening, unlike Disneyland. Dave also discussed how easy it was in the earlier days to get information. For example, all of Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men (some of the main early animators at Disney) were around when Dave started archiving, giving him easy access to information.

The event was truly memorable and spectacularly well done. I want to say a big congrats to D23 for a memorable event that was worth every penny.

(Photos by Amy Rocchio, Aaron Rifkind, Karen Ellis, and Disney. Video by Amy Rocchio.)

To hear more from Dave Smith about the Walt Disney Archives, don’t miss our exclusive sit-down interview with him in his office.

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