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Friday, January 28, 2022

Adventure Thru the Walt Disney Archives Director John Gleim on Documentary

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If you are a Disney fan and looking for something cool to watch, this is the documentary An adventure through the archives of Walt Disney (previously only available for one viewing to D23 members) gives a sneak peek behind the magical curtain at The Walt Disney Company. While you explore the studio area, the famous treasure depository, the theme parks, all with the producer and host Don Han (Beauty and the beastAnd the king lionAnd mischievous) As evidence, viewers will listen to the CEO of Disney Bob Egger, Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige, Pixar Pete Docter, movie historian Leonard Maltin and others, where they get a fuller understanding of the detailed history that helped shape every aspect of the company.

Today’s video collider

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During this phone interview with the director of Collider John Gillem We talked about how to put this one-hour documentary together, narrow down what’s to be shown, how vast the archivist’s collection really is, learn about archivists and researchers, the magic of being in Walt Disney’s office, and put all the interviews together.

Collider: This is a delightful documentary. I really enjoyed it and feel like I could have watched a 10 hour version of this.

John Gilliam: I’d like to do a 10-hour version.

How do you take all this material and release it into what we see?

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Glim: Yeah, that was really the hardest part. We did a lot of interviews, too. It is truly a love letter to the Archives and was originally created to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Archives. And I didn’t want to do a live-action documentary like, “The Archives Made in 1970,” because you can read an article about that. I wanted people to see the sites, meet some archivists, and really experience what it’s like to be in the archives and see some of these amazing things out there. It was really about working with Becky Cline, the archive manager, and knowing the general topics. It’s documents, dimensional stuff, all those different costumes, all those different categories. And then, it was about the different locations of the archives. There is the reading room, which is the headquarters of the archive and where Becky’s office is located. And after that, there are different repositories and other sites. We also wanted to show that archives operate outside their premises as well.


Then, I collected what I thought was cool. I’m a big fan of Bedknobs and broom. I’m a big fan of visual effects, like matte panels and things like that. Then I said, “Now, I want to hear what you guys think. I gave you examples of what I think is cool, but I’m only guessing, in some cases, what sounds good. I want to hear from the activists. What is important to you? What are the iconic things?” And what are also some of the mysteries that people might not think are important to conserve and why is it important to conserve? Next, we took this whole mix of ideas, locations, people, and artifacts, and tried to build a story around it. What inspired me was the 1941 movie Reluctant Dragon, where Robert Benchley is touring the studio, trying to see Walt Disney. We had Don Hahn on the plane pretty early and we thought he’d be a great host, so we put Don Hahn as Robert Benchley, trying to get to Walt Disney’s office, which is also an important location for the archives because they’re the ones that were responsible for getting it back.



Adventure through the Walt Disney Archives
Image via Disney +

Thanks for the embed Bedknobs and broom.

GLEIM: Yes, it has a good reputation as a movie that’s not as good as Mary PoppinsAnd there are a lot of wonderful things in it. It follows a similar structure, but is still a different movie. Just setting it in the WWII period is really interesting, and there are some great animations there as well. Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson are clearly amazing. I can go on with it. The archives have some pretty cool stuff out there. They have a crib handle, which gives a fun little pattern look, and there’s a matte board right there, and they have Nabombo Island Children’s book. They have a bunch of props out there and they have a bunch of really fun behind the scenes photos too. It was a well-documented movie, which makes it fun.

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How did it feel to experience this journey for yourself and realize all the layers that made Disney what it is today and the date it has been kept?

Glim: That was amazing. I do a fair amount of archiving already and that’s partly why I want to show you all the cool stuff I’ve got there, but then I go further and see how big the collection is, all the care the archivists take to preserve these artifacts, all the archivists and the ability On talking to them about the stories behind all these artifacts, the history branched out from there. One of my favorite things to talk to them is the serendipity that happens, with the researchers and outside historians that come and work with the archive. They’ll find some random interviews in a magazine with this synopsis of information and they can bring that information to the archive and the archive can say, “We have another interview with this person.” Being able to make all these connections is very exciting. When we go to Walt’s house on the walking path, which was an incredible experience, the whole discovery of that famous picture of Walt that’s been in use all along, for years and years, everyone assumed she was in Hyperion Studio. Through some research and different people looking at different things, they were able to find out what was actually captured in his house, and I love stories like that. This is so much fun. There is always more to discover. Archivists are still making new discoveries all the time.



Adventure-thru-the-walt-disney-archives-don-hahn-04
Image via Disney +

What do you think would surprise people most about the archive and what’s in there?

GLEIM: Yeah, Disney is the biggest entertainment company in the world, but you still think there’s a finite amount of stuff to keep, and there isn’t. There are four million photos. I’m obsessed with a blockbuster movie and love all the backstage pictures. I was there one day when they were scanning pictures behind the scenes 20,000 leagues under the sea And it was the coolest thing ever, just being able to see those things. I am always impressed, when I speak with the archivists and researchers there, of their extensive knowledge of everything. It’s not just names and dates, but contextual things as well and the ability to tell stories about things. I love this part of it. That’s why this could be 10 hours or 20 hours. It can go on forever. We’re just scratching the surface for how Disney archives things. There are the Walt Disney archives, but there is also the Animation Research Library, Pixar has its own archive, and Lucasfilm has its own archive. I like to branch out to those places as well and do more of this because it’s a blast.


I really liked the look we ended up with. He was very inspired by Reluctant Dragon, but it’s also inspired by Disney TV shows from the ’60s where Walt would walk around the studio and meet a visualizer and go, “Oh, what are you working on?” It’s got a sense of fun that I really liked, and I tried to bring some of that into this movie to make it feel lighter and fun, but you can still see all that cool stuff and see what the archives is. Another side goal was to teach some of the history of Walt Disney himself. It’s easy to forget about the person who started the company. With Walt, there’s always more to learn about him. One of the things I’ve tried to do is, if you’re a Disney fan and know most of Walt’s history, there are still great antiques you might not have seen before. But if you’re not familiar with Walt and his history, you can learn some from that, too. I think this is really cool. That’s the cool thing about finishing up in Walt Disney’s office, too. This is another place I never get tired of. You just suck Walt’s energy, and I love that.

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adventure-via-walt-disney-archives-don-han-03
Image via Disney +

You also get a real feel for the group of people associated with Disney, from Bob Iger and Kevin Feige to Mark Hamill. How did you feel when interviewing people like Disney?

Glim: This was a blast and it was very difficult to pick and choose clips from them. I’d love to hear how Bob is a fan and Kevin is a fan. There’s a story told by Mark Hamill, where he saw Walt Disney when he was at Disneyland, that amazed me. I loved doing it. Everyone is so excited to talk about the archive and what they’re doing, that made those interviews like a blast.

An adventure through the archives of Walt Disney Available to stream on Disney+.


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