Surrey Museum Hosts Exhibit of Disney Memorabilia

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It’s Off to the Museum We Go!
Kyrsten Downton, Contributor

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A small replica of Blaine Gibson’s famous “Partner’s” statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in the Disneyland section of the exhibit. (Kyrsten Downton)

Walt Disney once said, “Money doesn’t excite me. Ideas excite me.”

Disney’s drive to discover and create was one of the many reasons why he became a leading visionary in the film industry. Now, The Walt Disney Company is one of the biggest brands in the world.

To honour and teach Disney’s legacy to the public, the Surrey Museum in Cloverdale is hosting a Disney exhibit until May. The exhibit itself is a collection of items loaned from members of the Southwestern British Columbia Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club.

David Lesjak, a member of the club, is the curator for the exhibit. One of his main goals was to educate the public on Walt Disney himself. The exhibit covers the animation innovator’s early years as a volunteer driver for the Red Cross in France during World War I, as well as some of his greatest creative accomplishments.

“There are some people that didn’t know that Walt Disney was a man. They thought it was a corporate logo,” says Lesjak. “That is why I wanted to include the press photos because I wanted to show people that there was a guy named Walt Disney.”

The exhibit, located under the Community Treasures section in the museum, covers a lot of information about The Walt Disney Company’s early years. In separate glass cases, the exhibit covers the rise of the company in the 1920’s, the 1930’s Mickey Mouse club, World War II memorabilia, and the start of Disneyland, Walt’s “crowning achievement.”

“He wasn’t a saint and he wasn’t perfect,” Lesjak admits. “But if you look at his track record and what he was able to accomplish in the 40-50 years he was in show business, you will be hard pressed to find someone with the same visionary track record that he had.”

The exhibit notably displays memorabilia that will feel extraordinarily different from the merchandise modern Disney fans would associate with the company, such as a Mickey Mouse gas mask cylinder used by children in Britain in World War II.

“There is a lot of neat stuff that they did and there is a lot of neat stuff they produced,” says Lesjak. “When I talk to people about what Disney did in the war years, people have no idea that the studio did that for the home front.”

There is also a war savings folder from 1941 issued by the Canadian government. This item was one of the first war-related works that Disney did. A person would collect stamps in the pamphlet and would turn it in for a bond once completed. Lesjak said that Disney also created several bond films and a military training film called “Stop That Tank” for the Canadian government.

“What’s really interesting about that was that they actually shipped one of the anti-tank guns,” he says. “It was top-secret but they sent it to the Canadian consulate in Los Angeles and the Disney studio was able to pick up the gun. They took it to the studio and was able to take it apart and examine it.”

Lesjak wants people to come to the exhibit and be more than simply educated about Disney’s history. He wants people to learn about Disney himself and become inspired.

“I think that his whole philosophy and outlook is something I can really relate to,” he says. “Especially in this world today, there is a lot of greed. If you want to be happy and successful in life, you need to surround yourselves with happy and successful people. Walt Disney was one of those people.”

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