Feeling the Spirit of Imagineering at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Feeling the Spirit of Imagineering at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

There are still a few more weeks to catch the exhibit Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

Presented by D23, the Official Disney Fan Club, this exhibit opened on October 16, 2013 in order to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company. It was originally set to end May 4, 2014, but due to popular demand they decided to extend the exhibit through January 4, 2015.

With over 300 artifacts from nine decades of Disney history, I promise there’ll be something for everyone to love about this exhibit. Children will keep entertained by interactive displays and video clips, while adults can reminisce about Disney as they knew it in their own childhood.

MSI Chicago - Nov 2014

Majority of the artifacts haven’t been widely seen by the public, so there’s sure to be something new even for the most devoted Disney fan.

You’ll see old drawings and storyboards, props and costumes, and even items relating to important milestones throughout Disney’s history. I was surprised to see such a variety. They had artifacts relating to some of the first ever Disney shorts, costumes from extremely new movies like Maleficent, and of course, a whole Frozen interactive display.

MSI Chicago - Nov 2014

So just why is all of this being held in Chicago? To bring Walt Disney back to its roots!

Walt Disney was born here in Chicago on December 5, 1901 in the house that his father had built on Tripp Avenue. While his family moved away soon after Walt’s birth, he later returned to the Windy City where he focused on drawing at McKinley High School.

Of course you’ll learn about all this and more at the exhibition– but it really was fitting that the exhibition was held here in Chicago.

MSI Chicago - Nov 2014

The exhibit galleries tell the chronological story of Walt and how Disney grew into what it is today. As a Disney nerd, I loved getting to read fun little tidbits that I didn’t know before and it was great getting to see so many new artifacts.

In fact, a few weeks prior to visiting this exhibition, I had flown out to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. I was worried that the exhibit in Chicago would be too similar,  but I was happy to see that while the story was, of course, the same, a majority of the artifacts were completely different.

Some of the artifacts I most enjoyed were the original maquette from some of my all-time favorite Disney movies.

MSI Chicago - Nov 2014

Of course, seeing as this was held at the Museum of Science and Industry, it only made sense that this exhibition seemed more science based than the one in California.

A lot of it featured Walt’s inventions and contributions to the animation industry, of which he was such an important pioneer.

MSI Chicago - Nov 2014

Guests could explore the technology behind the films, including taking a deeper look at what Walt called “Audio-Animatronics” and the multiplane camera system that he designed.

All of the galleries circle around the center piece of the show– Walt’s real life work desk. All of the items in this display were actual items from Walt’s office placed just as he had left them.

Whether you find that a little creepy or not, seeing all of the items scattered across his desk really highlighted how hard working and dedicated he was.

At the end of the exhibit you’ll find a theme park classic– the “Animation Academy”. Just like at the parks, here you can learn the steps behind drawing beloved Disney characters.

MSI Chicago - Nov 2014

We always loved taking part in this at Hong Kong Disneyland, so of course we decided to give it a try. Our guide gave us a variety of character choices and let us vote as an audience with who we wanted to draw. In the end, after a tough debate between Minnie and Donald, we ended up going with Donald.

Guests tried to follow along with the steps, which were easy enough for children to complete. I laughed as Johnny and I exchanged our completed drawings, and we debated whether we should go through the academy a second time.

We normally draw better, I swear!

MSI Chicago - Nov 2014

Leaving on a note of aspiration and inspiration, it really was the perfect end to the exhibition.

So if you haven’t gotten a chance to see the exhibit yet– GO! Before it closes!

If you unfortunately just won’t be able to make it, or won’t be in the area before then, I hope that you’ll at least consider a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry the next time you do find yourself in Chicago.

After finishing at the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, Johnny and I spent some time exploring the rest of the museum. Growing up I remember the museum being not all that impressive, but boy has that changed. All of the exhibits are really world-class now. I can totally see why it makes it into the list of top 10 science museums.

Since it is the holiday season, I loved how they had Christmas trees decorated to represent holiday traditions from around the world. They even paid tribute to the Disney exhibit with Mickey and friends decorating the main tree in the foyer and subtle mouse ears on the ornament shop!

How cute is that?

MSI Chicago - Nov 2014  MSI Chicago - Nov 2014


Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit is not included in Museum Entry and will require an additional timed-entry ticket, which is $9 for adults and seniors and $7 for children aged 3-11.

A special thank you to the Museum of Science and Industry for having me as a guest of the museum. All love of Disney and opinions are my own, regardless of who’s footing the bill!

 Do you love Disney? Have you ever been to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago?



  1. December 13, 2014 / 8:04 pm

    It seems like a great exposition! I would have visited it, if I would have been in the area.

    • Beth Williams
      December 19, 2014 / 12:09 am

      Hi Shere, thanks for your comment! Even though you couldn’t come visit it here, maybe the exhibit will be coming to a museum near you soon!

  2. December 12, 2014 / 9:36 pm

    Super cool exhibit, I would have loved to visit it! That tree is gorgeous, do you have more pictures of it? :D

    • Beth Williams
      December 19, 2014 / 12:08 am

      I do! :D

      There’s actually a holiday exhibit going on right now, so they have many trees decorated according to different country’s traditions around the world. I’ll be posting more soon!

  3. December 12, 2014 / 1:24 pm

    I have never been to the museum but I have been to the Disney in Florida several times. I think it is amazing how Disney has captivated the minds of young and old alike. It would be a great experience to see how Disney has evolved since the beginning. Plus, I love that tree.

    • Beth Williams
      December 19, 2014 / 12:07 am

      Jealous that you’ve been to the Florida park several times!! I’ve only been once when I was really young, so I don’t remember it… but trying to plan a return trip in the next month or two! ;)

      And I know, I wish I could have that tree for my house!

  4. December 12, 2014 / 7:05 am

    I love that the exhibit is for everyone. You can bring your whole family to it.

    • Beth Williams
      December 19, 2014 / 12:06 am

      You could! I just went with my fiancé, but as two adults, we loved it!

  5. December 10, 2014 / 11:38 am

    This exhibit is great for family with children. I always loved Disney’s cartoons, more than any other ones. I wonder if they may host this in Los Angeles also. I didn’t know Walt Disney was born in Chicago. Seeing his desk might have been quite touchy…

    • Beth Williams
      December 19, 2014 / 12:02 am

      Hi Anda, I’m hoping they may take this exhibit to other museums nationwide once it finishes here in another week! Keeping my fingers crossed for LA for you!