Originally planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Walt Disney Archives back in June 2021 for a live event, Adventure Thru the Archives has taken a circuitous route to get to viewers (thanks Coronavirus!) but is finally coming to Disney+ on November 19th.
This documentary follows legendary Disney producer Don Hahn as he wanders through the Walt Disney Studios, Archives, Theme Parks, and other historical sites, discovering new facts and old treasures with members of the Archives team. To talk about the making of this exploration into the Walt Disney Archives, director/filmmaker John Gleim, Archives director Becky Cline, and star Don Hahn met up for a virtual press conference.
Press Conference highlights:
On deciding what pieces to feature in the film:
Gleim: “Part of the idea was I didn’t want to do a documentary that was just sort of a talking head “…while the archives started in 1970…” when I go to the archives, ’cause I do a lot of work with the archives…I’m walking through the warehouses and seeing all this cool stuff like oh that’s from Darby O’gill or that’s from Beauty and the Beast and like, I get so excited…I also love talking to the archivists there and just nerding out about stuff ’cause I’m a big Disney nerd and Star Wars and film nerd, Marvel…all that stuff.
So I really wanted to try and put all that into a documentary and give the audience a sort of a sense of what that’s like…I wanted to show some really iconic things, but I also wanted to show some rare things that maybe audiences hadn’t seen either. Then I kind of told the archives team “well, what do you want to show? What do you think is really cool?” And so, combining both of those things, that’s sort of how we came up with the artifacts that we feature. You know, with each archivist we probably shot five or six different artifacts and then just through the editing process, kind of figured out which ones were the most interesting, or where the story was told best, or which showed best on camera.
On Being Robert Benchley:
Cline: “There’s a little nod to an early film from the 40s–The Reluctant Dragon, so we kind of took a conceit from that, and made Don the new Robert Benchley.”
Hahn: “Reluctant Dragon a great film ’cause it’s kind of a tour of the Walt Disney lot by Robert Benchley. So we started out that way. I mean, John put me in the exact same place that Robert Benchley started back in the 40s and we spend our whole tour kind of looking for Walt Disney’s office, which is a little bit what the plot of that movie was. So that was really fun and it was fun to kind of go around talking to all the archivists and hearing what they do, because when Becky asked me if I would do this, I was totally flattered by it and I thought the fun part of it would be really talking to the archivists and finding out the stuff that none of us know, that they see every day. So to be Robert Benchley for a day was obscure, but fantastic.”
On what it felt like, to explore the Archives:
Hahn: “You know, I’ve been around the company for 45 years and I’ve been a fan and friend of Dave Smith and Becky…and so to be able to kind of tour around–I promise you, I’ve been to places in this movie that I’d never had gone in my time at Disney and they would just say, “well, meet me at this warehouse…” and you know it would be pitch black outside and I would knock three times on a door and it would open up to this kind of fantasyland of things. And so the amount of stuff is staggering, the quality of care is kind of staggering, and what was really special to me was the storytelling that it all brings back. This is not only the story of Walt Disney and his work, but his colleagues’ work and it’s also the story of our lives. I mean not like any other studio (and God love the other studios) but you can’t go to another studio and see this kind of archive of your childhood and walk around and say, oh, I grew up with that, you know, from Mary Poppins, and I grew up with that from Star Wars or whatever. To be able to have that in your hands and be able to talk about it and be able to try to contextualize that in your own life? It’s very personal, you know, much more so…and again the other studios are brilliant, but you know, unless you’re a real movie fan, it doesn’t have quite the same attachment as Disney does.
“So it was a thrill being able to go around and see all those things and I think that was the surprise is how emotional it can become and…it’s not that I sat in my car weeping afterward, but it was that feeling of you’re kind of rediscovering your childhood. I mean literally, right in front of you. You walked by the Flubber car and you go Oh my God Fred MacMurray and you know the kind of essence of all that is just sitting there beautifully taken care of and it’s the story not only of Walt Disney but it’s the story of our lives.”
On any changes since the film’s earlier limited release to D23 Gold Members:
Cline: “It was actually a very limited amount that was changed. We had to change the credits–that sort of thing–and a few Chiron’s here and there. Some captioning, and John can say…I think we changed a little bit of the music?”
Gleim: “Yeah, there was some music…it was mostly clearances things. There is one change that I made that…when we had done the release for D23 gold members, it was one thing I wish I had changed and I had the opportunity to change it this time.
“We interviewed Kevin Feige about the archives, and if you don’t know, he is a huge Disney fan. Like, he loves Disneyland, he loves EPCOT, and so when I originally did the documentary, just because we had so many interviews to squeeze in, there’s so many artifacts, so many people to meet, I only had one quote from Kevin, which was a really nice quote about how important the archives is, but I really wanted to show his nerdiness about EPCOT. So I was fortunate enough to extend that part of his interview where he talks about how Marvel headquarters is in the same building as the Archives main headquarters and so they put up displays all the time and he was saying how excited he was to work in a building where there was an EPCOT 35th anniversary display where he was able to see all these cool artifacts from EPCOT like every day just going to work and how excited he was about that and I was so glad to put that back in. So that is the biggest content change.”
Hahn on having his own work in the Archives:
“It’s kind of unbelievable. I mean, like you all, I’m a Disney geek and fan and always have been. You know, I grew up in Southern California, Disneyland…I could tell you where all the bathrooms were, I just knew everything about it. To be able to walk through the archives and see some of these things was great. To be able to meet Becky down at Disneyland and talk about that, or the Carthay circle or whatever was great. And then every once in a while we would…like, what comes to mind is we were walking through one of the buildings and the dip mobile from Roger Rabbit was…the model for it was there. And I spent two years in London working on Roger Rabbit and I just thought, Oh my God, it’s like finding an old relative who’s been locked in the basement all this time and you go “Larry, where have you been?” And so it’s seeing that kind of dip mobile or the props from Beauty and the Beast, the live-action Beauty and the Beast…You just go wow.
“You know, as a producer, you’re lucky to work with some great people and lucky to be a part of this organization, and I think that’s what Walt Disney always said is he was probably most proud of his organization and the people that he pulled together. And I feel the same way. I’m no Walt Disney, but I feel the same way. It’s the people that make these movies and that you remember, and that’s the humbling thing about being part of the Disney history.”
In case you missed it, here’s the trailer for Adventure Thru the Archives:
Adventure Thru the Archives premieres on Disney+ on November 19, 2021.