Saturday, April 25, 2009

Disney: The Music Behind the Magic - exhibit review

I've previously mentioned that an exhibit called Disney: The Music Behind the Magic would be coming to Southern California, and the husband and I drove out to Hemet last Saturday to check out the exhibit.

Hemet itself is kind of out in the boonies, and when we arrived in Hemet, we followed the GPS as it was telling us where to go to get to the Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology. And we drove through the main section of Hemet. And we kept going. The husband said that we were being sent out to the boonies. I said that we were already in the boonies. His response was that we were going to the boonies of Hemet. That's really way far out there.

We kept driving, with me wondering where exactly we were being sent to. We turned on a street that I recognized as the name of the street that the museum was located on, so that was a good sign. And then I saw the building that looked like the picture I'd seen on the website, so we headed there.

It was a bit confusing because there weren't really any signs, and the signs that were there mentioned some other thing that was not where and what we were going to. OK then. We then drove toward the further end of the building and finally saw some signs that had the Western Center name on it, so at least we knew we were in the right place, so we parked.

As we walked up to the building, I noticed a sign in the ground mentioning something about the prevalence of snakes in the area and to be careful, and there was a drawing of a snake to emphasize the point. Me. Not happy.

We finally found the main entrance to the museum and went in.

The Disney exhibit is located inside the museum, so you just have to pay the museum entry price to get in, which is $8 for adults, $6.50 for seniors (62+), $6 for kids 5-12, and $6.50 for students (13-22 with a current ID). The museum is free for members, children under 5 and active military with current ID. The exhibit is located at the back of the museum, down the main hallway. The person at the front desk had mentioned that pictures were allowed everywhere else in the museum, but not in the Disney exhibit, so most of the pictures you see included here are taken from the website. I'm not really sure of the reason for not allowing the pictures, and I wasn't happy about that, but their rules, so we abided by them.

The entire exhibit is located in a large room where things are located on walls and in divisions in the middle. It's not too large so that you can't keep track of what you've seen and what you haven't, but because there was a group of people to the right when we walked in, we decided to go clockwise through the exhibit.

Here's a summary of most of the various stations inside the exhibit.

There's a section about the Silly Symphonies, and there are several devices which kind of look like giant Viewmasters that each show a different short.

There's a music trivia quiz that can accommodate four people at a time. You can choose to be Mickey, Ariel, Davy Crockett or Goofy, and it starts off with a couple of questions where you have a bit more time to answer by pushing either "A", "B" or "C", and then there's a speed round where you have less time to answer the questions. At the end of each round, it shows you what everyone's score is and then who the overall winner is. The questions range from classic movies to Broadway to theme park to records to current pop sensations.

There's a little room where you learn about foley using the Silly Symphonies short "The Band Concert". It's the concert segment itself, and there are a few items in the room that can simulate the noises that would be heard on screen. I thought there would be visual cues on screen to tell you when to do stuff, but instead, you're supposed to look at each item and see what picture is posted next to it. That shows you what part of the segment that noise should happen. There was a door you could slam, a machine that simulated the wind sound, and a few things that you had to hit with a mallet to simulate other sounds. You get one test try, and then during the real thing, a microphone is turned on to hear the sounds that you're making, which means it also records any talking going on during that. It was a bit confusing at first but still fun.

Right outside that room is a section on sound effects and how ordinary items can be used to make sounds that aren't what the item itself is.

The barker bird from the Tiki Room is on display with some information about where it used to be and what it used to do. Very pretty.

Belle's peasant dress from the Broadway musical "Beauty and the Beast" is on display. I only saw the show once, with a touring company version that I wasn't very enamoured of. I heard the larger production was quite spectacular. Her dress was very pretty, but much more sparkly and fancy than Belle's peasant dress in the film.

A couple of costumes from the Broadway musical "The Lion King" are on display - Mufasa, Sarabi and a wildebeest. When we were in New York a few years ago, we had done the backstage tour of the New Amsterdam Theatre when "The Lion King" was still being performed there, and they had the Mufasa and Sarabi masks that we could see and feel, and it was amazing how light they were. The entire outfit looks very cumbersome to maneuver onstage while you're actually trying to perform.

There is a section that has memorable music scenes in certain movies, and they show the scene first with commentary about why that particular music fits very well into the scene, and then they show the scene again as is. We watched the "Bella Notte" scene from "Lady and the Tramp".

There is another section about Walt Disney Recordings and their development and the 50 most significant releases they've had. They also had a few tracks that you could listen to. We listened to the opening number from the Broadway recording of the musical "The Lion King" (which is still amazing) as well as Walt Disney narrating a trip down Main Street in Disneyland.

There is a machine where you can experiment with mixing sounds using the song from the attraction "Pirates of the Caribbean". There are multiple levers, each of which controls one particular item, whether it's an individual singing voice, a harmonizer, the singing dog, the music, and so forth. By moving the levers up and down, you can make one part more prominent or more in the background. It was actually interesting to listen to the song as an a capella version with just the singers.

The costumes for Bert and Michael from the "Jolly Holiday" segment of the film "Mary Poppins" are on display, complete with stains and all. Guess they didn't wash the costumes back then.

The costume (dress and shoes) for Vanessa Hudgens from "High School Musical" is on display.

There is a wall of information and pictures and achievements of the most famous Mouseketeer of all, Annette Funicello.

There is another wall with information and pictures and such of the Sherman Brothers.

There is a section with merchandise and information about the Mickey Mouse Club, both its original incarnation and the later version. I had no idea Lisa Whelchel was a Mouseketeer.

There's a little section about a couple of Disney's animated movies which includes the original cassette containing the demo songs for "The Little Mermaid" and Phil Collins' hand-written lyrics for "You'll Be In My Heart" from "Tarzan".

There's a wall section about storyboarding using the "I Got No Strings" segment of "Pinocchio".

There is a wall with the original poster for "Bambi" and another wall with the original poster for "Fantasia".

There is a section about the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" and how popular a song it is and contains recordings by a number of different people that you can listen to.

There's another section about various popular Disney songs and how they've been covered by different people, and there are covers of different songs that you can listen to.

All of the sections mentioned above (except the foley room) include the use of headphones to hear the various elements, so that there's not a cacaphony of sound in the exhibit room. There are also four stations with continuous running video that is simply broadcast, no headphones required. There's a little bench in front of each so that you can sit and watch the video. The four videos are: legacy of Disney music, Disney's animation renaissance (beginning with "The Little Mermaid"), Disney's early animation, and the film "Mary Poppins".

The website has a video preview tour of the exhibit which gives a great overview.

After making our way around the exhibit, we decided to check out the rest of the museum since we were there anyway. There are a couple of smaller exhibits in the hallway that leads to the Disney exhibit, but the focus of the museum is the main exhibit hall which is where the mastodon and mammoth fossils are located. They have fossils of other animals as well. There is also a re-creation of a dig where some of the fossils were discovered. As I mentioned, pictures are allowed in this area, so the following few pictures are actually ours.

There are a number of separate displays and sections in the room with lots of things to learn about.

I liked this little domed re-creation.

This is another section that's particularly geared towards discovery. There is a little section that simulates the finding of fossils, where you can use different things like a brush or an air blower to clear sand to reveal what's underneath. The part I particularly liked was when it would re-set, shaking the sand to cover up the fossil again.

There's another section where you could solve a puzzle about one of the prehistoric creatures, and you're given a dossier card with clues and information.

Derail: this display looked incredibly like the information sheets we received for a competition that we participated in during the fall of 2008.

There's a theatre that shows two different short movies. We sat down to watch "Echoes of the Past, which transports viewers to a time when giant creatures roamed the area", as explained on the website. It was a decent enough little movie and gave us a few minutes to sit down.

Oh, and fyi, the restrooms inside the museum are located in the main exhibit hall, in the back towards the middle. There aren't too many signs, so we had to ask to find them.

We had arrived at about 11am, and it took about 2 hours or so to make our way through the entire Disney exhibit. We didn't listen to every single recording or study every single section, but we did most of what was available in that time. It wasn't very crowded when we first got there, but as it got later, I noticed more people come so that sometimes, you had to wait for a particular section.

After we were done with the museum, we headed over to the gift shop, called the Mastodon Trading Company, which is located outside the museum.

I wanted to see what merchandise might be available for the exhibit, but there wasn't much. I thought they might have a book of the exhibit, but after thinking about it more, since it's an exhibit about music and so much of it is interactive, a book really wouldn't be able to capture it. They had a magnet and a bunch of different apparel, both for kids and adults.

The logo used for most of the adult apparel was the one with the record, which I didn't think was as cute.

The logo I really liked had Mickey in a conductor's pose, but that logo was used only for the kids clothing and the jersey and sweatshirt for adults.

I'm not fond of jerseys, and I so don't need another sweatshirt, and they were a bit more expensive than I would have expected. They were having a sale on the Disney exhibit items, but because the logo wasn't on an article of clothing I wanted, I didn't end up buying anything.

I enjoyed the exhibit, and it was fun to see the various sections and play with the different things. Is it worth going to? Well, you can't beat the low-priced entrance fee, but it's really a matter of where you'd be coming from. Hemet isn't exactly centrally located, and there's really nothing else of note to do out there, so it's not even like you could really make a day of it. We drove out, saw the exhibit, found a place for lunch afterwards, and then drove home, about an hour and a half drive each way. The exhibit is nice, but I wouldn't say that there was anything in it that was spectacular enough to say that everyone should go no matter what. Of course, if there's something specific in any of the sections that I mentioned that particularly appeals to you, then it might be worth the drive out there from wherever you are. I'm a little confused as to why they chose that particular location to have the exhibit - archeology and paleontology don't really have an automatic easy connection to an exhibit about Disney music. Also, I would figure they would have many more visitors if it was somewhere a bit easier to get to or closer to a Disney location.

The exhibit runs through May 10, and the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10am to 5pm.

Western Center for Archeology and Paleontology
2345 Searl Parkway
Hemet, CA 92543
(951) 791-0033


Sherry said...

Thanks for the review. I wish that the exhibit was closer, since I'd really like to see a lot of those things.

Anonymous said...

Lisa Whelchel was a member of The New Mickey Mouse Club in the 1980s. not an original Mouseketeer.

Cindy said...

I didn't say she was an original Mouseketeer - she wouldn't have been nearly old enough. But weren't the members of the new club also Mouseketeers? That's what I thought. Did they have some name other than Mouseketeer?

Ken said...

Great review Cindy! We were at the exhibit on Sat afternoon the 25th. Flew down from Seattle area to see it and go to the parks too!

A few records from my personal collection are in the exhibit (Walt's Tour of DL, Mary Poppins sound track, and Mousekateers.

I noticed that Stacia martin is presenting Sat, May 9th. If you can make that, she is an outstanding speaker and fellow Disney record collector! She gave a wonderful talk about the artist who designed several Disneyland Records album covers when the Music Exhibit open at the EMP in Seattle. Wish I could make down to hear her!!

If you want to listen to some Disney vinyl, drop by our club site: