The Madeleine Brand Show for July 19, 2012

New exhibit highlights the Disney and Reagan connection

Grand opening

Courtesy Walt Disney Archives

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan celebrates the opening of the Disney Treasures exhibit with representatives of the Reagan Library and the Walt Disney Company

Courtesy Walt Disney Archives

Ronald Reagan speaking at EPCOT Center in Walt Disney World, Florida

Image of Ronald and Nancy Reagan from the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Walt Disney Archives

Image of Ronald and Nancy Reagan from the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives


There is a new 12,000 square foot exhibition at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. It's called Disney Treasures. Among the Mickey, Goofy and Donald memorabilia, there are several items highlighting the longstanding friendship between Walt Disney and the Gipper.

It’s hard to say when exactly the two met since they both worked in Hollywood and ran in similar circles. Reagan was an actor and President of the Screen Actors Guild and Walt Disney was an animator. By the time Disneyland opened in 1955, they two were fast buddies. Reagan helped with the opening day ceremonies.

John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, says the two shared a mutual respect.

"Philosophically, Walt Disney was a great supporter of Ronald Reagan’s politically as he began preparations for his first run for office," says Heubusch. "In turn, Ronald Reagan, when he was governor of California, was one of the strongest proponents of a commemoration of Walt Disney after his death to appear on a United States postage stamp."

Walt Disney died of lung cancer in 1966. He never lived to see Reagan in the White House—he never even saw Reagan become Governor.

But the bond between the two endured. On January 21, 1985, at the beginning of Reagan’s second term as President, there was a cold snap in Washington DC. It was so cold in fact, they did the inauguration indoors. The marching bands and performers scheduled to help celebrate the event never played. But in May of that year, the president held a sort of makeup inauguration—in Florida. Orlando’s Disney World played host.

The Disney Treasures exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Library runs now through April 2013.


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