Review: Heroes & Villains – The Art of the Disney Costume

I recently had the privilege of attending a wonderful exhibit at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. If you’d like to visit yourself it runs from June 25th, 2022 to January 1st, 2023. The full name of the 6,000-square-foot traveling exhibit is:

Walt Disney Archives presents Heroes & Villains – The Art of the Disney Costume

Exhibit Entrance Display

Dave Smith started the Walt Disney Archives back on June 22nd of 1970. Just ahead of the opening of Walt Disney World. Every effort has been made since to collect and preserve important artifacts from every facet of the company.

Occasionally we get to see some of those artifacts! This is one such exhibit. My review is full of spoilers, so be forewarned:

The exhibit starts in a smaller room consisting primarily of costumes from various versions of Cinderella. There is a film featuring the Disney Costumers responsible for the live-action wardrobes of our favorite characters. It loops every few minutes. Let’s step inside:

Cinderella – 2015

Once inside the main auditorium, we start to find more characters and many, many villains! Let’s have a look:

You really get a sense of the detail that the Costumers put into each and every dress when you get up close and personal with them. On film, much of this detail gets lost. Giselle’s dress from Enchanted is a good example! Treat yourself to a look by enlarging the picture.

“You will always remember this as the day you almost caught (a photo) of Captain Jack Sparrow.” But you only got a glimpse of his clothes.

There were dozens of costumes featuring characters from Disney live-action films both on the Big Screen and television. Some dated back to the 1960s. I’ve only given you a taste. If you can catch this travelling exhibit when it comes to a city near you, I’d highly recommend it! I couldn’t find any information on the Net as to where it will be going after it leaves The Henry Ford.

There is an interactive feature called The Magic Mirror where you can put yourself into the costumes of your favorite characters. It was malfunctioning when we were there.

A table was set up with a Cast Member to walk children through the use of colour to show or express emotions. It was low key and not promoted strongly, perhaps because of lingering COVID-19 concerns. The gentlemen hosting the offering mostly waited to be approached. But there was little signage to indicate what he was doing, so I felt it was a bit off-putting, and could have been handled better.

Along with the actual costumes you could also find Concept Art, such as with the original and new Mary Poppins versions above.

And do you exit through the obligatory Gift Shop? No. No you do not. At The Henry Ford, you have to walk across the main display floor to a hastily repurposed gift shop. The space is temporarily renamed The Costumer’s Vault for the duration of the exhibit:

We were a little disappointed in this gift shop. It had generic Disney merchandise, much of which you could find on any given day at Walmart, and very little offerings featuring the exhibit or the Walt Disney Archives. The one specific thing they did offer was a hardcover book on the exhibit, which they were out of after less than two weeks of being open. You can order it from The Henry Ford online store, but it is backordered, so you will have to wait. It is supposed to be restocked by the end of July, 2022. Being as we are Members of The Henry Ford, we will just pick one up the next time we visit.

I would give this exhibit 5 out of 5 Stars for any Disney fan. I did notice that non-Disney fans basically cruised through the rooms and left rather quickly. Even some Disney appreciators left before fully taking in the entire exhibit (one woman was overheard to say to her partner: “I’m done.”) It’s like anything really, you’re either into it or you’re not!

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