D23 Expo Kicks Off The Walt Disney Company's 100-Year Anniversary Celebration With 'Step in Time' Exhibit

The immersive exhibit features many photo ops and some never-before-publicly-displayed items.
by Danielle Turchiano — 

The eyes follow you home.

Art from the Haunted Mansion on display at D23 Expo


It may only be September 2022, but when your company is celebrating a 100-year anniversary, you start early and you go big.

That's exactly what The Walt Disney Company is doing for its centennial, which it doesn't cross until October 2023 but which it is kicking off at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif. 

Dubbed "Disney100," the celebration begins with a "Step in Time" immersive exhibit from the Walt Disney Archives. On the Expo floor, Disney fans walk through a giant 100 to enter and follow a timeline of Disney magic that begins with a full-size Steamboat Willie Riverboat photo opportunity and some of the earliest Mickey Mouse merchandise, from a tie rack to an electric toy oven and figurines. (It might go without saying, but none of the items in this exhibit are for sale.)

Rebecca Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives, was on hand during the Media Preview for the exhibit to share that this one is "a little bit different than what we've done in the past." This is, in great part, because of the many photo opportunities throughout. Although the riverboat is the first, additional formal ones for which you can queue include sitting at a table at Club Ritz (from Dick Tracy) and stepping into a giant television to have your go at the iconic Disney Channel Wand IDs.

The exhibit has something for almost every Disney fan, including but not limited to costumes and large-scale props from Mary Poppins, set pieces from the Haunted Mansion, a Star Wars display with a couple of key characters (including BB-8), and video games and props from Tron.

"And of course, one thing I like to do is bring out things we haven't shared before, so we have a vignette in there that's about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the premiere of that film. We have the standees that were made for the premiere in Europe in 1923. So, pretty excited; we haven't shared those publicly before," Cline said.

The exhibit is on display all weekend at the D23 Expo, but then in February 2023 a different version of the exhibit will open at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. This one is "the biggest exhibit that the archives have ever done and one of the biggest, I think, that Disney has ever done," Cline said. 

And yes, if you visit that one, you will get a different experience than at the one at the D23 Expo. Cline said that exhibit, which will run for five years in two units (one traveling around North America and one going international) will still celebrate the magic of Disney but lean into a "different tone and theme."

Those at the expo can learn even more on Sept. 10, as producers from the Walt Disney Archives and Semmel Exhibitions, which is putting on this five-year traveling exhibit event, will participate in a panel titled "The Making of Disney100: The Exhibition" in order to peel back the curtain on what's to come.


Enter the 'Step in Time' exhibit to take a ride on the Steamboat Willie Riverboat at the D23 Expo


Step into 'Star Wars' at the D23 Expo

Danielle Turchiano

For the first time, the Walt Disney Archives is publicly displaying 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' standees from the European premiere.

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Be the star of your own throwback Disney Channel ID at the D23 Expo

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Get up close and personal with Julie Andrews' iconic 'Mary Poppins' costume at the D23 Expo

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'Mary Poppins' props and set decorations are also on display at the D23 Expo, but no, you cannot ride this!

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Step into the future with a corner dedicated to 'Tron' at the D23 Expo

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Warren Beatty's 'Dick Tracy' costume is on display at the D23 Expo

Danielle Turchiano