New exhibit at The Henry Ford aims to enchant with iconic Disney costumes

It’s a question any Disney fan might debate: does the costume make the character? Or does the character make the costume?

If Disney’s enchanting new exhibit at The Henry Ford is any indication, the answer is undoubtedly both. Costumes bring characters to life, say Walt Disney Company archivists, though the stories themselves guide designers. Cinderella wouldn’t be Cinderella without her ball gown and Maleficent wouldn’t be Maleficent without her horn-like headpiece.

Both costumes are part of “Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume,” which opens Saturday inside Henry Ford’s Museum of American Innovation is sure to delight Disney fans as well as anyone who appreciates intricate design. and reflected.

The exhibit, which debuts in the Midwest and runs through January, shows how incredibly detailed the costumes of some of Disney’s most beloved (and reviled) characters are, including Jack Sparrow from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. “, Mary Poppins and Belle from “Beauty and the Beast”.

Captain Hector Barbossa (centre) worn by actor Geoffrey Rush, 2003, of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is one of many costumes on display at the

“Everybody knows Disney animation — they know we make live-action movies — but it’s the craftsmanship behind the movies that’s so important,” Becky Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives, said in a statement. California. This is to pay tribute “to the talent and artistry of these designers”.

The exhibit features more than 70 costumes featured in 32 films and TV shows from the 1960s to the 2010s, including “Cinderella”, “A Shortcut in Time”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Beauty and the Beast” and the TV show “Once upon a time”.

Cinderella fans especially will be in fairy tale heaven. The exhibit opens with an entire gallery devoted to the various incarnations of Cinderella’s ballgown, including the 2015 film starring Lily James; another from 1997’s “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” featuring pop star Brandy and Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother; a third from 2014’s “Into the Woods”; and a fourth from the television series “Once Upon a Time”.

A costume worn by Helena Bonham Carter, who played the Fairy Godmother in 2015

“We have so many different versions of Cinderella in our library that we thought it would be really interesting to take a character and see how four different designers created that character and their iconic ballroom costume,” Cline said. . “They took the same character and made them completely different.”

For the 2015 film, costume designer Sandy Powell used 10,000 Swarovski crystals to create just the right level of shine for James’ ballgown and a special fabric to make it flow effortlessly in a ballroom. It has three miles of hems.

“They wanted something very iridescent and floaty because she does this huge ballroom dance and it has to be the center of attention,” Cline said. “So instead of the traditional blue and white from the animated film, they did layers and layers of iridescent fabric. It moves beautifully when she dances.”

And of course there’s Cinderella’s glass slipper (though James never wore the slipper in the movie).

“It’s a prop. It was CG slippers for the movie,” Cline explains.

Two of the oldest costumes are a 1964 “Mary Poppins” costume worn by Julie Andrews and a costume worn by Hollywood icon Bette Davis in 1978’s “Return to Witch Mountain”. There is another Mary Poppins costume from 2018’s “Mary Poppins Returns” starring Emily Blunt, too (and yes, there’s even Mary Poppins’ bag.)

A 1964 costume worn by Julie Andrews in

And some of the newer costumes are from 2019’s live-action “Dumbo” starring Colin Farrell and Danny DeVito. One detail that will surprise some is how short some of these actors and actresses are.

And the exhibit isn’t just for Disney fans. Kate Morland, head of exhibits at Henry Ford, said if the reaction from their staff is any indication, there are Disney fans who are thrilled to be in the presence of such iconic costumes and those who simply appreciate good design.

“People can still look at these costumes and appreciate all the design work that went into them and all the craftsmanship,” Morland said.

Suits, left to right, Prince Edward from Enchanted (2007) worn by Marsden;  Dastan from the movie Prince of Persia;  The Sands of Time worn by actor Jake Gyllenhaal;  Prince from Cinderella (2015) worn by actor Richard Madden, on display at Heroes & Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume Presented by the Walt Disney Archives, at The Henry Ford in Dearborn on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

Cline said that in the end, she hopes visitors leave with “a newfound appreciation” for the artistry hidden within these pieces. The Walt Disney Company archives, which only began in the 1970s, now number thousands of items.

The costumes are “just as important as the cinematography, the lighting, and the scenes,” Cline said. “You’ll notice the backgrounds, or how filmed they are, or the gigantic sets, ‘Oh, this is Cinderella’s ballroom. It’s amazing.’ But her dress is just as important to the storytelling. At Disney, it’s all about telling the story. The costume is all about the storytelling. There are stories in each of these costumes.

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“Heroes and Villains: The Art of Disney Costume”

at The Henry Ford, presented by the Walt Disney Archives.

Opens on Saturday and ends on January 1, 2023.

Included with admission to Henry Ford.

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