For metro Detroiters who can’t make it to “The Happiest Place on Earth,” Disney is bringing some of its “magic” here. Through Jan. 1, 2023, the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn is hosting the traveling Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume exhibit. Curated by the Walt Disney Archives, the exhibition showcases more than 70 original costumes and props spanning 55 years.
According to Joanna Pratt, senior manager of operations and programs for the Walt Disney Archives, there are thousands of pieces preserved in the company’s collection. Heroes and Villains — which is divided into the sections Disney Heroes, Disney Villains, and Spaces Between — gives fans the chance to see the costumes up close and understand how they help filmmakers and actors tell a story. “It’s all about the storytelling in our exhibits, just like anything Disney does,” she says.
Within the heroes section, guests will find costumes like Belle’s ballgown from the 2017 live-action Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins’ traveling dresses — one from the 1964 film with Julie Andrews and the other from the 2019 film starring Emily Blunt — along with her iconic bag. Meanwhile, the villains area features costumes worn by the witches in 1993’s Hocus Pocus and the dress worn by Bette Davis in 1978’s Return from Witch Mountain. And Spaces Between features costumes by characters who toe the line between good and evil, including the 2014 Maleficent played by Angelina Jolie and the Evil Queen from the ABC show Once Upon a Time.
Each costume is accompanied by a museum label that shares which film or television show the garment was featured in, who wore it, the name of the costume designer who created it, and notes on the piece from designers and actors. Some costumes — such as the ones worn by The Beast and Gaston in Beauty and The Beast — are also dressed on mannequins in action poses. “It was fun trying to get measurements for these costumes, and when we got the [mannequins] delivered, we were like, ‘these are massive,’” Pratt says. “We wanted to pose them in iconic scenes.”
There’s also a section dedicated to costume sketches, an interactive mirror that allows attendees to see what the garments look like on them, and a Cinderella’s Workshop space that features Cinderella dresses from the 1997 Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella television movie starring Brandy, Once Upon a Time, 2014’s Into the Woods, and the 2015 live-action remake of Cinderella with actress Lily James.
Within the workshop, attendees can see how the glass slipper from the 2015 film came to be through a display that shows the prop in its early plastic design to its final Swarovski crystal stage. “We really try to get into the production and the hard work of all the costume designers, so you’re seeing the process of how the 2015 Cinderella glass slipper was made,” Pratt says. “I think it’s very important to look at, and it’s an under-rated asset in this exhibition.”
In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum is hosting Clothing Studio Demonstrations on Fridays from July 1 to Sept. 23 and Nov. 11 to 25. During the demonstrations, which will be held near the exhibit, seamstresses from the Henry Ford’s Period Clothing Studio will demonstrate their skills on storybook costumes and historic garments. Disney films with items in Heroes and Villains — including Pirates of The Caribbean, Cinderella, Enchanted, National Treasure, Hocus Pocus, and Beauty and the Beast — will also be shown at The Henry Ford’s Giant Screen Experience theater on select dates from July through November.
The Henry Ford is the second museum to host Heroes and Villains. After premiering at the 2019 D23 Expo, an annual event held by the Disney fan club, the exhibit went to MoPOP, Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture. Access to Heroes and Villains is free for museum members and is included with regular admission.
For more information, visit thehenryford.org.