Fans who agree Disneyland is indeed the happiest place on Earth will soon be able to take home more than a souvenir.
A passionate collector has brought Disney magic to a sprawling 30,000-square-foot (2,800-square-meter) building in Burbank, California, where fans can hear birds chirping in the Enchanted Tiki Room section or giggle at the animated ghosts from the Haunted Mansion ride as they preview more than 1,500 items up for auction later this month.
Joel Magee has been building his collection of more than 6,000 items — including costumes, rare posters, and life-size vehicles from rides like Dumbo and Peter Pan — for 30 years, and he’s finally ready to share some of it with the public.
"I’m one of those guys — go big or go home. And if you don’t have the biggest, then it ain’t the best," Magee told The Associated Press in a recent interview, as fans milled about the exhibit. Magee’s is the largest individually owned Disneyland/Disney Park collection in the world.
"It’s really kind of exciting. This is the first time that all of my things have been in the same room at the same time," he said.
Magee is known in the collectible industry as "the toy scout," and has amassed a huge collection of toys and Disney items. He says he watched "The Wonderful World of Disney" on TV every week as a kid but had never been to the park and never thought about collecting until he was at a toy show where he met a man selling Disneyland artifacts and got hooked.
"At the time, I couldn’t afford too much. I bought a couple of pieces, but that’s where it all began," Magee said. "In my travels as ‘the toy scout,’ I meet people all over the country and for the last 25 years, they’ve just been bringing me all their stuff and here it is today."
The items for sale are as small as a trading card and as large as a 1917 Model T moving van from Disneyland’s original Main Street that Magee says Walt Disney created himself.
Mike Van Eaton is the co-owner of Van Eaton Galleries, which is running the auction. He says among the most sought-after items are those from the Haunted Mansion attraction, including original stretch paintings from the elevator in the iconic ride, and a "doom buggy" — the vehicle guests ride on.
"Joel also has one of the most amazing Disney attraction poster collections in the world. He has every attraction poster ever in the park. And those are also going to do very well," Van Eaton said.
Photo credit: Van Eaton Galleries
There are items for every price point, with some starting as low as $50 — but most go way up from there.
"Some of these items, such as the Dumbo ride vehicle, may go for $200,000 to $300,000. We have trash cans from the park that may go for $5,000 or $6,000, and posters that could reach $50,000 to $60,000," Van Eaton said.
Magee says it’s hard to choose his favorites in such a large collection but he is partial to the static props he’s brought to life.
"The Tiki birds, oh my gosh, they were piles of junk when we got them! They were worn out, pieces were missing," Magee said. "Some good friends of mine that do a lot of work … in that field brought them all back to life better than you could ever imagine. And … people look at that and you can just see the magic in their eyes when they see them."
The exhibition is at the Burbank Town Center Mall and runs through July 16. The auction will be held July 17 through 19.