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Birmingham Museum of Art Brings Disney Magic to the Magic City on Sat. Feb. 17

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Cinderella Cinderella (2015) (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures), Walt Disney Archives, ©Disney. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)

By Javacia Harris Bowser | For the Birmingham Times

The Birmingham Museum of Art is set to unveil its presentation of Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume on Saturday, Feb. 17. Created by the Walt Disney Archives, this critically acclaimed exhibition features 70 costumes from nearly half a century of Disney films and television shows.

The exhibition runs through Aug. 18.

“These are the costumes that were worn in the iconic Disney films by major stars,” said Graham C. Boettcher, R. Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art. “They’re not facsimiles. They’re not spares. These are the very costumes that we got to see on screen in some of our most favorite Disney films. [We] get the opportunity to see these firsthand without having to pack a bag and get on a plane and rent a car and get a hotel [that’s] pretty exciting.”

Museum visitors can delight their inner child with the sight of the pirate garb worn by Johnny Depp when he played Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest in 2006. Fashionistas will appreciate Cruella De Vil’s couture that was sported by Emma Stone and Victoria Smurfit.

Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume showcases the work of renowned Hollywood designers including Academy Award winners Colleen Atwood, Sandy Powell, and Tony Walton, Emmy winner Ellen Mirojnick, and Emmy nominees Eduardo Castro and Penny Rose.

“The main purpose for this exhibition was to celebrate an aspect of film production that is not often looked at as an art and that’s the art of costume design,” said Becky Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives. “We wanted to take a look at the designers and show what actually goes into making these beautiful costumes. You see them on screen, but you don’t realize how much goes into designing and making these. The costumes themselves tell a story and help inform the characters of the actors.”

The exhibition includes reflections and anecdotes from the costume designers as well as preliminary sketches of some of the costumes.

The exhibition includes reflections and anecdotes from the costume designers as well as preliminary sketches of some of the costumes. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)

“Cinderella’s Workshop”

Inside the “Cinderella’s Workshop” gallery, visitors can gaze at the many different dresses worn by this classic character in a variety of Disney adaptations of the beloved tale. The collection includes the gown worn by singer and actress Brandy in the 1997 Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella as well as the dresses donned in 2014’s Into the Woods and the popular ABC series Once Upon a Time (which ran from 2011–2018).

In a video featuring interviews with the designers, Ellen Mirojnick recalls what it was like to see Brandy transformed once she slipped on the regal frock.

Cinderella’s Workshop features the tiaras worn in several of the adaptations and the molds used to make the famous glass slipper. The sketches featured in the workshop include a drawing of Whitney Houston as Cinderella’s fairy godmother.

The main exhibition gallery is organized into three sections: Living in the Light (which highlights heroes) Dwelling in the Darkness (dedicated to villains) and the Spaces Between (which explores the complex and intriguing antiheroes of Disney tales).

Attendees can admire Belle’s ball gown worn by Emma Watson in 2017’s Beauty and the Beast and learn how designer Marina Toybina helped singer and actress H.E.R. incorporate her Black and Filipino heritage into her Belle costume when she played the character in the 2022 television adaptation.

Fans of the film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time will enjoy seeing the colorful costume Michael Pena wore in the film as he took on the role of Red, one of the main antagonists in the movie. The elaborate gowns worn by Mrs. Who (played by Mindy Kaling) Mrs. Whatsit (played by Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Which (played by Oprah Winfrey) are also on display.

Visitors can marvel at the Maleficent costume that Anna B. Sheppard designed for Angelina Jolie.

The exhibition features a “Magic Mirror” so guests can see themselves in some of the costumes. The exhibit is also full of fun facts. When Colleen Atwood was designing Michael Keaton’s look for his role as V. A. Vandevere in the 2019 Dumbo, the actor was adamant about not wanting to wear a necktie. So, Atwood went with a cravat.

The team has Birmingham Museum of Art has been working on getting Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume to the city since 2022 when a group of BMA supporters saw the exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit. The exhibit has also run at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. The Birmingham Museum of Art will be the third museum to host the exhibition. Previously, Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume made its debut at the 2019 D23 Expo, the Ultimate Disney Fan Event presented by D23: The Official Disney Fan Club.

The Birmingham Museum of Art’s presentation of Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume is made possible in part by the support of the exhibit’s presenting sponsor PNC Bank.

Related programming for all ages – including summer camp activities and after-hours events – is in the works. Even Juniper at BMA, the museum’s new café, has joined the fun. The dining area is decked out in décor that makes it seem ready to host a pirate party.

“I hope that people will come early and come often,” Boettcher said, “to have a piece of Walt Disney magic in the Magic City.”

The Birmingham Museum of Art’s presentation of Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume created by the Walt Disney Archives and presented by PNC runs February 17, 2024, through August 18, 2024. Tickets are $30. Learn more and get tickets at artsbma.org.

The Birmingham Museum of Art is set to unveil its presentation of Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume on Saturday, Feb. 17. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)