Past Exhibition

The Lost Notebook: Secrets of Disney's Movie Magic

Nov 26, 2014 – Jan 12, 2015
Theater Gallery

Herman Schultheis—a camera technician who was employed at The Walt Disney Studios for only a few years in the 1930s—kept a thoroughly meticulous scrapbook, which captured the behind-the-scenes ingenuity of some of Disney’s earlier films, including FantasiaPinocchioDumbo, and Bambi. Filled with photographs, artwork, and detailed descriptions of how special effects and films were created at the studios, these covert notebooks not only documented movie-making wizardry, but also offer a glimpse inside the perplexing personal life of this fascinating man.

 Not too long after his sudden and abrupt termination at The Walt Disney Studios in 1940, Schultheis left the film business, and disappeared into the jungles of Guatemala in 1955. His notebook was all but forgotten until 1990, when historians discovered it hidden in his recently deceased widow’s estate.

This modest exhibition takes visitors behind the lens with one of the most enigmatic and fascinating characters of early animation. Using more than 100 objects, conceptual artwork, character models, and even a handful of never-exhibited-before artifacts, The Lost Notebookuncovers the secrets behind Disney’s movie magic.

The actual notebook, which has been referred to as the Rosetta Stone of early special-effects animation, is permanently on display at The Walt Disney Family Museum’s core galleries. Though behind glass in an effort to conserve and protect the integrity of its pages, this compelling and beautiful book has been entirely digitized so that visitors can explore, scan, and zoom through every single one of its pages by means of a completely immersive, interactive, and multi-media touch-table.

Additionally, this notebook has been turned into a 292-paged book with annotations, background information, and a biography on Schultheis. The Lost Notebook is written by exhibition co-curator John Canemaker, and is available at the Museum Store or online at

The Lost Notebook: Secrets of Disney’s Movie Magic is produced by The Walt Disney Family Museum and admission is free with general museum admission.


Michael Labrie has not only been the director of collections for the Walt Disney Family Foundation for more than ten years, but also the director of exhibitions at The Walt Disney Family Museum. He has curated a number of exhibitions, including Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong—a life retrospective on a 104-year old Asian American artist who was responsible for the layout background drawings of Disney’s 1940 classic Bambi.

John Canemaker is an Academy Award-, Emmy Award-, and Peabody Award-winning animation director and designer. His twenty-eight-minute film The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation, won the 2005 Oscar for Best Animated Short, and his more than twenty films (and their original art) are in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. He is also a tenured professor and director of the animation program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He is the author of twelve books on animation history, including Winsor McCay- His Life and ArtMAGIC, COLOR, FLAIR: the world of Mary Blair, and Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation