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Disneyland, with its far-flung colonies in Florida, Japan and France as well as affiliated city-states such as EPCOT, is a key symbol of contemporary American culture, that has been both celebrated and attacked as the ultimate embodiment of consumer society, of simulation and pastiche, of the blurring of distinctions between reality and mass-media imagery. The Architecture of Reassurance: Designing the Disney Theme Parks looks behind the multiple myths of Disneyland, charting the evolution of the parks through a process of becoming in which the “magic” of Disney moves closer to the real world.

The Architecture of Reassurance follows the layout of the parks themselves – from berm, to Main Street, and from hub to “lands”: Frontierland and Adventureland, playing on the relationship between humankind, myth, and nature; Fantasyland, with its imagery from the movies; and Tomorrowland, with its once optimistic visions of the future becoming sinister, playful and ironic.

Some 350 objects selected from the archives of Walt Disney Imagineering are presented, including plans, drawings, paintings and models for the parks and their attractions. These essential visual archives reveal the intentions and methods of the design team for the parks called the Imagineers. In addition, the exhibition presents original photographs by Catherine Wagner, specially commissioned by the CCA. This major photographic project focuses on Disney’s environments and structures as cultural artifacts.

The Architecture of Reassurance is curated by Karal Ann Marling, Professor of Art History and American Studies at the University of Minnesota.

A 224-page book, edited by Karal Ann Marling, accompanies the exhibition.

The exhibition was also presented at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (26 October 1997 to 18 January 1998), the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York (6 October 1998 to 10 January 1999), the Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth (13 February to 11 April 1999), The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (19 June to 10 October 1999), and The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (2 July to 3 September 2000).


Karal Ann Marling, University of Minnesota, exhibition curator


Dayton Hudson Foundation
, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
, Bell Canada
, Banque Royale / Royal Bank
, Teleglobe Canada Inc.