I vaguely remember a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea exhibit at Disneyland in the late ’50s or early ’60s. It was complete with props and costumes. Know anything about it? Also, I think they had a full-scale, waterline replica of the Nautilus. How big was it and where is it now?
— Nostalgic in San Diego
As a movie tie-in, the exhibit you’re thinking of was on display at Disneyland from 1955–1966, and it included full-size sets from the movie. You might recall walking through them; marvelling at the glamor of the salon, the majesty of the pipe organ, and the terror of the giant squid. The waterline replica of the Nautilus you remember was big, but it was only a fraction of the ship (wheelhouse and some of the upper deck) recreated at 1:1 scale. I’m assuming you were little then, so it would have seemed tremendous, especially since walking through the exhibit created the impression of a stroll through the ship’s various chambers.
Disney being Disney, they are good about archiving old stuff and finding new uses for it. For one, Captain Nemo’s pipe organ has since found a new home in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Also, the 11-foot special-effects miniature version of the Nautilus that was on display at the original 20,000 Leagues exhibit (I bet you’d remember it if you saw it) is on display at the Ronald Reagan Museum as part of a program featuring iconic artifacts from the Disney archives. If you were wondering if you’d ever see any of that stuff again, you’ve got until April of this year to get up to Simi Valley.