Kraftland Richard Kraft was in a fog of grief when he bought his first Disney collectible at an auction. But once he started, he couldn't stop. In the first episode of our new fall season, we explore the role of positive distraction in the face of adversity.
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Kraftland

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Kraftland

Kraftland

Kraftland

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Mickey Mouse ears at the Kraftland exhibit. Morgan Baker for NPR hide caption

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Mickey Mouse ears at the Kraftland exhibit.

Morgan Baker for NPR

For a long time, walking through Richard Kraft's house in Los Angeles was like walking through an amusement park. The original Dumbo car in the living room, the Submarine Voyage Sea Serpent by the pool. Or the tennis court in the background filled with original ride vehicles from Disney. Not to mention the original Disneyland boats, ticket booths, and signage that sat in storage for years. But after decades of riding the thrill of ultra collecting, Kraft decided it was time to clean house and sell the collection. All 10,000 piece of it.

Kraft started collecting Disney artifacts shortly after his brother, David, died from complications from Crohn's disease in his early 30's. Kraft was in a fog of grief when he found himself driving to Disneyland. It was a place that their parents would take them when David was well enough and money was good. Walking down Main Street and following the path of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride — the first ride he and his brother always went on as kids —Kraft felt connected to his brother again. He bought his first Disney collectibles at an auction soon after that first visit.

But Kraft admits, he doesn't understand the meaning of limits. Once he started collecting, he wanted to become the top Disney collector. His grief became the fuel for his already competitive spirit as he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on original Disneyland pieces. It soon became intertwined with his identity, something all his friends and colleagues associated him with — the eccentric, nutso Disney collector.

In 2008, when his first child left for college, Kraft walked around the house packed with all this stuff and felt a chill. This bizarre monument of a home felt creepy — the glory days of nostalgia were over. Now, he was an empty nester with Dumbo.

So, in August of 2018, Kraft brought all the pieces together for the first and only time, transforming an old Sports Authority location in Sherman Oaks, California into "Kraftland." All the pieces were refurbished and grouped into themes, much like how the attractions at Disneyland are laid out. The exhibit ran for a month and was followed by a multi-day auction. Kraft says it felt like shedding a skin.

Here is a selection of photographs from the exhibit and auction.

Crowds line up for admission to "That's From Disneyland!", the exhibit of Kraft's extensive Disneyland collection. Morgan Baker for NPR hide caption

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Crowds line up for admission to "That's From Disneyland!", the exhibit of Kraft's extensive Disneyland collection.

Morgan Baker for NPR

The infamous Dumbo, which hung in Kraft's living room for many years. Morgan Baker for NPR hide caption

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Morgan Baker for NPR

The infamous Dumbo, which hung in Kraft's living room for many years.

Morgan Baker for NPR

Producer Meghan Keane interviews Kraft at the exhibit. Morgan Baker for NPR hide caption

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Morgan Baker for NPR

Producer Meghan Keane interviews Kraft at the exhibit.

Morgan Baker for NPR

"That's From Disneyland!" ran for a month and displayed over 10,000 items of Disneyland artifacts and memorabilia. Morgan Baker for NPR hide caption

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Morgan Baker for NPR

"That's From Disneyland!" ran for a month and displayed over 10,000 items of Disneyland artifacts and memorabilia.

Morgan Baker for NPR

Bob Gurr, one of the original Disney Imagineers, who is responsible for developing more than 100 designs for Disneyland attractions (including the ride he's sitting in). Morgan Baker for NPR hide caption

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Morgan Baker for NPR

Bob Gurr, one of the original Disney Imagineers, who is responsible for developing more than 100 designs for Disneyland attractions (including the ride he's sitting in).

Morgan Baker for NPR

Kraft leading a tour of the exhibit with Imagineer Bob Gurr. Morgan Baker for NPR hide caption

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Morgan Baker for NPR

Kraft leading a tour of the exhibit with Imagineer Bob Gurr.

Morgan Baker for NPR

The crowd jostles for a photo op of the doom buggy from the Haunted Mansion. Morgan Baker for NPR hide caption

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The crowd jostles for a photo op of the doom buggy from the Haunted Mansion.

Morgan Baker for NPR

(Left) This Tomorrowland poster was the first Disneyland artifact that Kraft collected. It would not be the last. (Center) Kraft collected anything and everything from Disneyland, including multiple trash cans. The sign reads: "THIS IS PART OF THE AUCTION. PLEASE DO NOT PUT TRASH INSIDE." (Right) A page of the auction catalogue. The auction raised over $8 million. Morgan Baker for NPR hide caption

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Morgan Baker for NPR

(Left) This Tomorrowland poster was the first Disneyland artifact that Kraft collected. It would not be the last. (Center) Kraft collected anything and everything from Disneyland, including multiple trash cans. The sign reads: "THIS IS PART OF THE AUCTION. PLEASE DO NOT PUT TRASH INSIDE." (Right) A page of the auction catalogue. The auction raised over $8 million.

Morgan Baker for NPR

Kraft shows off a Jungle Book poster at the auction. Morgan Baker for NPR hide caption

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Morgan Baker for NPR

Kraft shows off a Jungle Book poster at the auction.

Morgan Baker for NPR

Excitement bubbles over at the Kraftland auction. Morgan Baker for NPR hide caption

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Morgan Baker for NPR

Excitement bubbles over at the Kraftland auction.

Morgan Baker for NPR