Did you know San Francisco is home to The Walt Disney Family Museum? The 40,000 square foot museum is located in a historic brick building, that was once a barracks, in San Francisco’s Presidio, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation area. It was co-founded by Walt’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller and his grandson in October of 2009, and is owned and operated by the non profit Walt Disney Family foundation.
The Walt Disney Family Museum uses state of the art technology to bring Walt Disney’s achievements to life through interactive displays that highlight his life and legacy by showcasing his dreams, successes, failures, animation and theme parks. Visitors can view historic documents, a 14 foot model of Disneyland, over 200 video screens, early drawings, listening stations and more. There’s a Fantasia themed theater with 114 seats that shows Disney classics six days a week.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I found out we would be visiting. I was pleasantly surprised with the story of Walt Disney’s life displayed through over 1600 original artifacts and works of art. Each section of the museum is not only visually stunning, but there is a ton of audible information and entertainment offered as well. At the listening stations visitors can hear stories told by Walt, his wife, friends and colleagues in their own words. Exhibits include concept art from classics like Snow White, character model statues, family photos, scripts, musical scores, cameras and home movies of the Disney family.
I really had no clue how interesting of a life Walt lived and all the trials and tribulations he went through. He was a man of great success, but definitely worked very hard at getting there.
“My father has one of the most well-known names around the world, but as the Disney ‘brand’ has grown, the man has become lost,” said Diane Disney Miller, one of the Museum’s founders. “We are committed to telling the story of Walt Disney’s life, in his own words, and in the words of others who knew him well and worked with him. My father was very open, and in the many conversations and interviews that you will hear in the galleries, you learn the story of his life. It is a wonderful story, and Dad himself loved to tell it. Thanks to the amazing work of many dedicated people, we are fortunate to be able to tell it here using the tools he worked with—art, music, film, and technology—to present an honest yet affectionate portrait of this amazing artist and man.”
The Museum consists of ten galleries, here are some highlights of the exhibits:
- Early drawings Walt Disney made in his youth
- Drawings and cartoons from Laugh-O-Gram Films, Disney’s first company that went bankrupt
- The earliest known drawings of Mickey Mouse
- Storyboards, a Disney innovation that map out timeless film classics like Dumbo, Bambi etc.
- The technically innovative multiplane camera that brought vibrancy and depth to his revolutionary feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
- The unique Snow White Academy Award®, which includes a full-size Oscar® and seven miniature castings
- The narrow-gauge Lilly Belle train Disney built for his Hollywood home
On of my favorite parts of the tour was getting a peak into the everyday home life of Walt and seeing the knick knacks he loved to collect (miniatures!) and a hand written note by him spelling out what he enjoyed eating. He was very particular about what he ate and enjoyed plain, no frills meals and was very precise about having only ONE type of vegetable. One of his favorite meals was “spam and eggs w biscuits and honey”. Seeing this note also gave me a surprising revelation – while Walt Disney was surely a genius, he would win no spelling bees!
By the end of the tour, I really felt like I had “lived” through his life. And so of course when I came to the end and watched the news reporter on the old school black and white wooden TV tell the world of his death, I stopped and got teary eyed myself. :(
Each month the museum also has special movie screenings, lectures and discussions. There’s also a Wolfgang Puck cafe and Museum store with books and other Disney items available to purchase. A must see for any true Disney fan, the museum is open Wednesday through Monday (the museum is closed on Tuesdays) and tickets can be purchased online.
Thank you to Disney for sponsoring this visit. No compensation was received and all opinions are my own.