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A Visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum

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Did you know San Francisco is home to The Walt Disney Family Museum? It was co-founded by Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller and grandson Walter E.D. Miller. Located in a what was once barracks this 40,000 square foot historic building sits in San Francisco over looking the Golden Gate Bridge.

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The Walt Disney Family choose to home the Museum in San Francisco because it has become a center for animation. What an incredible way to honor a man who spent his life in the pursuit to enhance the art of animation!

A couple weeks ago, as I journeyed through the Walt Disney Family Museum for the second time, I was no less impressed. (Plus we got to take pictures this time around – woo hoo!)

In the lobby of the museum you’ll find furniture from the Disney family apartment that was located above the fire station at Disneyland.

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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.

Once Upon A Time

The tour begins with Walt’s early years.In the first gallery we saw early drawings and mementoes from his childhood, as well as cameras similar to those he used in Kansas City.

Fun Fact: Walt Disney received a quarter for drawing a horse when he was a child – the first time he was paid for his art.

Walt was so determined to go to war that he changed his birthdate to 1900 instead of 1901 to meet the minimum draft age. Here is his passport stating he was born in 1900.

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So at 16 years old, Walt went to France to drive an ambulance in the war.

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After the war, Walt Disney began his legacy as a man whose artistry and imagination helped sculpt 20th Century America. Throughout his lifetime, Walt Disney experienced tremendous success, loss, obstacles and incredible optimism.

Walt Disney’s first animation studio Laugh-O-Gram where he produced 6 one reel cartoons from 1921-22. In 1923, Laugh-O-Gram films declares bankruptcy and Walt leaves Kansas City for Hollywood. He had very little money but splurged on a 1st class railroad ticket for $40.

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Walt’s first studio was set up in his uncles garage. His “Alice Comedies” starring Virginia Davis were of live stop action intermixed w animation.

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It’s common knowledge the Disney cemented in his fame and empire with Mickey Mouse but there were many before him. Walt Disney’s first cartoon character was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit!

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Walt’s first Mickey Mouse cartoon was Plane Crazy and the second was Gallopin Gaucho. Both were without sound and unknown due to lack of interest. With the third Mickey Mouse film, Steamboat Willie, Walt joined the vanguard of the talking-picture revolution by creating an animated film with synchronized sound.

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Walt Disney Family Museum 10With Mickey Mouse success Walt expanded the newly renamed Walt Disney Studios and improved the quality of Studio animation. Disney’s first feature length film was Snow White.

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NOTE: Disney’s Academy Award for Snow White was the only time the Oscar was ever modified!

After the worldwide success of Snow White, Disney Studios built a new home in Burbank, CA, and produced even more ambitious features, such as Bambi, Pinocchio and Fantasia.

One 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!

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The period in the 1930’s and 1940’s was full of strife for Walt Disney. It’s been said that it was a time of dissapointments and disillusionments. It began with the death of his parents and then a studio strike that threatened the companies foundation. And then the war struck and part of Disney Studios was used as Military Base.

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Perseverance…Happily Ever After

Despite everything that was going on Disney Studios released Dumbo and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

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Walt Disney also found ways to support the war efforts training films and public service shorts.  After the war as the nation rebuilt so did Walt Disney. And then it happened – the ideas that made him prolific.

Walt Disney was always fascinated with trains. He even built one the Lilly Belle to be ridden around his house.

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It was this that sparked the idea of Disneyland. Walt actually used ABC & NBCs interest in creating a Disney TV series as a medium for subsidizing his Disneyland park – Ingenius, right?

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Aside from movies and theme parks, did you know that Disney was responsible for inducting the torch relay for 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics?

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It was during the next, and last, 15 years of his life that “Walt created the templates for family television entertainment and outdoor family recreation while also infusing the promise of space exploration and urban planning with a sense of wonder and awe.”

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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. The wall here is full of art that was done by countless many in memorandum of Walt’s Life.

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This museum is truly incredible and a great place to take your family if you ever visit San Francisco. It’s a little know gem and I promise you, your family will be intrigued for much longer than you think! (Plan at least 2-3 hours to walk through).

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Jeana S

Jeana S

Research lab rat turned travel mom, Jeana S writes about gadgets, tech, entertainment, weddings and of course, travel. When she's not using her powers for social good, she enjoys photography, cooking and playing robots with her son. On occasion, you may also find her crocheting cute things to hide in Ben's underwear drawer.


  1. judy gardner
    May 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm — Reply

    i love museums ad this looks fun and fascinating!

  2. May 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm — Reply

    this would be great for the whole family so fun

  3. July 17, 2014 at 4:59 pm — Reply

    What’s up everyone, it’s my first go to see at this web site, and piece
    of writing is truly fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting these posts.

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