Visiting San Francisco Add The Walt Disney Family Museum To Your List
When you think about the city of San Francisco there are so many great things to see and do. I’ve shared about things to do when visiting San Francisco before and on my list was the Walt Disney Family Museum. When I wrote the blog post I’d never visited the museum so I was very excited when it made our itinerary during the #Incredibles2Event.
The Walt Disney Family Museum was opened by the Walt Disney Family Foundation on October, 1st 2009 in the Presidio of San Francisco. When the decision was made to open a museum in Walt’s name his daughter, Diane Disney Miller was tapped to help with the process. Her goal was to tell her father’s story in his voice and the voices of those who knew him and worked with him. Throughout the exhibits, you can hear interview clips of Walt telling his life story.
There are ten interactive galleries that tell the stories of Disney’s life, creativity, family, and the processes and innovations. When you first enter you start by learning about the Disney family tree. Highlights of the Museum include:
- Original drawings that Disney made in his youth
- Drawings and cartoons from Laugh-O-gram Films, Disney’s first company
- The earliest known drawings of Mickey Mouse
- Storyboards, a Disney innovation that maps out timeless film classics
- The technically innovative Multiplane Camera that brought vibrancy and depth to his revolutionary feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
- An interactive station that allows visitors to synchronize film and music
- Disney’s 26 individual Academy Awards as well as the unique Snow White Academy Award®, which includes a full-size Oscar® and seven miniature castings
- Gallery 9, an eye-popping 2-story gallery that features the narrow-gauge Lilly Belle train Disney built for his Hollywood home, a 14-foot diameter model of the Disneyland of Walt’s imagination and dozens of video screens that showcase his television programs from the 1950s and beyond
- In addition to the galleries, the Museum contains a 114-seat screening facility, a learning center, a store, and a café.
Walt’s Early Years
When you first enter the museum, you start by getting a close look at the Disney family tree. We see early photos of Walt’s family and how his parents started their lives on a farm in Kansas. In this room, I learned a lot about his early life and his determination from an early age.
I was amazed to learn that at the age of thirteen Walt was delivering newspapers on his father’s newspaper route. He even lied about his age to take a job working on the train selling papers and then again to join the American Ambulance Corps following the end of World War I.
Boy did this room make me feel like a bag of lazy bones. I know my kids would frown at getting up at 3:30 in the morning to do work before going to school.
Learning About Walt’s Failures
When we think about Walt Disney we don’t often hear or think about ways he’s failed. I loved that the museum chooses to highlight his entire body of work, even those that were not successful including his company he created in Kansas City Newman Laugh-O-grams that went bankrupt within a year of opening.
Once you walk through the second exhibit you get to the end and you have to take an elevator ride (which signifies Walt’s move to Hollywood) to the next chapter in his life. There we learn about his first successes and the hard business lesson he learns when working with Charles Mintz.
Walt Goes to Hollywood
In 1923 Walt Disney moves to Hollywood with just $40 in his pocket and a suitcase of clothes. He landed a contract for Alice Comedies, a series filmed in live action with a little girl interacting with animated characters. The does not do well and you can read a letter from his boss about the money lost on the project.
Walt’s work on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was contacted by Charles Mintz, so when the cartoon series was a success, he asked the distributor for a bigger budget, once he realized Mintz was after his company Walt Disney Studios, he cut ties and abandoned the character.
Shorty after Mickey Mouse was created, and he becomes a national sensation. The year after he walks away from Oswald he produces Steamboat Willie, the cartoon synchronized sound, and animation.
Introducing A Princess
The first feature-length animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs introduces us to a princess that would lead the way for a movement that continues to inspires and motivate girls and women today. Walt Disney Studios’ multiplane camera simultaneously shoots several levels of cels and backgrounds and gives depth to its films, and it was used to create Snow White.
Take A Seat And Dream Big
Most people who are huge Disney fans know the story of the famed Walt Disney bench that he would sit on and come up with ideas in Disneyland. When you’re visiting the museum be sure to take a seat, gaze off into the distance at the San Francisco Bay Bridge and dream big. Think of what you want or get the creative juices flowing before moving on to the next section of the museum where you will learn more about films like Mary Poppins, Cinderella, and the birth of Disneyland.
The Birth of Disneyland
I loved getting to see this model of Disneyland that Walt used to plan and design the park. It’s the most spectacular thing you’ll ever see. It’s amazing that you can look at the plans he had for the park.
While things have changed over the years and we’re seeing so many new things added to the park including the upcoming Pixar Pier installation, taking a look at the model made me wish I was off to Disneyland next.
The End and Beginning
When you walk into the final exhibit of the museum, you’re not sure what’s happening until you see the art on the walls. You’re greeted by the sound of a news broadcast playing on an old television screen. When you stop and listen, it’s the broadcast reporting the passing of Walt Disney.
On the wall, there are recordings of co-workers and close friends who share their thoughts about the passing of the icon. We see the walls filled with mourners and it hits you hard. Although it was the end of Walt Disney’s life it wasn’t the end of his legacy. The fact that thousands of people stand in that room every day the museum is open and relive his life through the exhibits, tells us just how much he left behind.
I stood in the room wondering why it was the end of how Roy Disney’s contributions added to Walt’s legacy. There was so much to see and take in and even now I feel like I’ve missed something.
Special Exhibition: Make Believe – The World of Glen Keane
The museum has a special exhibit on display from now through Spetember 3rd, 2018. Free with your paid admission get a special look at Disney Animator Glen Keane’s work. I especially loved this exhibit because of the work involving The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.
The Little Mermaid was a special Disney film for me, because it was the first movie I introduced to my daughter when I was sharing my love of the films with her. She loved it almost immediately. While browsing the exhibit I learned that Glen actually modeled Ariel from his wife.
Plan Your Visit
The Walt Disney Family Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except for Tuesdays, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Adult tickets costs $20, while children six and under are free. Active and retired military, their spouses, and their dependents enjoy free admission.
Before heading to the Walt Disney Family Museum, we made a pit stop at Lucusfilm to take a photo with the Yoda fountain and get a quick look at some Star Wars items. Just a short walk from the museum I highly recommend stopping here when visiting the area.