A few weeks ago, I went to the Walt Disney Family Museum for the first time. I had been wanting to go for the last several years and I finally made it! And boy did it pay off.
The Museum lies in an old historic building in the Presidio section of San Francisco. The surrounding forests and national cemetery make this location a perfect spot for the museum.
Banners show the way as to what building the museum is located in. Another hint is on the front lawn: There sits a life size portrait of Walt Disney surrounded by Mickey Mouse dolls. And guess what? One Mickey doll’s face is cut out so you can place your head inside! See below:
Inside the lobby of the museum is the only place where photography is allowed. There one finds portraits of Walt and Lillian Disney along with hundreds of awards Walt has won in his lifetime. One glass case holds dozens of Oscars Walt has won including the special Oscar Shirley Temple presented to him for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.
For us Disneyland fans, a special treat is located in the lobby. There, they have set up a replica of Walt’s apartment above the firehouse on Main Street at Disneyland. From the pictures I have seen of the original, it looks perfect.
The Museum itself was incredible as it really is about Walt: the Man. There are many artifacts and photographs from his childhood days, his film and television days, and finally Disneyland. It was exciting to see cameras that Walt actually used to create his Alice shorts and other remarkable stories. When we get to the feature animation section of the museum, we find maquettes and artwork from “Snow White”, “Pinocchio”, and “Bambi” among others. It was really great to see these props that were so important to the production of these classic films.
The Disneyland section of the museum has some very neat things including a bust of Lincoln, which Blaine Gibson created for the New York World’s Fair (which later came to Disneyland), the animatronic torso of Lincoln, and an original Autopia car.
Then came the center piece of the Disneyland section. The Museum created a huge model of Disneyland, but this is Disneyland like you have never seen it before. This model included every attraction that Walt worked on personally, including those that he was not alive to see finished. What I really liked is that the Space Mountain which is displayed on the model is made to look like the John Hench concept artwork. The concept is all Walt saw of Space Mountain, so that was what was included. I also really loved how there are little figures (some animated) on the model. Behind the Pirates of the Caribbean building, there were little figures of the pirate on the barrels, the pirate on the cannon, and the Wicked Wench. Splashes were molded into the water and red lights would shine from the inside of those splashes. The Haunted Mansion had the hitchhiking ghosts, small world had children of the world spinning behind its facade, and Nature’s Wonderland had the spinning rocks! It was really one of the most incredible and detailed models I have ever seen. That alone is worth the price of admission.
Then came the conclusion to the Museum, which is heartbreaking. Old fashioned televisions and radios announce the death of Walt Disney and there is an entire wall of artwork from different newspapers announcing the death of Walt. Also on that wall were condolence telegrams from countless celebrities of film, television, and politics.
The Walt Disney Family Museum really does a remarkable job on giving us the story of Walt himself. Many kids forget that Disney was an actual person. This Museum helps remind us that Walt was real and that he touched the world. I highly recommend that every Disney fan visits this Museum. We all need to keep sight of one thing… It was all started by Walt.