Usually, if you plan a trip to California I’m sure you stay to the south to visit Disneyland, right? I learned about a place that is a MUST SEE few weeks ago. I highly recommend you make a trip to San Francisco to visit the Disney Family Museum. Located near the Golden Gate Bridge, the Walt Disney Family Museum brings Walt Disney’s legacy to life and invites you to find your own creative inspiration in his story.
Located in a historic brick building on the main post of San Francisco’s Presidio, the 40,000-square-foot museum begins in Walt’s early days in Chicago to moving across the country to California with just $40 in his pocket to his failures to successes and then to the end of Walt’s life. 10 distinct galleries walk you through Walt’s life and makes you love this man even more than you did before.
Walt’s story is told through innovative, interactive galleries. Visitors get to know Walt through early drawings and animation, movies, music, and listening stations featuring his own voice, 200 video screens, and more.
Disclosure: Disney, Pixar, and Disney Junior have sponsored my travel, accommodations, most meals, and activities during this event. All opinions (and fun) in this article here are mine unless noted otherwise.
Walter Elias Disney was born December 5, 1901, in Chicago, IL. The family soon moved to a Missouri farm in 1906 but soon after the family farm failed in 1911 they moved to Kansas City, MO and that’s where Walt’s love for cinema grew. His family moved back to Chicago in 1917 where Walt attended McKinley High School where he created cartoons for his high school yearbook. Afterward, he took classes at the Art Institute of Chicago and tried to enlist in the U.S. Army. Rejected for being underage, Walt changed his birth year to 1900 on his birth certificate so he would be 17, the legal age to join the American Ambulance Corps and arrived in France as World War I ended.
After Walt moved to California in 1923 he dabbled in directing and his own animation and eventually launched Disney Bros. Studio with his brother Roy. We learned about the fall of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit and how when in NYC Walt’s producer Charles Mintz decided to only give him 20% of Oswald’s proceeds. Walt, he would take a hit but said no deal. While heading back west on a train with his wife, Walt came up with an idea for a new cartoon character, a mouse named Mortimer Mouse.
Lillian wasn’t sold on the name Mortimer so after brainstorming a bit, they settled on Mickey Mouse.
After Steamboat Willy premiered, Mickey Mouse showed to be a huge success and from there merchandise was created from toys to cookware, watches and more. Everyone is enamored with this little mouse and couldn’t get enough of him.
Silly Symphonies was Walt’s next journey and the innovation of bringing color to his. The team made “Flowers and Trees” but after they established an exclusivity agreement with Technicolor Walt went back to the animations and asked them to redo the cartoon with color. They were definitely frustrated, but it paid off since “Flowers and Trees” ended up winning the first Academy Award for the studio. From that point, the studio started to redo all of their cartoons in color.
After some successes and a lot of failures and debt, Walt pushed on. He knew his vision had to come to life and he could make it. His love for animation and his goal was too much to give up on.
Learning about the man that had an imagination that helped define 20th-century America was magical and eye opening. The Disney Family Museum taught me more about Walt’s life than I had ever know and left me wanting to know more.
The museum ends with the death of Walt Disney. A very sad gallery indeed. We learn about his final days from his daughter Diane. How he felt, what he did, his final moments before passing around 9:35 am on December 15, 1966. Just after about 1 month of hearing he had 6 months – 2 years to live.
Walt Disney will, of course, be remembered for Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and even Disneyland – a dream to create a theme park that wasn’t dirty and “wouldn’t look like a honky tonk” – but in Hollywood he will be remembered for much more. Perhaps one of his greatest achievements will forever be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Because making the making of a screen cartoon is so tremendous and expensive that if it failed Walt would go bankrupt. There are over 250,000 individual picture frames in a two-hour motion picture. In a cartoon film, each one of those frames has to be drawn and photographed separately. The problem of matching characters, colors, and action seemed too insurmountable to everyone else… except Walt. As we know, it turned out to be a huge success for Walt and helped build what we grew up on, what our kids grow up on and what their kids will grow up on. All because one man wouldn’t give up on his dreams.
Listen to Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s daughter, speak about what the museum is to her.
With tickets ranging from $12-$20 (Admission is free for 6- and year-round for active and retired military, their spouses and dependents) it’s a part of Disney history that you and your family will love learning about.
Oh and remember how I mentioned the Golden Gate Bridge? You get a perfect, gorgeous view of the bridge inside the museum!
Learn More at www.WaltDisney.org
The Walt Disney Family Museum
104 Montgomery Street
The Presidio, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA 94129
Open daily 10am–6pm, except every Tues, Jan 1, Thanksgiving & Dec 25