Bob Welbaum: Disneyana Fan Club Presents Awards to the Disney Family
Page 1 of 4
“Hi, I’m Ron.”
The tall, distinguished-looking gentleman approached us with a friendly smile and an outstretched hand. This seemed like a typical introduction, except this was Ron Miller, former professional football player, movie producer, Walt Disney Company CEO, winemaker, and the closest Walt Disney ever came to having a son. Today Ron Miller was our guest. And he was in for a surprise.
The setting was a repurposed Army gymnasium in San Francisco’s Presidio, formerly a U.S. Army base and now part of the Walt Disney Family Museum (disney.go.com/disneyatoz/familymuseum/). Fittingly decorated for a later Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter tea party, it was the perfect venue for presenting the Disneyana Fan Club’s second Heritage Award to the Disney family on April 2nd, 2011. It was also the crowning event in the DFC’s Disney Family Weekend, which had included a tour of the Silverado Winery, owned by Ron and Diane Disney Miller, the day before (www.silveradovineyards.com/).
First came lunch with a three-course demonstration of California cuisine as only Wolfgang Puck can provide.
The program began with opening remarks by DFC president Gary Schaengold, which included recognition of Event Manager Jessica Blake, then a welcome from Executive Director Richard Benefield.
Allan Halcrow, the Disneyana Fan Club’s Legacy Chair, was introduced next. Allan says he labors under the delusion that he has the coolest job in the club by managing both the Legends and Heritage programs. He briefly explained both programs, then introduced our honored guests: Diane Disney Miller (Walt’s only biological daughter); Diane’s husband Ron Miller; Walt’s grandson Walter Elias Disney Miller, who is president of the Walt Disney Family Foundation which runs the Museum; and his sister Joanna Miller.
Allan has made interviewing Disney personalities an art form, and this event was no exception; the tales came pouring forth for over an hour, and the family seemed to enjoy telling them as much as we enjoyed listening. Allan first invited our guests to discuss the museum itself, including the collection.
The idea started with the realization that Walt Disney’s awards and miniature collection were all in storage. Joanna told how she found Oscars and other awards wrapped in newspapers in shoeboxes. Diane said “A lot of people think we had these in our home, that we lived surrounded by these awards, but it wasn’t that way at all.”
The family first decided to put them on display in the offices of Retlaw Enterprises (the corporation of the Walt Disney family, the name being Walter spelled backwards) in North Hollywood. The result was spectacular; it looked like a museum, except it wasn’t. The family thought they had to share, so the search for a museum site began. Downtown Los Angles near the Walt Disney Concert Hall was investigated, but Diane simply said “It wasn’t right.”
The next step was the Walt Disney Family Museum website, but Walter explained how people would say ‘It’s a great website, where’s the real museum?’” Thus the move to San Francisco, which was the best available option.