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Finally! A Museum Dedicated to Walt Disney

On October 23, 1998 the Disneyland resort hosted an evening celebration of “Walt Disney: An Intimate History of the Man and his Magic”, a cd-rom biography release celebrating the American innovator made in close association with his family. The evening’s highlight was a panel discussion in the Opera House featuring Walt Disney’s daughter Diane Disney Miller, biographer Bob Thomas, authors John Culhane and John Canemaker and others. While I grew up in a house filled with Disney music, frequent trips to Disneyland, etc. I was surprised and a bit disappointed to discover how little I actually knew of the man whose vision brought the Disney Company to life. As the evening concluded, I was disappointed to realize that there wasn’t a museum to showcase these stories and artifacts for people to explore and discover Walt Disney, the man behind the great family entertainment company. Similar emotions were rekindled a few years later at another presentation in tribute to Walt Disney that shared footage of a family vacation and the similarities between Walt Disney’s own personality and mannerisms in comparison to early Mickey Mouse animation were uncanny.

In 2009, The Presidio of San Francisco will become the home of the Walt Disney Family Museum featuring Walt Disney’s story in his own words along with those of his family, friends, and co-workers. The museum’s exhibits will showcase Disney’s achievements through innovative displays that include listening stations, interactive media, and more than 200 video monitors. Guests will learn more about Walt Disney’s childhood on a Missouri farm, his teen years in Chicago, his early years of animation in Kansas City, MO as well as discover the many innovations Walt Disney brought to the entertainment world.

Earliest known drawing of Mickey Mouse

In an effort to ensure each guest can fully explore the museum’s exhibits it will limit daily admissions and each admission will be a timed-entry ticket. Limited numbers of guests will be permitted to enter each 15 minutes but once inside you can spend as long as you’d like exploring the videos, images, etc.

Along with the main exhibit dedicated to Walt Disney the Walt Disney Family Museum plans to host various screenings, lectures, classes, and live performances in its state-of-the-art theater.

Photo of Walt Disney taken in 1902.

In anticipation of its October 1st opening, the Walt Disney Family Museum will provide select images from the exhibition in weeks to come.

Walt Disney Family Museum Sneak Peek — Gallery 1 Beginnings: Walt Disney’s Early Years (1901-1923)

Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901. In 1906, his family moved to a Missouri farm, where he had an idyllic early childhood and first learned to draw. The farm failed, and in 1911 his family moved to Kansas City, where he rose at 3:30 am to deliver newspapers on his father’s paper route and fell in love with vaudeville and movies. In 1917, the family moved to Chicago, where Walt created cartoons for his high school yearbook, took classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and tried to enlist in the U.S. Army. Rejected for being underage, he joined the American Ambulance Corps and arrived in France as World War I ended. When Disney returned to the United States, he settled in Kansas City and got a job at a commercial art studio. In 1920, while working at an ad company, Walt discovered the fantastical world of animation and immersed himself in the young medium. While keeping his day job, he began making Laugh-O-gram ad reels and animation shorts with artist Ub Iwerks. Laugh-O-grams Films soon went bankrupt, and Walt, at age 21 moved to California.

Walt’s early drawings (like the one pictured above) and mementoes from his childhood (below), as well as cameras similar to those he used in Kansas City, will be highlighted in the Museum’s first gallery.

Fiddle belonging to Walt Disney’s father, Elias

At the presentations mentioned earlier Diane Disney Miller’s adoration of her father was apparent and her frustration at many misconceptions about him was palpable. Given the Disney family’s involvement with this project I’m very excited that others will have the opportunity to discover Walt Disney the Dad. I’m grateful to them for sharing that history, their memories with us so we can better understand and relate to the man who has impacted our lives as Disney fans so powerfully.

The museum officially opens on October 1st. Tickets including memberships are available now at the Walt Disney Family Museum’s official site. D23 members are offered a free special sneak peek admission in late September visit the D23 website for further details.



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