Last month I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco, where I toured Pixar Studios and got a sneak peek of the movie Chimpanzee. But as a huge Disney fan, one of the highlights of my trip was visiting The Walt Disney Family Museum.
The Walt Disney Family Museum is located in what was once a barracks on the main post of San Francisco’s Presidio. While I was only able to spend 2 hours there, I recommend staying at least a day so you can fully explore the 40,000 square feet that honors Walt Disney’s life and achievements. You can store your luggage easily in San Francisco in case you just have a bit of time before you hit the airport or before your hotel room opens up.
Open to the public, the Walt Disney Family Museum is separate from the Walt Disney Company and is owned and operated by the Walt Disney Family Foundation. The museum is dedicated to Walt Disney’s life, which was a short 65 years.
There are 10 interactive galleries throughout the museum to explore and each gallery represents a different time in Walt’s life, starting chronologically. Walls of the galleries are covered with televisions showing family home videos, early drawings and Walt’s voice overhead telling personal stories of his childhood and ambitions.
Here are a few fun facts about Walt’s life and career:
– Walt traveled from Kansas City to Hollywood, with only $40, some clothing and an unfinished reel of film. From there, he started creating the Alice Comedies and formed the Disney Brothers Studio with his brother Roy.
– Walt created Oswald the Rabbit, but lost the rights to the character and many members of his animation team to Universal Pictures. On the way back to California, he started the early drawings of Mickey Mouse.
– Walt originally had given Mickey the name Mortimer Mouse. His wife Lillian suggested the name be changed to Mickey Mouse. In the next year, Mickey becomes a national sensation.
– In 1939, Walt won an Oscar for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He received one full-size Oscar and seven miniature ones.
– The early 1940’s were a hard time for Walt: The studio went on strike, the United States enters WWII and Walt’s father dies. Walt begins making propaganda and morale-boosting films and goes on a goodwill tour in South America.
– Walt created the “True-Life Adventures” series, which was some of the earliest nature documentaries.
– With an investment from ABC for Disneyland, Walt starts the one hour show “The Wonderful World of Color”.
– Disneyland received over 1 million visitors in the first 2 months that it’s open and Walt introduces the Mickey Mouse Club.
– In 1965, Walt bought land in Orlando, Florida for the creation of Walt Disney World. He died a year later.
One of the most emotional things I experienced at The Walt Disney Family Museum was the chance to see the first known drawings of Mickey Mouse from 1928. It left me speechless with my eyes full of tears. Almost 85 years later Mickey Mouse is such a strong presence in our culture! He brings joy, laughter and so much more to our family!
Walt may have said that it all started with a mouse, but it really all started with a man – Walt was a brilliant and creative businessman from the start.
If you’re in the San Francisco area, a visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum is a must. Prepare to spend hours there, as there is a gift shop, snack shop and even classes for hand-drawn animation and voice-overs.
Disney/Pixar provided me with an all expenses paid trip to San Francisco for an advance screening of Chimpanzee and select footage from Brave. All thoughts and opinions are my own.