I had the pleasure of touring The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco a few weeks ago. The historic brick building is on the main post of San Francisco’s Presidio, quite unassuming when you first pull up in front of it. You really have no idea what lies behind those walls…. the life story of one of the most fascinating men ever known.
The 40,000-square-foot museum melds history with state-of-the-art technology, including more than 200 video screens sprinkled throughout our galleries. Visitors can also enjoy our Museum Store, Learning Center, and Fantasia-themed theater, which shows Disney classics six days a week.
The exhibits are broken up into time periods, each one delving into Walt’s life from beginning to end.
Beginnings: Walt Disney’s Early Years (1901-1923) – Walt Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, IL. Walt’s family moved from IL to Missouri where Walt first learned how to draw. Life was hard for the family when the farm failed and they moved again. In 1917 they moved back to Chicago where he took art classes at the art Institute of Chicago. After joining the American Ambulance Corps and serving for a stint in France, Walt returned to the US and decided to settle in Kansas City where he started working at a commercial art studio.
Seeing the mementos and his early life presented in this exhibition really gives you an idea of just how driven a man he really was. He never gave up and always pushed forward.
Hollywood (1923-1928) – This exhibit covered his travels to California looking for work. He ended up starting Disney Bros. Studio with his brother Roy and where eventually the character of Mickey Mouse was created and put the studio on the map!
The Mickey Mouse film, Steamboat Willie, Walt’s first talking animation, became hugely successful. I loved this part of the museum since you could see the birth of Mickey Mouse and how he changes throughout the years from his first conception.
New Horizons: The Emergence of the Walt Disney Studio (1928 to 1940) – Mickey Mouse was hugely successful as we all know now, and because of that success, Walt Disney was able to expand Disney Bros. Studio and renamed it Walt Disney Studios. The success of his studio bubbled over into his personal life as well, he added two daughters to his family during those years.
The Move to Features: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – I loved this section of the museum because I am a huge Snow White fan. This was Walt’s first feature-length film. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs took four years to create and lots of loans were taken out to produce it. Many thought he was a little crazy for putting so much money into this film but when it premiered on December 21, 1937, he floored everyone. Later he won a unique Academy Award® for the innovative movie: a standard-sized Oscar®s and seven miniature castings.
New Success & Greater Ambitions – Snow White was so successful that Walt dedicated to pick up and move the studio to Burbank, CA where he started on Bambi, Pinocchio and Fantasia. Bambi was and is probably my favorite, and where my love of deer started.
The Late ’30s to Mid ’40s – This was a tumultuous period of time for Walt, he went through the death of his parents and a studio strike amongst other things. The U.S. military even used part of the studio as a base.
Post-War Rebuilding: Mid-‘40s to the early 1950s – After the war the brothers start diving into films that took live action and married it with animation like Mary Poppins. In addition, the Studio produced the enormously successful Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp, the studio’s first wide-screen animated feature. Walt Disney also produced his first live-action features, including Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.
STAY SOCIAL WITH THE WALT DISNEY FAMILY MUSEUM
Disclosure: I was provided with an all-expense trip to San Francisco by Walt Disney Studios to attend various events. All opinions are 100% my own.