I thought I knew Walt Disney, the man, the myth, the icon. But I was wrong. Even after my yearly pilgrimages to Disneyland, growing up with a Disneyland poster above my bed, and seeing almost every Disney classic ever made (I still have to see Song of the South), I didn’t really know that much about the person who made one of the biggest, most powerful brands ever – the true Walt Disney.
The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco gives you a glimpse at how this boy with a dream went on to build an entertainment empire that includes movies, TV, and, of course, his beloved part Disneyland (as well as DisneyWorld). And it gives great insight into the amazing amount of creativity and invention that went on to build Disney the company (full disclosure: Babble is a member of the Disney family).
You might wonder why the Walt Disney Museum is in San Francisco rather than Anaheim or Orlando. It turns out that Disney’s daughter lives in San Francisco and the Presideo, with its green lawns and old timey building (once housing the military) turned out to be an ideal spot to honor her father.
The museum covers all the phases in his life, including his birth, his military service, his early cartooning, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (his first character), right up to the creation of Mickey Mouse. All aspects of the early animation process are addressed, which whether you are a Disney fan or not, are very educational. Adults and kids alike will learn how he changed animation to use multi-plane cameras (giving animation depth) and about his teams’ innovations of sound and color.
One of the most impressive (and most popular) parts of the museum is the scale model of Disneyland, which is housed along side the history of the park. Other aspects of his life and career are featured, like when his animators went on strike (his darkest period), his war efforts (with odd Mickey and Donald propaganda, even some featuring topless ladies for the soldiers overseas), and his obsession with miniatures and trains.
But it’s not just the information that is impressive; it’s the way it’s given. There are interactive elements sprinkled around the museum, such as screens used in creative ways to show old cartoons and interviews and an amazing array of personal and historic artifacts.
Even if you didn’t grow up with a Disneyland poster above your bed like me, it still is worth a visit. If you are a Disney fan, then this really should be a destination to hit. Yes, this does reek of a rave review, but for good reason. They creators of the museum did an amazing job. And whether you are Disney lover or not, the history of the brand, the movies, and the man is worthwhile. I’ve since dragged my non-Disney loving dad, my non-Disneyphile hubby and my 6-year-old child and guess what? All of them loved it.
Images: Walt Disney Family Museum