A Visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum Part 1

Walt Disney may have said that it all started with a mouse, but we can't forget that it also all started with him. Located in what was once a barracks on the main post of San Francisco's Presidio, the Walt Disney Family Museum is 40,000 square feet that honors Walt Disney's life and achievements. Last month, I had the chance to visit and spend a few hours learning about the man that brought so much happiness to this world.

Walt Disney Family Museum ExteriorWalt Disney Family Museum Exterior
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.

Exploring Walt's Life

There are 10 interactive galleries throughout the museum and the only room where pictures are allowed is the lobby where you're treated to a re-creation of Walt's living room from the Disneyland Fire House, complete with actual furniture. We also got to view various Oscars that Walt Disney won, including the large statue and 7 little statues he won for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. You're also surrounded by 256 of the over 900 awards that Walt received in his lifetime.

I was only able to visit the museum for two hours when you could easily stay for more than one day. The way you tour the museum is chronologically through Walt Disney's life. Each gallery represents a different time in Walt's life. The first gallery was about Walt's birth, his childhood in Marceline, Missouri where he got the inspiration for Main Street USA and his creation of Laugh-O-Gram Films while he was a young adult living in Kansas City. The walls of the gallery are covered with televisions family home videos, early drawings and Walt's voice overhead telling personal stories of his childhood and ambitions.

In 1923, Walt Disney left Kansas City and headed to Hollywood
with only $40, some clothing and an unfinished reel of film. Thus begins the start of the second gallery where we head into the world of Hollywood Land ourselves! Walt lived with his uncle when he first moved to California and pictures and monitors show his very early work, including the Alice Comedies. It was then that Walt sent for his brother Roy and many other friends that lived in Kansas City to join him in California and start a small studio called the Disney Brothers Studio.

Earliest Known Drawings of Mickey MouseEarliest Known Drawings of Mickey Mouse
It All Started With a Mouse

The next gallery is about the creation of a series of animated films featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt created the films for Charles Mintz, who owned the trademark rights to it. Walt traveled to New York to discuss a bigger budget for the films, but ended up losing many members of his animation team to Universal Pictures. Walt left the character to them and headed back home to California. We were able to see the telegram that Walt sent to his brother Roy stating that everything was fine and the trip went well; he wanted to wait until her was in person to give him the news. It was on the train ride back home that Walt then started the early drawings of Mickey Mouse.

To actually see the first known drawing of Mickey Mouse from 1928 actually left me speechless with my eyes full of tears. I love that almost 85 years later Mickey Mouse is such a strong presence in our culture. He's a symbol of fun and laughter and brings joy to so many people.

We learned more about the creation of Mortimer Mouse (later changed to Mickey Mouse, per Walt's wife's suggestion) and his appearance in Steamboat Willie. There's an entire wall of 348 frames that made up 16 seconds of footage for Steamboat Willie.

The Walt Disney Family Museum is a treasure trove of family heirlooms and memories, so much that it wouldn't fit in just one post. Stay tuned, because tomorrow take a look at a New Era. Have you ever been to the Walt Disney Family Museum? Leave a comment and let me know your favorite part.

Kristen K. wrote on Tue, 05/01/2012 - 11:47:

Kristen K.'s picture

This sounds like such a great place. I adore San Fransisco and really hope that I can get back there some day to visit the Museum.

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