The Disney Family Museum (San Franscisco, CA)

#1: The Disney Family Museum

Welcome to Sam’s Disney Diary!!!

Sams Disney Dianry is a way for me to share my experience traveling to various Disney related locations with a family of 5. My passion for Disney Parks started long ago and has since been shared may times with my family. It’s the one place we can all agree is truly “Magical”.  I hope you enjoy this first edition, highlighting our recent trip to the Disney Family Museum.

November 2011 – Just finished my tour of the Disney family museum, my reaction….

I needed more time!!!!

The story of Walt’s life has been told many times, on DVD, in books, articles, and various publications.  His life has been documented in many short films and extended documentaries, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them all.  That said there is a special touch here at the Disney Family Museum that makes you feel connected.   The museum is in the presidio of San Francisco, near the golden gate bridge, and takes up one of the five original barracks buildings build by the US army in the 1890s.  The museum also includes a café and gift shop (of course).

Upon entering the building, the ticket desk is the first thing you find.  Side Note:  Most local hotels have a pamphlet that include a $3 off admission ticket – There is also a AAA discount at $5 a ticket (making admission $15 per adult & $7 for 6-12, under 6 free)(Pricing as of November 2011)

Attending with a group of 5 including 3 kids a $5 per ticket discount is always welcome.  The Tickets include bold type that can be a little intimating.   NO Cell Phones, No Photography, No Strollers, No Backpacks, No Food or Beverage!   That’s a lot of NOs and with a toddler, some big ones.  (i.e. No Strollers)  But March on we will…

The Disney Family Museum (San Franscisco, CA)
Sams Disney Diary Episode #1 – The Disney Family Museum

The museum covers the life of Walt Disney in amazing detail that frankly, I didn’t know existed.  The tour starts in the trophy room (The only place in the museum you can take pictures), that room includes the snow white and the seven dwarfs special academy award.  The trophy you have seen in video footage of Walt with Shirley Temple “I bet your so prod Mr. Disney…”    The Trophy room also includes furniture from Walt’s Disneyland apartment, a great touch.

After getting our tickets scanned and hands stamped, the stamps allow you to leave and re-enter, and with a toddler, we did.

As any Disney fan knows, the story starts in 1901 in Chicago and moves to Marceline, Missouri; Kansas City then back to Chicago.   To chronicle those moves the museum uses original animation with Walts voice to describe family thoughts and reasoning.  The audio was edited from lots of sources, most of which I recognized, but some I hadn’t heard before.  The moves were broken into three sections and each had its own set of artifacts and pictures.  Each also had a unique video board, each framed to look like one of the artifacts, the animation was great and most important.  It held the attention of my Toddler!  The first exhibit also included a replica of a Red Cross ambulance like the one Walt drove in France to support the war effort (WWI).  Of note is Walt’s passport from 1917, and as the story goes, the birthdate is 1900, the original being alerted by Walt so he could join the war effort a year early.

The story picks up after the war when Walt returned to Kansas City.  In Kansas City Walt started the not so successful Laugh-O-Gram, after that failed attempt at a studio Walt backed up, and headed for Hollywood.   The museum moves to the second floor, but, in true Disney fashion, getting to the second floor is part of the story.  The elevator is elaborately decorated as a period railroad car delivering guests from Kansas City to Hollywood.  (Nice Touch)

The entrance to Hollywood includes a great video wall of vintage Alice comedies and exhibits ranging from person letters from Walt to Roy.  And elaborate listening stations describing the history of the Alice Comedies.  A nice entrance to Hollywood!

The next room moves to vintage Oswald.   As is well documented losing the rights (and people) to develop Oswald Walt needed to set on a new direction. The famous dialog is chronicled:  “Mortimer…  No Walt, Mortimer won’t to… how about Mickey.”   What struck me most about this room wasn’t the wall of Steamboat Willie drawings (346 hand drawings in all, that account for only 15 seconds).  No not the exhibits that allow you to add sound.  No not the vintage Mickey plush & Watches.  What struck me most about this room was by far a simple piece of paper, (OK It’s a replica) but, if you are Disney fan you have seen it before!   The oldest know drawing of Mickey Mouse.  The one that you have seen in many documentaries, there it was…  Brown paper, creases and all…  WOW!

After Mickey?  The silly symphonies of course.  The next room details the technology advances made through the silly symphony series.  Including a detail look at the collaboration efforts behind the three pigs (Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf) to the color advances of the ugly duckling.   All of which lead to the “Risk and Success”… Snow White.   My 10 year old daughter found a few hands on exhibits in the snow whiter area very interesting, specifically a hand cranked example of making a cartoon with picture after picture of snow white making here move)

In the snow white room an original snow white book stands out… opened to the first page it’s signed…  “To Diane with love from daddy, Walt Disney”   Priceless.  Thanks Diane for sharing that with the world!

Of course Show White is the foundation for many more productions.  They are chronicled here, Pinocchio (and the multi-plane-camera), Dumbo and Fantasia.  This section of the museum also provided a large screen with seats showing fantasia (Sources Apprentice, keeping the toddler somewhat happy, a stroller would have made mom and dad happy)

The Studio Strike and WWII make the next exhibits a little less than exciting, but an important part of Walt’s history.

The “Ribbon of video” in the next exhibit features live action films Walt was personally involved in.  It also includes many interactive booths to explore the catalog.

The Segway between the live action and the next exhibit feature a glass pavilion with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge – The only place on the tour that you can take pictures.  On a clear day it’s beautiful!  (My visit, not so clear)

What you see next is simply “The Bench”

The next room, by far, is the most anticipated.  Living up to that anticipation entering the room just took my breath away.  This beautiful space features items that I’ve seen in books, but never expected to see with my own eyes.  The first thing you see…  WOW!!  There it is… The Lilly Belle, THE train from Walt’s house!  All the cars, exactly how it looks in all the pictures, the seats worn – as though Walt was riding on them yesterday!  What an overwhelming experience, this took some time to digest.  In addition, the history and articles associated are outstanding.  As you move down the sweeping ramp past the train you start to see concept art and models for Disneyland, and ultimately a scale model of Disneyland with the most unbelievable detail imaginable!   It’s not an exact model, but more Walt’s vision of Disneyland… around 1966.   Most of it is what exists today, only a few items didn’t make the park, and as Walt always said, the park will never be completed.  The stage coaches have since been replaced by splash mountain and critter country.  The detail is just amazing, as would be expected from any Disney project.  From the animals on the jungle cruise ride – don’t worry, they are wearing their trunks, to the working Dumbo and carousal, to the Matterhorn mountain.  I could have stayed here all day.

The exhibit leads to work on the 1964 world fair, more live action and animated films and his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow…   The Gallery floor design looks a lot like an early Epcot map.   Walt’s live is in full swing, so much happening at once.

Then you move to the next exhibit, it’s a simple one, and emotional one.  A small console television cira 1960s, with a special bulletin announcement;   The World had lost an Icon.   Opposite the small console TV are editorial cartoons from around the world and telegrams of condolence to family….

It’s touching…   simple, and touching…  and can be emotional, I needed to walk back to the Disneyland model, it looked a little different this time, I looked a little longer, noticed a little more detail.

After taking a little time with I headed back towards the end, but this time closed my eyes as I walked past the news of Walt’s death.  Leaving with the images of the Disneyland Model are just so much better…  after all I didn’t pay to be upset.   The final gallery is a video wall that captures the life of Walt Disney, and a very fitting end to the museum.

In summary:  I wish I had more time, and I wish I had a stroller!!!  That’s the best way to summarize the experience!!!