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Sneak Peek: The Disney Family Museum

Animator Steve Segal had an opportunity to preview the new Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, which is opening to the public next week. He sent us this eyewitness report of what to expect:

On Sunday I visited the Disney Family Museum. If you’re even a casual Disney fan and you are in the vicinity of San Francisco you must make a point to visit it when it opens in the beginning of October. Unfortunately they don’t allow picture taking so you’ll have to come to see it yourself. I took some pictures from the outside and was able to sneak a few in less traveled areas (Click thumbnails below for larger images).

There are 9 separate galleries containing a staggering 214 video presentations. Some projected, most were small video screens populated throughout the museum. It covers pretty much all of Walt’s life and work. Here are some of the highlights (spoilers below):

&#149 In the entryway is a collection of awards, including the famous 8 Oscars custom-made for Snow White.

&#149 There are some recreations, but lots of original artwork, like storyboards, animation drawings and cels; the most memorable for me being Tytla’s drawings of Chernobog from Night on Bald Mountain in Fantasia. Exquisite draftsmanship was on display in some drawings from The Band Concert, and the Brave Little Tailor.

&#149 They have the actual train that Walt gave rides to his guests in his backyard.

&#149 Correspondence from famous people, dozens of TV screens playing his myriad television programming.

&#149 One of the most impressive recreations was an exact replica of the multiplane camera, you first encounter it from the second level and look down through several levels of art, then when you are down on the first floor the controls and background from Bambi (a recreation) is in the gift shop.

&#149 There is also a gigantic model of Disneyland (or at least what they claim is Walt’s original idea for the park, which is probably not true, but impressive nonetheless).

&#149 There are some interactive games for kids like making sound effects to go along side Steamboat Willie and Silly Symphony quizzes.

&#149 There are a large number of kiosks where you can hold an old timey telephone speaker to your ear and hear a personal story from a friend or Disney artist.

&#149 There is an interactive representation of the pages from the notebook of Fantasia effects animator Herman Schultheis. You can enlarge and move around the pages on a huge table. Check out Michael Sporn’s Splog for some pictures.

&#149 There is also a small state of the art theater that will have special guest lecturers and screenings of Disney classics. Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty, The Three Caballeros and Walt and El Grupo are scheduled.

The Walt Disney Family Museum is located at 104 Montgomery Street, in The Presidio district, San Francisco, CA. For more information, visit the website.

  • This reminds me of something Roy E. Disney said when thinking about the first 18 years after Walt’s death.

    Could this have been The Walt Disney Company today had it been unable to survive without its founding fathers?

  • Lance

    FYI, the Disney Family Museum has nothing to do with the Walt Disney Company.

  • Lance

    …that is…it’s a wholly private company/foundtation set up by Diane Disney Miller and the family–not funded by the Walt Disney Company.

  • I’d faint if I went in there…

    Does anyone know if there’s any commemorative catalogs or collectible booklets there?

  • Shecky

    FYI…don’t confuse the address with Montgomery St. in the financial district. The museum is in the Presidio, a former Army base near the GG bridge.

  • Bobby D.

    “• There is also a gigantic model of Disneyland (or at least what they claim is Walt’s original idea for the park, which is probably not true, but impressive nonetheless).”

    Wondering why you would cast doubt on their “claim” ? Nice article none-the-less.

  • Bobby D: “Wondering why you would cast doubt on their “claim” ?”

    The model had Space Mountain and what looked like Mickey’s Philharmagic, so it’s unlikely it represents Walt’s original concept.

    Daniel Caylor: It looks like they will publish a newsletter. The first issue covers October thru December and contains articles by John Canemaker, JB Kaufman, Jeff Kurtii & Diane Disney Miller. I could scan mine and post it somewhere.

  • I’m grateful to have been a part of this remarkable museum, and every Disney fan will want to visit this beautiful site when visiting in the Bay Area.

  • I think the people involved with actually putting this together have been nothing if not scrupulous about how they resent the exhibits and the historical provenance. If something had to be (re)created for the Museum I’m sure they make that clear; if it’s original, likewise. So if they say the model is how Walt conceived it I believe it. He had an awful lot of ideas for Disneyland that didn’t come close to making it into the early park…some were just verbalized blue-skying, but I could easily see him talking about a Space Mountain-like thing in Tomorrowland(whether it would house a roller coaster is another matter).

    Of course if I’m totally wrong about that, well…sorry, Steve!

    I saw a virtual 3D walkthrough of the Museum last year and it really knocked me over. I was transported just by the architect’s model. Interestingly it’s not going to avoid the (sometimes severe) slumps in Disney’s life but rather make a point of how he turned them around and learned from them, which is great. And the design of the museum has been carefully arranged to give a physical as well as emotional feeling to the whole experience, beginning to end.
    I’m seeing it this weekend and I’ll report on it too. Thanks for yours, Steve Segal.

  • Oh how lovely! I would go just to see the multi-plain replica!


    I am more excited about the opening than I’ve ever been about anything Disney in my entire life…not since 1966 has there been a more important date in the Disney anuals… Such a fitting memorial to the icon of animation Walt Disney.

    Bravo Zulo to the Disney family for this!


  • Bad ass Steve. I got to make a trip back to the Bay Area again. Thanks for the story….

  • I’d like that Steve, thanks!

  • The museum is a bit of a flop here in San Francisco. It came unannounced, and no one is sure what Disney had to do with SF and why they built it on national parkland.

  • Vegaswolfie

    CARL RUSSO WROTE: “The museum is a bit of a flop here in San Francisco. It came unannounced, and no one is sure what Disney had to do with SF and why they built it on national parkland.” – From what I understand, “that there is several of Disney’s descendents living in San Francisco.”

  • How could it be “a flop” when it hasn’t opened yet? It’s been in the planning stages for years and took quite a while to put together. I’m sure it didn’t sneak into the city under cover of darkness.

    Can anyone point to unfavorable articles or reviews that explicate what Carl Russo asserts? Not arguing, just interested.

    Having seen the Museum physical situation for myself, I can say that it in no way defiles the site or look of the Presidio, which retains its “National Park look” and history. Walt Disney was an American with roots in the Midwest who settled in California. It’s hardly as if his fame and influence are limited to the Los Angeles region, so there’s no disconnect there as far as I’m concerned.

  • Paula Sigman Lowery

    The model of Disneyland is actually the Disneyland of Walt’s imagination…full of things of which he dreamed, some of which happened during his lifetime, and others that happened afterward…but which he knew would happen. The Space Mountain model is based on John Hench painting of the attraction that Walt saw. This is the Disneyland of Walt’s vision, including some attractions that are no longer there but are still very much a part of our collective memories. // By the way, the multiplane camera is not a replica but an original, rebuilt and restored, on long-term loan from the Company.

  • Don Peri

    I have been there three times and the museum is spectacular and a wonderful gift to everyone who is interested in Walt Disney and 20th Century popular culture.

  • Hi Paula,

    Thanks for setting me straight. I guess I misunderstood, I thought they meant an original design for Disneyland, your explanation makes complete sense. One of the museum supervisors told me it was a replica (perhaps I misunderstood that, too). Anyway if you had any part in the creation of this congratulations, it’s worthy of its subject.

  • Paula Sigman Lowery


    Sorry I missed seeing you there the other night. It would have been nice to catch up after all these years. It has been my great pleasure and privilege to have been part of the creative development team on this project. The model is a showstopper, everything we hoped it would be, but we also hope that people will enjoy the intimate glimpses of Walt’s personal life, as told through family photos, home movies, and Diane’s anecdotes. Thanks again for your kind comments.