Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco

Walt Disney Museum

It seems I can’t escape animation no matter where I go. For example, take last week when I was in San Francisco attending an advertising conference in the beautiful Presidio. During a break from the activities, I decided to take a little walk around the grounds. I noticed there was heavy construction going on around a couple of the buildings so I decided to check out what they were doing. It turns out that it’s the future home of the Walt Disney Family Museum, which is scheduled to open in August 2009.

The idea of situating a museum in a city in which Walt had few connections to may seem like a poor idea, but having seen the location in person, I couldn’t help but notice how perfectly the buildings being used for the museum capture the spirit of Walt Disney. It’s not just that they’re old buildings but their setting in the Presidio creates a sense of good old-fashioned Americana that simply feels right. Such a brilliant decision about where to place the museum leads me to believe that the Disney Family Foundation, run by Disney’s grandson Walter Elias Disney Miller, will be making other intelligent choices about the museum in the future, which offers a reason to look forward to their activities.

Here are a few more pics from my walk. The building below, #104, is a 19th century military barrack that will house the main musuem, cafe, gift shop and 115-seat lecture hall. (Click on the pic for a bigger version.) Some of the items that will be on display in the museum can be viewed at the museum’s website.

Walt Disney Museum

This next building, #122, originally a gymnasium built in 1904, is located behind the first building. It will rehabbed to house the Foundation’s research, archive and education functions, and to provide a gallery space for visiting exhibits.

Walt Disney Museum

I didn’t see the third building but apparently that will be used mostly for housing mechanical equipment and providing behind-the-scenes support to the two main buildings . Here’s an info sheet posted by one of the buildings. Click on it for a readable version.

Walt Disney Museum


  • http://www.stupixanimation.com Jonathan Lyons

    The Presidio is shaping up to be a destination of animation…

    Those buildings are located within sight of “The Orphanage” visual effects company, and not far from The Letterman Digital Arts facility, home of Industrial Light & Magic, LucasArts, etc. On the Letterman property is a statue of Eadward Muybridge, “father of motion pictures”, and creator of the animators best reference books. Inside the lobby of Letterman is a statue of Willis O’Brien, animator of the original King Kong.

  • Paul N

    The location of the museum has everything to do with Walt’s surviving daughter. She lives in Marin county, just over the Golden Gate from S.F., and she wanted the museum close to her home. The Presidio is a beautiful location, and as a Bay Area resident I’m looking forward to having a reminder of Walt’s legacy so close to home.

  • http://inkwellimagesink.com Ray Pointer

    The issue of the choice of location for the museum has been debated since it first became public a few years ago. The reasons are that the Walt Disney heirs are active members on the board and reside in San Francisco. So it make sense for them to have such a memorial to Walt Disney there. Second, the influence of Walt Disney was beyond the confines of Los Angeles and Burbank, but nationwide and worldwide. Third, San Francisco is perhaps more culturally vibrant and embracing of such a museum than Los Angeles. This can be concluded after the struggle with completing the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. This was a project initiated by Mr. Disney’s widow, Lillian, and the process was delayed for years due to many complications, many caused by the city as well as other factors. After Mrs. Disney passed away, the Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller took on the task of seeing the project to completion. As I understand it, the experience was exasperating, and contributed to the decision not to have another site dedicated to the memory of Walt Disney located in Los Angeles county.

    Another factor is based on the attitude within The Walt Disney Company. In 2001, the company missed a major opportunity to celebrate the centennial of its founder’s birth, and did relatively NOTHING to publicize this. This was most offensive to the family, and the eventual documentary, WALT DISNEY: THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH was finanaced and produce by Diane Miller and The Walt Disney Family Foundation. In doing this, they had to license the film clips from The Walt Disney Company, which contributed to the total cost of $6M to produce.

    All these things considered, it is the political ramifications associated with the current climate at The Walt Disney Company that has caused the family to divorce themselves from it and go in their own directions. They certainly have the right to do this since the very company that their ancestor created seems unable do him justice, and has nearly obscured his name since we now have a generation who does not realize that there was a man named Walt Disney who started it all.

  • Floyd Norman

    I recently filmed an interview for the Walt Disney Family Museum. This was at the request of Walt’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller.

    It was an honor to share my memories of a truly great man whose vision influenced so many of us.

  • Graham

    Here’s my favorite part of the collection:

    Below is an animator’s work desk from the Burbank Studio, specially designed under the supervision of Walt himself by the industrial designer Kem Weber. The desk takes us back to the days of “Bambi,” when animators drew on cels using a backlit piece of glass.

  • http://blackwingdiaries.blogspot.com Jenny

    Fascinating details on the background of the Museum, some of which I’d read and forgotten.
    I’d add that sadly, Los Angeles must be one of the worst cities to want to put a nonprofit/public facility such as a museum in. It would take way too many years here, if it ever got off the ground at all-and I’ve no faith in the durability or dedication of whatever we’ve got that passes for city planning that such a museum would be maintained/promoted/facilitated properly. So, good for the Disneys. And the Presidio is just a gorgeous site.

  • amid

    I don’t want to contradict Ray’s comments, but a source close to the Walt Disney Family Foundation and the Museum project has let me know that the comments of Ray Pointer are largely erroneous and do not reflect the state of the relationship between the Family and the Company. This person further writes that:

    The Presidio site was chosen for its historic interest, proximity to the Millers’ homes in San Francisco and Napa, and the fact that their Family Foundation already occupies space in the Presidio near the Lucas Letterman campus.

    There was initially some talk of siting the museum in Griffith Park, but it was decided that there was potential confusion about the Museum’s ties to the Company by being located so close to the Studio and Corporate Headquarters.

    The cooperation and collaboration with the Company is unprecedented and quite friendly, and has the full support and enthusiasm of many Disney businesses from Bob Iger down. Disney is providing full access to their photo collection and film libraries, as well as the loan of several key objects.

    Since the Company owns the rights to the name and likeness of Walt Disney, nothing other than a collaborative relationship could exist and still have the Foundation’s several projects move forward.

    The Company have even returned several personal items to the care of the family collection.

    Walt Disney: The Man Behind the Myth did not cost six million dollars. It was released by Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Home Video. Since it was produced by The Walt Disney Family Foundation, the entire project was carried out under license from the Company, but a licensing agreement does not, as Pointer’s commentary implies, necessarily mean that some outlandish fees were charged for clips. The Museum is likewise being created under a license from the Disney Company, for reasons of the ownership of the name and likeness and various properties by the Company.

  • http://inkwellimagesink.com Ray Pointer

    Amid:

    Thanks for setting all the facts straight beyond what I was led to understand. I sincerely appologise for the misinformation that I posted, and am thankful that my errors have motivated this insightful and in depth answer to the issues which are now made completely clear.