Walt Disney’s Daughter, Diane Disney Miller, Has Died at 79

The eldest and only living daughter of Walt and Lillian Disney, Diane Disney Miller, died today at her home in Napa, California. She was 79. The cause of death was health complications resulting from a fall she suffered last September. She is survived by seven children, thirteen grandchildren, and her husband Ron Miller, who served as the president (and later CEO) of the Walt Disney Company, before he was replaced by Michael Eisner in 1984. The LA Times has more about her passing.

I never met Mrs. Miller, but gained a profound respect for her while I was working on my biography of Ward Kimball. While the Disney Company fought tooth-and-nail to pressure my publisher into killing the book (which they ultimately succeeded in doing), Diane read my book and supported it publicly. In a letter she wrote to historian Michael Barrier, she even expressed her desire to host a Ward Kimball art exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum:

Regarding the problem that Amid Amidi is having with his bio of Ward Kimball, I know that the Kimball kids have worked with him closely on it and want very much to see it published. I was intrigued with the idea of an exhibit of Ward’s non-Disney art which I thought would make a very interesting and extremely relevant exhibit in our museum [the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco], along with the book in our store.

No one at the company seemed bothered by Neal Gabler’s rather vicious and totally erroneous portrayal of my poor little mother and my parents’ marriage. I’ve always wondered where Gabler got the idea that they were never in love…not happily married…etc. Can’t Amidi publish what he wants? Again, look at what’s been done to my dad!

After dealing for an entire year with an insane coterie of Disney employees, Diane’s public support for my project was a rare (and completely unexpected) bright spot during an otherwise difficult experience. It speaks to her independent-minded streak that she saw the book for what it was, and recognized its historical value, even when the Disney company could not. For this, I will always be grateful to her.

As evidenced in her note above, Diane was deeply concerned about what she perceived as misrepresentations of her father by the current Disney corporate regime. She worked harder than anyone else to preserve the legacy of Walt Disney, the man, and her master stroke was leading the creation of the Walt Disney Family Museum, which opened in San Francisco in 2009. The museum serves as an exemplary tribute to animation’s most important historical figure and confronts head-on the countless misguided portrayals of the man. It also ensures that Walt Disney’s legacy will be secure for years to come.

Many tributes have appeared online since Diane Disney’s passing. Here are a few of them:

Jim Korkis
Leonard Maltin
David Lesjak
Brian Sibley
Floyd Norman—Part one, two, three.

Below: Diane (l.) with her mom Lillian, sister Sharon and father Walt, in 1955.


  • Roberto Severino

    My condolences go out her family and friends.

  • Dana B

    A heir of a legend passes on to a better place. RIP and my sincere condolences to her loved ones.

  • http://the-animatorium.blogspot.com/ Natalie Belton

    The Walt Disney Family Museum is a must see for all animation (and film) fans or for anybody interested in entering the medium. I was planning on visiting it again with some friends, and now I feel even more obligated to do so.

  • Toonio

    Her legacy surpasses the size of a corporation that misrepresents its heritage.

    Farewell Diane

  • George Comerci

    May she rest in peace :’(

  • Kevin Hobson

    Rest in Piece, Diane Disney.

  • Anonymous

    I heard she was a consultant on the new movie “Saving Mr. Banks.” Hopefully the studio will dedicate the film in her honor. RIP

  • Rodan Thompson

    Saddened and shocked at her passing. Diane was a champion to the art of animation and for her fathers legacy in it. She will greatly be missed. Not surprised by her thoughts on the Ward Kimbal bio. I hope that that exhibit can make it’s debut at the WDFM. I think Ward would have loved that.

  • Inkan1969

    This is terrible to hear. My sympathies to her family.

  • Funkybat

    Sorry to hear of her passing, especially as a result from a fall. What is often just an annoyance for those of us toward the first half of our lives can become a calamity toward the end.

    In reading this story, Amid mentioned that Disney has apparently succeeded in killing his Ward Kimball book. I’m rather upset to hear that too, as it was something I had been eagerly waiting for and was hoping for some good news soon. Any chance the book will move forward via other media?

  • Aaron R.R.R. Nance

    Truly a sad day.

  • James Madison

    RIP

  • WTPFAN

    Is am truly sorry to hear of Mrs. Millers passing. I would love to find out more abou the Disney family I see a book mentioned above that says her parents were bfhappy I heard stories growing up in Farmingdale NY that Walt’s first wife Anna was the trouble maker. I hope everyone remembers Mrs miller as the kind person she seems to be

    • Lionel

      Walt’s first wife Anna ? You mean you don’t even know he was married only once to Lilian Bounds ? Or maybe you’re mentionning, out of context, Disney’s Frozen ?

  • SteveSegal

    This is sad news, she was a great supporter of her father’s legacy. Perhaps the studio can honor her passing by letting the Kimball book be released. Who can we write to?

  • TeamPIper

    Soooo sad to hear this. We’ve been wanting to have Piper Reese interview Diane for the younger generation for a very long time.