Everything we interact with was designed and thought up by someone. This is a fact that struct me sometime in my second year of design school. There is probably drawers somewhere with doodles of every item we touch and use daily in hidden away and stored. And while it may seem like an obvious thought, our favorite cartoon characters have a history and a designer that sat behind the desk and thought them up. We all know that Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse, but other than little bits we see on movies and documentaries – what do we know about the man behind the mouse? The Walt Disney Archives gives guests a bit of a look at the business side of Disney, but not much about his personal life and the story of how an idea became the industry it is today.
Inside the old military barracks of Presidio in San Francisco is The Walt Disney Family Museum, a historical museum that sits apart from the parks and is set up to preserver the legacy of the man who started it all. Inside includes everything from personal family memorabilia, original Normal Rockwell drawings and even awards won by Disney throughout his career. We were given special access to the space while in San Francisco learning more about the upcoming Incredibles 2, and given a little more perspective into the legacy that Disney left behind. There are so many reasons to actually visit the museum, even if you’re a casual fan of Mickey Mouse to the deepest and most devoted fan.
History – Not Just of the Company
The Walt Disney Family Museum focuses on the family behind the man, and the journey that Walt took before he was well known as the creator of Mickey Mouse. From his birth and childhood in Illinois, to drawing political cartoons and posters during the war. Them museum covers his early life in detail and shows you were it started. Set up chronologically, you walk through Disney’s life from the early years all the way to his death and the legacy he left behind. From personal items to corporate ones, the museum contains bits of every part of Walt’s life.
It All Started with a Rabbit?
A couple of years before Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. He holds a special place in fan’s hearts even though he had and still has a bit of a hard path and a lot of fans don’t know about. The museum contains not only some of the original artwork by Disney that have been found over the years in the archives and stashed between pages in books. But also the telegraphs between Disney and Universal on the fall out of Oswald. Fans can learn more about how Oswald started, came to be and how he eventually morphed into the mouse we all love.
It’s a Collector’s Dream
From items you remember growing up with as a kid, to ones that you may remember your grandmother having on a shelf – The Walt Disney Family Museum has it all. With the popularity of the characters, early on there was marketing and toys for kids (of all ages). Walking through the museum you may recognize some items you had or still have up in the attic. The display cases are amazing and will help you feel nostalgic and connect with your inner child and the reason you fell in love with Disney as a kid in the first place.
Special Exhibits Give You More Insight
The lower level of The Walt Disney Family Museum is reserved for special exhibits. Right now the installation is Make Believe: The World of Glen Keane. An award winning artist Keane is best known for creating iconic characters like Ariel, Pocahontas and Tarzan. The exhibit covers his early artwork from when he was a kid, some of the comics he has created throughout the years as well as models and animation frames and cells based off his work. Growing up watching his characters, it’s like stepping into the movies you love walking through this special exhibit.
Take a Break, Enjoy the View and Dream Up Your Next Big Thing
The Walt Disney Family Museum is not very far from the Golden Gate Bridge, and building off of Walt’s desire to bring the outside in – you can see a great view from the back of the building. But the seat to take in the view is one of the greatest seats in the house – it is THE seat. Yes, the bench where Walt Disney sat and watched his kids play and came up with the idea for Disneyland. Would we still have Disneyland without this bench? Probably, but you can feel the magical energy as you sit on it and stare out to a fantastic view of the bridge and bay area.
Before It Was Built – Disneyland was Just an Idea
Like everything else, the design documents and models are out there for virtually everything and every building. Disneyland is no different. However, The Walt Disney Family Museum not only has beautifully preserved the model for Disneyland but has it on full display. The scale model shows the original layout of the first park, includes rotating carousels and running rides and you can look over and see all the way down Main Street USA straight to the heart of Cinderella’s castle. If you’ve ever been to Disneyland you’ll notice places and rides that you still love to this day and this complicated scale model helped bring it all to life.
Visiting The Walt Disney Family Museum was something that was on my bucket list and something that I wanted to experience for myself. It goes beyond just the characters we know, but deeper into the life of the man who made it all happen. Touring the museum is self directed, but will take you on an emotional journey from the moment you step through the door. Learn more about The Walt Disney Family Museum and plan your visit.