My Visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum

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You may think you know a lot about Disney, and you may be right. But what you mean is Disney the company — how much would you say you know about Walt Disney, the man? About his family? About the stories behind the stories you saw on screen? I sure didn’t know very much, but then, three weeks ago, that all changed.

As part of the Monsters University trip, a group of fellow bloggers and I were taken to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco’s Presidio. The museum takes a roughly chronological tour through Walt Disney’s life, from his youth growing up in Marceline, Missouri — where he first started drawing cartoons — through the creation of Mickey Mouse and the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — which proved that cartoon movies could work — to the wartime propaganda cartoons the company made, to the design and creation of Disneyland, to Walt’s untimely death at age 65 from lung cancer. And of course there are many more stops along the way.

I must admit that I was skeptical going into the museum. I was afraid that it would lack objectivity, portraying “Uncle Walt” in a purely positive light, or that it would skim the surface too much — displaying the “what” without enough of the “how.” My fears were almost entirely put to rest quickly: While I could wish that the museum painted a somewhat more nuanced picture of Walt than it does, it certainly doesn’t entirely whitewash his failures and personal flaws, either. And as for depth, I needn’t have worried at all: There was far more detail presented than it was possible to absorb during the fairly quick tour we were taken on — we had limited time as it was the last day of the trip and everyone was flying home shortly after the museum visit. The tour guide my group had was excellent, but I really want to go back and take the time for a longer look at many of the displays, because I can tell just by looking at the photos I took that I missed a lot of detail.

If you’re in the San Francisco area, and you’re a Disney fan (meaning the company) to any degree, you’ll find the Walt Disney Family Museum a great experience. Walt Disney, the man, was really a fascinating individual with a passion and a genius for entertaining people young and old. I highly recommend it.

Photos: Matt Blum.

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