Friday, October 14, 2011

10/13/11 My Trip To the Walt Disney Family Museum

This is one of those posts that I wish I could add tons of pictures and art work so you can see some of the stuff I saw. But this museum has quite a few rules. On the ticket:

· No Cell Phone
· No Photography
· No Strollers
· No Backpacks
· No Food or Beverages

I believe the no Cell Phone rule is no calling or taking pictures or video. I had to check flight information a couple of times while I was there and they didn’t have an issue with it, I did it in a corner away from everybody, but still in the view of the docents.

Couple of quick things about me: I’m not a big Museum guy. I heard about the Museum on many podcasts, but Window to the Magic really sold me on going. My love of Disney is really only to the Theme Parks and the man, Walt Disney. Besides the live action musicals of the mid to late 60’s, the cartoons and the movies are only okay to me. I’ve probably only seen all of them once, maybe twice. Disneyland and Disney World, I haven't been enough, but I've been a lot. So that’s my background with Disney.

When you arrive to the Museum, it leaves you in awe. It is absolutely beautiful. Looking at the building, you can see the Golden Gate in the background. The day was sunny and absolutely beautiful. I’d love to come back just to explore the grounds of the Presidio.

When you enter the building, it’s actually quite empty compared to the exhibits. I needed to use the restroom, and it took me some time to find it, head downstairs. Downstairs, there’s some cool Disneyland Attraction posters, but that’s it. I think this area is used for bag check. The restrooms are very clean and open, I think they need to add music or something to this downstairs area.

On the first floor, I glimpsed the store and a tiny refreshment stand. Listening to a WTTM podcast, I had pictured this area a lot larger, the ears tricked me. I bought my ticket at the desk, 20 dollars for my adult size, and got the rundown of rules, which I knew thanks to the podcast.

Behind the desk is a large room where you can view all the awards that Walt had received. I think the most interesting part of this large room was the Snow White Oscar awards and the furniture from the apartment above the Firehouse.

You give your ticket to the ticket taker, get the rundown of rules again, and enter the first exhibit. This first exhibit was fascinating. It chronicles from Walt’s Grandparents to Walt joining the Red Cross. Pictures on the walls, articles to read, video displayed with Walt telling stories, and memorabilia tell a wonderful and vivid story. You really get the isense of Walt’s youth and the family members that pushed him to be great. Even his father’s Fiddle was there to look at. Some of the things that you could read, you would hear Walt say again in the video. By the time I left the first room, I knew who Walt’s Family were and what they looked like. I found it interesting that Walt and his sister were photographed together a lot. Perhaps due to the closeness of their ages? I read, looked and saw everything.

The next room continued the story after Walt returned from the war. He continues with his animation skills and gets a job perfecting those skills. I didn’t realize how much time he also spent behind the video camera. The home videos, the backwards video, and Laugh-O-Gram videos were awesome to see.

One thing that definitely impressed me was the High Definition black and white photos. Some of those pictures were simply awesome.

You take the elevator up to the second floor. The elevator is a little confusing. Me and the other couple in the elevator actually stood there for 30 seconds until we realized we had to push a button. Yeah, we felt stupid. Then Uncle Walt came over the speakers in the elevator and gave a little introduction.

The first room on the second floor had to do with the Alice cartoons. I was a little confused with the different pictures of the little girls, until I read that there were actually 4 girls that played Alice. You were able to read some of the correspondence from the people who released the Alice shorts, and they weren’t kind messages. I was kind of surprised by the harshness of the messages.

Prior to the second floor, all the audio came from the ceiling for the videos. On the second floor, some of the videos had audio in the ceiling, others had these cool little speakers you held up to your ear to listen. That was pretty cool. When Walt’s family showed up in video, I was surprised that I knew who everybody was, and didn’t need to read the captions.

In the next room, the story of Oswald, the loss of Oswald, and the creation of Mickey. On one wall, there were tons of individual drawings from Steamboat Willie, only 15 actual seconds of footage. In this room, my fascination with Ub Iwerks really started rooting in my brain. He’s in tons of pictures, did tons of the artwork for the Mickey cartoons, and I wanted to know more. Weird how I’m in a museum for Walt Disney, but I was in need to learn more about Iwerks.

In the center of this room was a hands on exhibit where you could add sounds to video footage. Being alone, I watched the instructions and then moved on. Now understanding the story of Mickey Mouse, and how Steamboat Willie was actually the 3rd short of Mickey Mouse, I was heading into the next room when I looked at my phone. It was 4:00 PM. I had been there for 2 hours and only had an hour left. I also realized that my brain hurt.

In the next room, I found a bench against the window and sat down for a breather. Being a Theme Park fan, I was hoping to spend most of my time in the Disneyland section, and now I only had an hour. Putting myself back together, I quickly went through the Snow White room, the Pinocchio room, watched a little of the Fantasia video, and moved on to the artist strike.

I spent some crucial minutes watching this section of Walt’s history. While this exhibit was relatively small, it gave me an idea of what was going on back then. I wish there was more information, but no time to dwell.

Went quickly through the Mexico section, and spent very little time in the animation room which looked to have some really cool hands on exhibits.

The next room caught me completely by surprise. DISNEYANA. Of course, Disneyana was the collection of Disney memorabilia...Right? Not exactly. There were these little replicas of tables and chairs, books, and tons of other stuff. Walt was interested in having an exhibit tour the United States with these miniatures. It was fascinating. I never knew, and had to move on, unfortunately.

Quickly walked by the True Life Adventures, spent a couple of minutes relaxing by the window looking at the Golden Gate (what a view), and finally found myself in the Disneyland room. First up, Walt’s train. The videos, the pictures, it was fantastic. No time to read, I walked around the walk way only to come face to face with the Disneyland model.

I spent 10 minutes looking at the model and trying to figure out how to duplicate it for my house, not possible. The model was smaller than I anticipated, and I thought I had heard that all the rides up to today was included. But that wasn’t really true. I think all the attractions that Walt worked on were included. Every time I looked at something I had already seen, I found something new, some extra that I missed early. I looked at it from all directions, and it was breath taking. The worker who watched over the display (bored out of her mind) kept asking me if I had any questions, I just wanted to look.

I pulled myself away, literally, and walked by exhibits for Wonderful World of Color, the Mickey Mouse Club, and Mary Poppins. I took a close look at the Abraham Lincoln exhibit, read some of the information on Epcot, and kept moving. In the final exhibit of this room were the last projects that Walt was a part of: Happiest Millionaire (my favorite Disney movie), planned ski resort and Disney World.

There was a video montage in this section that showed about 10 seconds of what looked like a huge model of the Disney World property. I have never seen this footage before, and I would love to see more. I watched this montage twice trying to see more of the detail of that model. Does anybody know of its existence and where I might be able to see more? Maybe pictures of the model? One of many things that I wish there was more on.

The saddest part was the story of the final 2 months of Walt’s life. How he went from hip issues, to a lump, to getting better, to gone. Left a lump in the throat.

And then to really kick you in the gut, when you enter the next room, there was a small video of the broadcast of Walt’s Death. Had to stay there for a second to compose myself. Then it was time to leave. I walked past the cartoons and walked through the white room with video on the wall. I walked through the exit and into the store. Not enough time…


I have heard many people say that you need a full day to go through that Museum. I disagree, I think you need multiple days to go through this museum. In all honesty, I experienced Walt from birth to Steamboat Willie, visited him at Disneyland, then his passing. That was my 3 hour visit at the Museum. My head hurt with all the information that I had sucked in from those couple of rooms. Staying there longer probably would not have been enjoyable. Maybe go from 10 -12, take a 2 hour walk on the ocean and get something to eat, then return for another 3 hours? That might work. Then on the third visit, bring my boys.

Between the amazing pictures, amazing videos, the story and the wonderful hands on exhibits, this is a wonderful museum.

Questions that I would like to research more on:

· Who is Ub Iwerks, definitely check to see if there’s a biography on him
· Relationship between Walt and Ruth
· Disneyana and the miniatures
· Artist Strike
· The Disney World model that looked like the size of a football field

But the biggest question I have is why is this museum in San Francisco? Is it because of how close the family is? I would think this museum should be in Marcione, Kansas City, Hollywood or Orange. Or am I missing something? Which is definitely possible. I still have 75% of the exhibits still to look through.

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