Visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum


While I was in San Francisco, my wife and I had the opportunity to do lots of fun things. Among those activities was a visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum. I was super excited to visit the museum because a couple of my former bosses did a lot of clearance work for the opening. When I started working at Disney, my bosses were the ones that said “yes” or “no” to the use of Disney film clips. So, when the Walt Disney Family Museum was in the planning stages, there were a lot of intellectual property rights that needed to be cleared for the exhibits to go up. We got a lot of large books that had the renderings for what all of the displays would look like. So, for me, this trip to the Walt Disney Family Museum was about more than just getting to experience a museum dedicated to the life of Walt Disney, but it was about seeing how everything looked in real life…as opposed to drawings.

Before continuing, I’ve got to warn you that this will be a photo heavy blog post. However, the photos represent only a handful of the over 300 photos I took at the museum. If you want to see them all, please click here to view them on my flickr account. So, here we go…


Like all the other days in San Francisco, it was overcast in the morning. After a quick bus trip, we were at the museum and ready to go. What I love about the above photo is that was taken by a random runner who was running through the Presidio and saw us setting up to take individual pictures of each other in front of the sign. So, she offered to take a photo of the two of us. Runners are nice people. Aren’t they?


Walt welcomes you to his museum. Isn’t that nice of him? In the lobby, before you get to the paid parts of the museum, you can see some of his awards.



My favorite was the Oscar for “Snow White and the Seven Darfs.”


Before showing your entrance ticket, the docent tells you that photos are allowed, but no flash photography. When the museum opened, not even flash photography was permitted. I’m glad that I came to the museum when photos were allowed.

The first room that you visit talks about the origins of the Disney family in North America. One thing I loved about this museum is that it not only talked about Walt’s professional career, but it also gave you glimpses into what he was like as a person. The personal stories were very cool. Here is Walt and his younger sister…


My father in law is from Chicago. He’s told me many times how he grew up just down the street from where Walt’s life started off. Here is a pic of that house…


The Disney family left Chicago for Marceline early in Walt’s life. Eventually, the Disney family would move to Kansas City where Walt’s early career would start. Here is a pic of his business card from the early days…


Walt was a dreamer and realized that he couldn’t live out those dreams living in and around Kansas City. So, it was time to move out west to Hollywood. In the museum, they have the elevator carefully decorated as a car like you might find on a train. This elevator takes you to the second level, where you see this…


This room is dedicated to the start of Walt’s life in Hollywood. There are some magnificent video displays here. I really liked the ones that dealt with the Alice Comedies…

I guess the idea of incorporating cartoons with live action wasn’t all that new of a concept when “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” came out. It was fascinating to explore Walt’s early career and see the ups and downs he experienced. One of the downs involved the creation of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. One of the many famous Disney stories involves how he lost creative control over this character. However, Walt doesn’t seem to be a person who let too much get him down. I love this quote regarding Oswald…


From the loosing of Oswald, history was made and Mickey Mouse was born. The panels of information were something I wished I had more time to read. This one regarding Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney was really cool…


As you may or may not know, Walt Disney was the voice of Mickey Mouse in the early days. Pretty cool. Here is one of the first Mickey Mouse drawings…


And the panel that talks about Mickey Mouse…


The popularity of Mickey Mouse can not be overstated. As Walt famously said, “It all started with a mouse.” One of the things that the Walt Disney Company is very well-known for is how we’ve been able to build successful merchandising for our intellectual properties. Clearly, that success was evident even in our beginning stages…


Look at all the Mickey Mouse merchandise! Mickey has been a star from his beginnings in “Steamboat Willie”


Of course, he had some help along the way. The museum does salute the first couple of the Disney empire…


And his dog Pluto as well…


Who would think that a mouse would have a dog as a pet??? Anyways, I’m a big Mickey Mouse fan. So, this museum had a lot to offer me. I love all the uncolored drawings…


The “behind the scenes” information was also very cool. The museum has a lot of video footage that helps tell the story. I thought it was interesting to see how cramped the early animators had it…


The short cartoons were fine with Disney, but he was a dreamer. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” became the very first full length animated movie in history. It was groundbreaking stuff back then. The Disney California Adventure theme park re-imagination included re-theming the entry way to Hollywood back in this era. At the end of Buena Vista Street, is the Carthay Circle Restaurant. This restaurant pays homage to the theatre where Snow White first premiered.


With success, there appears to be more room for the animators…



With the profits from Snow White, Disney was able to expand his film company and build the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. If only the prices in the comissary were still this inexpensive…


I love that I get to work on the Studio Lot and walk in the steps of Walt. There is so much more to share. However, I’m realizing how long this post is. So, I’m going to make it a two parter to be continued tomorrow. I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures so far. Tomorrow, I’ll get into some really fun rooms including the model of Disneyland as the Imagineers imagined it.

6 thoughts on “Visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum

  1. I was just upthere myself the other day. It really is a great museum. THis time I decided to become a member since I live pretty close by. On this visit, I took particular notice of Salvador Dali riding on the Carolwood Express! Great picture!

    1. If I lived closer, I would likely become a member as well. This museum is simply inspiring. The $20 one day admission charge is a steal for what you get. I wish I lived closer.

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