As an avid Disney fan, our son had been begging to visit the Disney Family Museum for the past year.
Last week while attending the “BlogHer 2014” conference in San Jose we finally got the chance to grant his wish and ventured into San Francisco for a tour.
The museum run by the Disney family is located at 104 Montgomery Street, The Presidio, San Francisco, CA and is housed in two red-brick historic buildings, one of which was originally army barracks in the 1890’s and the other a military gymnasium from 1904.
Both were restored, and their interior spaces adapted skillfully to focus on Walt Disney’s life and career.
The exhibit’s first gallery showcases the animator’s childhood mementos from Missouri, illustrations for the high school newspaper as well as some of the laugh-o-grams he created before the company he worked for in Kansas City went bankrupt.
In the second gallery, the focus shifts to his early Hollywood years describing the launch of the world famous studio, the ‘birth’ of iconic Mickey Mouse and how Walt finally established himself as a leading animator by creating ‘Steam Boat Willie,’ an animated film with synchronized sound. Some of this section’s highlights are rare Mickey Mouse illustrations and business letters between the two Disney brothers.
The third area concentrates on the years before WWII when the studio experimented with mini-movies (one reels) called “Silly Symphonies“, and went on to create the first three-strip Technicolor cartoons, by using multi-plane cameras. Our son loved the display where he got to add sound effects to an animated film!
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was pivotal for the studio’s evolution and is well depicted in the museum’s collection of three-dimensional model figures that were used in the movie as well as magazine cuttings from that era. The Snow White movie not only won a regular sized Academy Award for innovation but also received seven miniature castings Oscars one for each dwarf. In the following years the studio expanded, moved its headquarters to Burbank and produced classics like Bambi and Fantasia. Some of the museum’s actual art gems can be found in this section as well as a perfect replica of an animator desk.
The Other Galleries
Probably the biggest surprise for us was visiting the next gallery, which described Disney’s participation in the Second World War efforts.
Apparently the studio produced multiple public announcements and morale-boosting movies alongside its features like Dumbo, as it was struggling to recover from a major strike that almost impacted its existence. The colorful army insignia displayed along with the wartime bulletin makes this gallery a must-see.
The exhibit continues through the Disney brothers’ efforts post-war to expand into live action films like 20 000 Leagues under the Sea as well as maintain its lead in animation with cinematographic favorites Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland.
If you are a fan of Disney memorabilia, this gallery for you as it includes the animator’s collection of miniature figures.
The second to last gallery explores Walt Disney’s fascination with quality family entertainment through movies (Mary Poppins was created during this time), television programs like The Wonderful World of Disney (I was a huge fan) and recreational parks like Disneyland and later Disney World that several decades later we still enjoy and cherish.
You have to check out the Disneyland Diorama and how it compares to the real park.
The most moving display of the exhibit is the part housing the newspaper clips and cards of condolences from around the world when Walt Disney died so be sure not to miss it.
Autism Travel Tips
Don’t miss out on the movie included in the entrance fee.
Allow between 1.5 to 2 hours for your visit.
If your child is antsy, you might want to walk around the Presidio area for a while before entering the museum.
It may look compact from the outside, but it is filled with artifacts and memorabilia that take the time to read through.
The museum is geared more towards teens and adults who are Disney aficionados since there aren’t many interactive exhibits.
Don’t miss the museum’s l Autism Friendly events coming up in October if your kid with autism is a Disney fan!