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Photo TR: The Walt Disney Family Museum

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Earlier this month I had a business trip to San Francisco and with a free day I decided to check out the Walt Disney Family Museum. It is a non-profit museum founded by Walt's family to tell his story separate from that of the company. Anyone who knows his life story (like readers of this website) might find themselves skipping past some of the displays which go into great detail but the real star here is the artifacts. You'll see original sketches, props, models, equipment, and property that defined Walt's life.



Welcome to San Francisco! Why is the Walt Disney Family Museum here? Diane Disney Miller's family lives in Northern California so it was a good location for them. They also wanted to separate their museum from the association the company has with LA.


The museum is located in the Presidio, a former US military base and now a National Park located right at the Golden Gate. The museum itself is housed inside a refurbished army barracks originally built in 1897.


The lobby features some of Walt's Oscars including the famous Seven Dwarfs Oscar!


The museum is the story of Walt's life and the first room includes his childhood days and his service in World War I. This is a truck similar to the one he drove in France.


An original sketch!


The oldest known drawing of Mickey Mouse. Although they are not sure exactly who drew this, it was most likely Ub Iwerks with possible help from Walt.


A Steamboat Willie drawing. Animators only drew the moving parts of the scene which were then overlapped on the unchanging image of the boat's body.


Steamboat Willie production guide


There are several rooms full of original art as the museum walks us through the story of Walt's journey from Alice and Oswald to Mickey and Snow White.


Bambi concept art


Dumbo concept art


A post from the studio showing how the feature production flowed through all the departments. It all starts with Walt!


The War films are covered too... even the more controversial ones.


The museum was created by his family so of course it goes soft on him in some places but it doesn't avoid the difficult times. The studio strike has it's own exhibit and Walt's involvement with the House Un-American Activities Committee is also covered.


Next is a large room with digital displays that cover most of Disney's movies post-WWII. This display of 20k Leagues artifacts is a included.


The center of the museum is all about Disneyland! And it starts with Walt's love of trains and the real Lilly Belle!


It is in great condition!


So detailed!


Look at the little controls in the cab!




Lilly Belle ran around and through Walt's home but eventually he wanted something bigger...


A model of the castle.


Circlevision camera.


The real star here is the Disneyland model.


It is huge!


and very detailed


But it isn't quite realistic. It isn't a model of Disneyland at any specific time but more of an idea of Walt's Disneyland as he wanted it. The major attractions also feature little characters.


And the indoor ones have their roofs missing so you can see inside.


Probably the most unrealistic attraction featured is Space Mountain which didn't appear in Disneyland until 1977!


You could spend hours looking at this


Original Fantasyland


New Orleans Square






Another model... this time of the Mark Twain.


More displays talk about the development of the park


Golden Horseshoe


A B C D and E tickets


We take a break from Disneyland to showcase Mary Poppins including these original storyboard drawings.


An autographed copy of the book from PL Travers to Walt.


One of the last exhibits showcases the 1964 World's Fair and some of the developments resulting from Walt's involvement. Here a Tiki bird (who you are allowed to control) explains audio-animatronics.


Original Small World sketch


Carousel of Progress model


Some of Walt's personal artifacts including his hat, glasses, and travel case.


The next room is a hall filled with newspaper headlines announcing Walt's death. It is also essentially the end of the museum (in true Disney style you will exit into the gift shop). What of Disney World, EPCOT, and everything else? Well remember this is a museum about Walt's life. Not one about his Company. The museum's story ends here with the world's tributes to the man who brought so much joy to the world.


Is it worth a visit? Absolutely! You probably won't spend a full day here but you can easily spend a few hours to a half day looking at everything. They also have temporary exhibits and an evening film (it was 101 Dalmatians on the day I was there). It also has a great location that makes it easy to get to and plan a day around. After you check out the museum it's just a quick hike, bike, bus, or Uber to the Golden Gate Bridge.



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I enjoyed the Walt Disney Family Museum when I visited it about a year and a half ago, especially the large scale model of Disneyland. Any Disney fan needs to see this museum at some point.

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Thank you for the report. I stumbled on the Disney Family Museum on a trip to SF while tracking down the Yoda Statue at LucasFilm (also at the presidio). The museum is very well done and has a great view of the Golden Gate from a hallway you go through in the museum.

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Great report. I visited the museum on my last trip to San Francisco and really loved it. It is a must for any Disney fan. Also within walking distance of the Disney museum is LucasFilm and ILM. You can't walk into the buildings but they do have a cool Yoda statue.


Yoda fountain

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I really wanted to visit this when I was in San Francisco a few summers back, but they closed really early on a Saturday which was disappointing. The place looks really cool, especially that Disneyland model.

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