In 2009, the Walt Disney Family Foundation opened a 40,000 square foot museum in the Presidio about Walt Disney. It took three old military buildings (barracks), 35 fire extinguishers, 138,000 cables, 224 monitors, and 847 days to complete the Walt Disney Family Museum. I recently went to the museum, and the result of all this hard work is spectacular.
I remember going on family vacations to museums when I was in elementary school and feeling bored and miserable, so I wasn’t sure what to expect once I entered the Walt Disney Family Museum. Fortunately, I’m not in elementary school anymore, and a lot has changed since then. The museum is interactive, visual, and seamlessly integrates physical artifacts with video, audio, information, and creativity. With so many different ways to engage visitors, the museum is a fun, inspiring and educational place for children of all ages, as well as adults in all walks of life.
Upon entry, you step in the first of 10 galleries, which take you on a journey across Walt Disney’s life as a son, brother, artist, American, business man, innovator, husband, and father. Throughout the galleries are extremely detailed exhibits with letters from Disney to family, original sketches, audio from Disney or a family member telling a story appropriate to the timeline for the gallery you are visiting, and video. The first gallery talks about Disney’s early life, and it is here that I first noticed the different curtains that adorn the back of each exhibit to give a feel and texture to each piece as you move through the galleries. Little details like the changing curtains, videos playing in the letters of Hollywood in the second gallery, and changing videos playing on several different vintage TV screens in the ninth gallery (about the 1950s and 1960s) really make this museum remarkable. It was fun to see how many drawings it took to make one fluid movement in the original Mickey Mouse cartoons on a wall of drawings in the second (Hollywood) gallery. It was also neat to learn that making Snow White was a huge risk for Disney, and Bank of America, and about how Disney innovated animation with the use of a giant multi-lens camera (on display), which allowed animation to look more like you were watching a live moving picture with depth and changing, moving backgrounds in and out of focus.
The Walt Disney Family Museum has a Fantasia-themed theater for daily (except Tuesdays and Sept. 17 & 24) showings of classic Disney animations at 1p.m. and 4 p.m. The movie for the month of September is “So Dear to My Heart,” the story of a Jeremiah and his baby lamb, Danny, who he trains to compete in the county fair. The museum also has some great resources for teachers and schools, like educational tour options and lesson plans, on their Web site. Also included in the great resources the foundation has to offer, are a slew of public programs such as community lectures and classes in a wide range of topics. This month hosts two classes about 2-D hand-drawn animation (18 and older) on Sept. 17, and a special Chili and a Movie event (museum members only) on Sept. 24.
My only complaint about the museum is that they do not allow strollers. I didn’t know this ahead of time, so I brought my stroller and didn’t bring any other sort of carrier for my sleeping (and extremely heavy) baby. I had to wake up my daughter so I could leave my stroller and camera (also not allowed in the museum) at coat check in the lower level of the building. I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked looking through the galleries because my bad back couldn’t carry my daughter standing up for too long. Other than that, the museum astonished me.
HOURS OF OPERATION:
Wednesday-Monday: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Closed every Tuesday.
TICKETS: Under age six: Free. Ages 6-17: $12. Students and seniors (0ver 65): $15. Adults: $20. Last ticket sales and entry is 4:45 p.m.