Part one of this story is at this
Part two of this story is at this
Gallery 7 is an interesting gallery. It's dark inside but filled with
splashes of color. All above you is a video "ribbon" of images from films of the
mid-1940s to the early 50s, Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and
the Tramp, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and Song of the South.
Yep, Song of the
South, the Walt Disney Company may continue to ignore this film, but the Walt
Disney Family Museum does not and it's nice to see it here.
As you transition out of Gallery 7 and into Gallery 8, there's a small room
featuring some of the bits and pieces of Walt's everyday life from this time
period … A display case with the Oscar charm bracelet Walt gave Lilly, some of
her perfume bottles, a bowling ball bag, an elaborate clock, and some of Walt's
extensive personal collection of miniatures.
But what really grabs your
attention, or at least it did mine, is not all the fancy personal effects but a
case filled with canned food and boxes of Jello along with a photo of a woman
the family called Foo Foo. Foo Foo, or Thelma Howard, was the Disney family's
housekeeper, cook, and sometime nanny. She went to work for the Disney family in
1951 and stayed for 30 years, and all the Disney grandkids loved her.
Walter Elias Disney Miller (Walt's grandson - pictured below), who was my group's guide
through the museum, explained that his grandpa didn't care so much for all the
fancy food Foo Foo was capable of producing. He liked chili and he liked Jello,
and Foo Foo liked to make Walt happy so she cooked chili and made Jello for him.
And as to why the family called Thelma Foo Foo … Well, Walter Miller said it's
because his older brother Christopher, couldn't say Thelma, it came out Foo Foo,
and so … Foo Foo she was.
Okay, we're almost at Gallery 9, so let's hop on into Gallery 8 real quick,
Gallery 8 is brilliant in its architecture. You might be too young to
remember the Walt Disney True Life Adventures, but I'm not. We saw these films
in school way back when I was a kiddy. If I'm not mistaken, I believe they are
still shown in classrooms from time to time. Walt Disney had a love of nature
and it was inevitable that he would venture into nature documentaries. The first
of these was Seal Island, which won the 1949 Academy Award for best two-reel
I started the above paragraph with a comment about the brilliance of the
architecture of Gallery 8 and then proceeded to say nothing about said
brilliance. Well here goes … you step out of the room featuring those cans of
chili and what you immediately see is a huge wall of glass with the most
gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco bay. It's just
spectacular. And it represents Walt's True Life Adventures. Nature, in all its
If you can tear yourself away from that view (and I suggest
you do), turn back around and have a look at the white undulating wall behind
you with all the video screens showing True Life Adventure footage. Brilliant.
Okay. … now, we get to move into the gallery that just thrilled me to pieces.
Because you see, it is in this gallery I found all the things I loved in my
childhood. Gallery 9 moves on in time to the 1950s and 60s … The Mickey Mouse
Club, Zorro, Davy Crocket, Mary Poppins, The Wonderful World of Color, and …
Disneyland. I swear I got a little misty walking into this room and I was trying
to contain myself and act all professional. But, you see, I was walking into my
As with Gallery 8, the architecture here is beautiful. A way to get from the
upper floor of Gallery 8 to the lower floor of Galleries 9 and 10 was very
cleverly thought out, you step into Gallery 9 and are immediately on sensory
overload. Where to look? Everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, there is
something to see, something to listen to.
Your journey through all this is the
aforementioned cleverly-thought-out descent, a 164-foot floating spiral ramp
coiling around the gallery, taking you past Walt's little Lilly Belle train
(yes, the very train you've seen him riding on at his home in countless videos),
the 1964-65 World's Fair, and into Disneyland.
Yep Disneyland. At the bottom of this ramp is one gigantic model of
Disneyland. Not the Disneyland that is, or the Disneyland that was, but the
Disneyland that Walt imagined. Some of the model was actually at Disneyland,
some of the model was never there, but all of the model is grand. Along with
listening to the audio that accompanies the display, I could have stared at it
for quite a while and not have seen every detail. I was mesmerized.
Across from the Disneyland model are display cases filled with memorabilia
from the old television shows, a Davy Crockett coonskin cap, a Davy Crockett "Ge
Tar," a Zorro Halloween costume, magazines from the time period, a "Mousegetar."
Here you will also the Autopia car Walt gave to his first grandson Chris so that
when Chris came to the Studio, he had something to toodle around in (can you
imagine how fun that must have been). There's the optical printer that enabled
live-action and animation to be combined (The Three Caballeros, 1945; Mary Poppins,
1964) and the Technicolor camera DF-7 (which enabled filming of actors
to later be combined with different backgrounds).
There is also a sweet little case filled with grandfatherly things that I
found just charming, little ‘nothings' that grandfathers tend to keep. What's in
the case reminded me of both my own grandfather and father and it really brings
forth a feeling of Walt, the man.
It's Walt's valet box that sits in this case and evokes that feeling. Walt's
daughter Diane's words describe it perfectly, "This box was always on Dad's
dresser. In it he just kept things – the little odds and ends that had some
sentimental value to him – commemorative pins, a key chain, money clips, pencils
and a drawing by his grandson, Christopher. Dad was a baseball fan, and Gene
Autry had asked him to serve on the advisory board of the Los Angeles Angels. He
was proud of that. Mother gave this box to Walter some years after Dad died."
At this point in the tour of the museum, I'm all misty-eyed and thinking of
my grandpa and how we would all get in the car and go over to Grandpa and
Grandma's house to watch Walt Disney on The Wonderful World of Color. I remember
vividly Walt describing, with absolute glee, the new attraction coming to
Disneyland, Pirates of the Caribbean. I watched, enthralled as Walt talked about
the attraction and was amazed when he asked the audience how did we think the
boats would get back up out of the ride? When he simply stated that, "You go
back up the waterfall," I swear you could see a little twinkle of joy in that
man's eye. To this, then-little kid, it sounded astounding, simply amazing ...
"Your boat just goes back up the waterfall?"
These are the thoughts that were in my head as I walked into Gallery 10.
Gallery 10 is sad.
Gallery 10 is all about December 15, 1966.
The day Walt Disney died.
All around the walls are cartoons depicting a grieving Mickey Mouse, the
accolades that poured from all over the world remembering the man who brought us
Mickey Mouse are everywhere. A period-appropriate television set sits against
the wall, continually playing a program with people Walt knew telling their
stories about their reaction to hearing the news he had died.
It's a gallery that must be there, but even now, writing about it, I don't
like it. It throws me instantly back to that day. He wasn't someone anyone in my
family ever met, but just the same Walt Disney was part of my family. I'm sure
I'm not the only person who walked through this room with those feelings. And I
was awfully glad the museum didn't end on this note.
Instead of sadness, you are left with joy. Curving white walls filled with
video screens constantly play changing footage of all the accomplishments, all
the moments big and little, that the man who was Walt Disney brought to the
I suppose I am a gushing cheerleader for the Walt Disney Family Museum at
this point, but really, I cannot sing enough praise for this lovely tribute to
the man who was Walt Disney. That his family is kind enough to share with the
world, all of their family's treasures is a very nice thing. A friend described
her visit to the museum to me, as a place that is like stepping into a family's
attic to look at all the treasures of their lives, albeit a very clean and
well-organized attic. The Walt Disney Family Museum is a beautifully designed,
well-thought out museum and it certainly is a must-see for not only Disney fans,
but for everyone.
If you're planning a trip up to San Francisco to see the museum, The
Walt Disney Family Museum's website has all the pertinent information including ticketing info, prices, how to get
and -- you can order your tickets for a visit:
http://www.waltdisney.org You can also follow the Walt Disney Family Museum on
Twitter for the latest
scoop, and of course discuss it all to your heart's content at
November 2009 Walt Disney Family Museum Events Calendar
Film of the Month - Sleeping Beauty runs until November 20th
12:30pm, 3:30pm, 6:30pm, Theater - tickets online at
The classic fairy tale of a princely kiss awaking a beautiful princess from a
deep sleep is the subject of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Throughout
the month of November, relive or discover for the first time the visually
stunning animated feature, Sleeping Beauty as we celebrate the 50th
anniversary of this incredible film.
November 14 - International Animation Festival and the Screening of the
Landmark Theatres Embarcadero Center Cinema - tickets on the SF Film Society website at
Walt Disney’s first successful series of films, the Alice Comedies, were
built around a clever special-effects idea: a real little girl entering a
cartoon world and interacting with the cartoon characters. The Walt Disney
Family Museum will partner with the San Francisco International Animation
Festival to present these charming films. A selection of the Alice Comedies
can be seen during the Festival on Saturday, November 14 at the Embarcadero
November 27 - Christmas with Walt Disney (Special Holiday Film
12:30pm, 3:30pm, 6:30pm, Theater - tickets online at
Walt Disney’s Christmases past are remembered in
this special holiday screening that includes Walt’s “Nutcracker Suite” from
Fantasia (1940), Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952), scenes from the
television Christmas specials, and rarely seen home movies of Walt at home with
his family. See how Walt celebrated this beloved holiday at the Studio, at
Disneyland, and at home.
November 21 - The Art of Sleeping Beauty with Lella Smith
3:00pm, Theater - tickets online at
The rich tapestry appearance is the visual hallmark of Sleeping Beauty
and the primary vision of animator Eyvind Earle. Lella Smith, Creative Director
of Walt Disney Animation Studios Research Library, will discuss the unique art
and design that brought Princess Aurora and her magical world to life 50 years
November 22 - Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Beyond: The Designs and Art of
3:00pm, Theater - tickets online at
The first glimpse of the gleaming white towers of “Sleeping Beauty’s Castle”
is a moment that few forget. But, who designed Disneyland’s most recognizable
landmark and the dream home of many a prince and princess? Here is the
opportunity to discover the creativity of an early Imagineer, Herb Ryman, from
Marty Sklar, former International Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering. Mr. Sklar, who was with the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney Imagineering
for 53 years, will talk about the extraordinary talent of Herb Ryman that went
beyond his work at Disneyland by sharing his art and designs.
November 26 - Thanksgiving Day
Museum is closed