Walt Disney’s daughter Diane founded The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco’s Presidio to explore the life, career, and times of her father—but it also offers a compelling look at the art of animation and how Disney’s work has shaped pop culture.
Located in a former barracks building at the Army-post-turned-national-park, the 40,000-square-foot museum houses interactive galleries, education classrooms, a Fantasia-themed theater, plus a shop and café.
The museum is primarily focused on the visionary behind the cultural institution. “Guests are consistently impressed with the experience of Walt’s personal story, and as part of the museum experience we allow visitors to embrace the opportunity to learn about him as a man and as an innovator, versus solely as a brand,” says museum spokesperson Victoria Rainone.
Indeed there are 10 galleries devoted to the life and work of Walter Elias Disney, including ones devoted to his boyhood and artistic development in Missouri; his nascent Hollywood studio in the 1930s (and his invention of “storyboarding”); and special projects like his patriotic films during World War II and the nature documentaries he produced in the 1950s.
The museum also stages long-run exhibits, like shows about the pre-digital artistic process that created Pinocchio, or Disney’s innovative collaboration with Salvador Dali. It also offers classes for visitors (some just two hours, some intensive full days) on animation technique and technology, like how to “animate” sadness by drawing the eyes, mouth, and even head shape. The theater does screenings, such as Winnie the Pooh shorts, full-length films (including live-action Disney classics like The Absent-Minded Professor), or “deep cut” Disney cartoons from the archives.
While the museum seems, in some ways, geared toward grown-up Disney super-fans, art-loving kids will be easily drawn in too. “The Museum’s learning centers provide plenty of hands-on activities for young visitors, as well as various screenings of classic Disney films, with different screenings depending on the week and month,” says Rainone. “The goal the Museum's educational programming is to nurture the next generations of creative talent while inspiring them to embrace their imagination.”