Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Long Weekend, Part One: The Walt Disney Family Museum

Both Dave and I had the day off Monday and we decided to take Friday as well to make an extra long weekend of it. For Christmas, he gave me a gift certificate to a hat store in San Francisco so we decided to spend the first day of our long weekend in the City.

Until a few hours before we headed up to the City on Friday, the idea of going to the Exploratorium was batted around, but got shelved when someone I follow on social media posted about the Walt Disney Family Museum. As both of us are Disneyphiles, Dave and I had talked about going since it opened, but had never had the chance. It seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We couldn't have picked a better day either. It was a little bit cool in the shade, but otherwise the California sunshine held out and we were treated to 70 some odd degree temperatures for the better part of the day.

Now, if you don't know anything about the Walt Disney Family museum, it is - at it's most basic - the history of Walt's life. You find out where he started, how he got where he was, and a whole lot of cool stuff in between.

I won't bore you with picture after picture of the museum or a step by step walk through. You really need to see it yourself to understand and enjoy. But I'll highlight a few of my favorite things.

Terrible collage from my phone
First, hooray for complimentary coat check. It is San Francisco after all, and if you go without a jacket you have no one to blame but yourself, and not having to carry a coat around the whole museum was awesome. The coat check was down in this little lobby in the basement that had a bunch of the Vintage Mary Blair Disneyland attraction posters (of which I WANT THEM ALL), a small exhibit about Mary Blair including details of the upcoming Special Exhibit on her and her works, a theatre showing a movie of the month (which we missed by getting there too late), and the restrooms. 

The Lobby

This display of furniture from his Disneyland apartment. LOVE IT!

The lobby held displays of all Walt's honors, awards, and 
recognitions, and holy cow, there's a lot! 

The Museum

Disney Pin-Ups for Service Men
Going through the museum, you follow in Walt's footsteps from birth to death, learning all sorts of interesting tidbits. Like how he lied about his age to serve as an ambulance driver in World War I.

One of my favorite parts of the museum dealt with Disney in the 1940's, which are - arguably - some of his uglier times. I'm happy to say it wasn't white-washed. They cover the Union Strikes of the early 40's, Disney WW II Propaganda, and even Disney's testimony on the "Red Threat". Interestingly enough, there are a lot of people that think Disney actually was targeted by Communists taking over the Screen Cartoonists Guild and it wasn't just paranoia prompting his testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Now tell me that isn't an incredible view from the museum walkway.

Of all the exhibits, this was my favorite (surprise!):

As you spiral down the pathway towards the giant model of Disneyland, you pass the Lilly Belle, Walt's model train, and you learn about this crazy idea to build a theme park.

Both of us in front of the huge Disneyland Model
There aren't very many pictures from the end of the museum because, honestly, I got a bit teary eyed. Yes, I got emo over a guy that died before I was born.

Sadly, we didn't plan for enough time at the museum as we had dinner plans in the City, and missed seeing the Art of Tyrus Wong special exhibit. It closes February 3rd and most likely won't be able to get back in time to see it.

Here are a few hints for visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum:
  1. If you plan on going during the week, pay for the WHOLE DAY of parking. 
  2. Three hours is the minimum amount of time it will take you to make it through the whole thing. Plan for five hours. 
  3. The Presidio grounds are gorgeous. Give yourself enough time to walk around and enjoy the insane view of the Golden Gate Bridge. 
  4. Bring a jacket. You're going to San Francisco. It will get cold. 
  5. Do yourself a favor and wait to try some of the interactive exhibits, specifically the exhibit for syncing sound with cartoons. It was so difficult, but a lot of fun. It's no surprise people thought adding sound to cartoons was something that just couldn't/shouldn't be done. 
  6. Not really the most child friendly place. Don't get me wrong, they'll enjoy it, but will probably wind up bored. 
  7. Enjoy! 
I'll end with this personal observation: The lesson to learn from Walt Disney's life is that it's important to take chances. To dream big dreams. People told him over and again that the things he wanted to do wouldn't work, that they were crazy, but he kept going, and because of that he blazed trails no one thought to blaze, and built a legacy that's impossible to forget.

Coming Soon: The Long Weekend, Part Two: Maybe the Best Margherita Pizza ever and Hats!!!

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