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“To all that come to this happy place, welcome!”
This week marks a special moment for the magic kingdom, a milestone that will forever be immortalized by a man that was the leader in imagination, wonder, and innovation. This week celebrates Walt Disney’s birthday and we will honor him by taking a look at a magical place dedicated to him.
For once, I am not talking about Disneyland or even Walt Disney World. Off in the misty San Francisco Bay lives another place full of the same joy and magic that can be found inside the park gates. Nestled in the historic Presido complex alongside the iconic Golden Grate Bridge, the Walt Disney Family Museum welcomes guests and hardcore Disney nerds from across the globe.
The design of the museum brings you directly into the life of Walt from start to finish. It’s a real life history book, as each hall and exhibit turns the page into the rich memories that helped shape the foundations of what Disney means to all of us today. From his early childhood, to his early work on the Alice Comedies and the creation of Mickey Mouse, you are taken on a full tour of what it means to be Walt Disney.
Fans and admirers will get a chance to look at the first honorary Oscar for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Walt’s first attempts at animation, the turmoil of war and protest in the early studio days, in addition to many of the wonderful pieces surrounding the original Disneyland project.
The Disneyland exhibit is breathtaking, providing a full picture view of the parks foundations and groundbreaking achievements. My favorite part of the exhibit is the vibrant and expansive model of the park which highlights both past and present additions to Disneyland’s ever changing look.
Since opening in 1955, the park has grown and evolved so much. The model is by far one of the best representations of how powerful Disneyland is in the hearts and minds of fans young and old.
You also get a chance to learn more about the process of audio animatronics in a guided tour by the famous Tiki Room Barker Bird, a fun look at the animation work needed for Mary Poppins, along with other neat surprises.
Among those surprises, the museum hosts special seasonal exhibits that focus on the art, concepts, and work of various artists and animators throughout the Disney canon. The current exhibit, Awaking Beauty, features the early work of Eyvind Earle and his special touch with the animation for Sleeping Beauty.
During the holidays, Walt also gets a unique addition setup downstairs that celebrates family and his love of trains called Home for the Holidays. The festive installation includes a model of Walt’s family home and model train, The Lilly Belle. Free with regular museum admission, the exhibit includes has a special screening of Christmas with Walt Disney, which is an exclusive film that can only been seen at this location.
If you haven’t ventured into the halls of the museum yet, it’s a wonderful excuse to visit San Francisco and take in the spectacular life of Walt. It has become a yearly tradition to visit and each time is just as amazing as the year prior.
There are sure to be tears of joy and smiles as you venture through the halls. Please be warned, tissues will be a necessary companion when entering the final exhibit. As stated earlier, the museum follows the life of Walt from start to finish. The finale is a touching and very emotional tribute to his final days and projects. Even after all this time, it’s hard to go through the hall without shedding a tear. It is best to prepare yourself, as it will definitely hit you when you least expect it.
After all these years, it’s hard to remember a day where Disney wasn’t a part of our lives. Walt spent his entire life providing positive energy and magic into the world and we are forever in his debt for the gifts he has given us all.
This week is a time to celebrate not only the man behind our childhood whims and fantasies, but also a reminder to remember that all it takes is an idea and the passion to pursue your dream to make all the difference in the world.
Happy Birthday Walt!