The first thing to know about the Walt Disney Family Museum, which occupies a prime spot in the Presidio of San Francisco, is that it’s not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company. The museum was founded by Diane Disney Miller, the late daughter of Walt Disney, with the mission to chronicle the life and life’s work of her father. As such, the space does not envelop visitors with that signature Disney corporate magic. Don’t go there expecting costumed characters and Disneyland-esque magical moments. Instead, this museum offers a different version of Disney charm as it invites you into the world of the man behind Mickey Mouse.
Stroll through the museum and learn about Walt’s remarkable life from his Midwest childhood to his move to Hollywood, his countless innovations in animation, and his indelible legacy. Of course, there are beloved Disney characters aplenty from sketch to screen. Disney fans of all ages and anyone with an interest in popular culture, animation and movie-making will find a lot to love at this engrossing San Francisco attraction. The gift store is pretty special too.
What to See at the Walt Disney Family Museum
The museum’s 10 galleries follow Walt Disney’s life chronologically, starting with “Gallery 1: Early Beginnings.” Learn about Walt’s childhood in rural Missouri through to his service in France during World War I. Throughout is evidence of his budding artistic and storytelling talents. “Gallery 2: The Move to Hollywood” explores Walt’s first major contract, his new studio launched with brother Roy, and the stories behind Mortimer – soon renamed Mickey – Mouse.
Ensuing galleries present Walt Disney’s family life as well as his innovations in animation, the transition to features, and the creation of Disneyland. Through intimate details, documents, paraphernalia and multimedia exhibits, visitors gain a deeper understanding of the enormous role Walt Disney’s characters and stories have secured in popular culture. Many exhibits are interactive and fun for children. In the especially affecting “Gallery 10: Remembering Walt Disney,” see how the world mourned Walt Disney upon his passing in 1966, then transitioned to embracing his legacy for generations to come.
The Virtual Experience
The Walt Disney Family Museum is temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, it does offer virtual experiences to rival an in-person visit. Take a virtual tour of the museum’s highlights via its mobile app, explore digital media content in depth, and watch high-resolution videos of the galleries plus archived film and audio clips. The audio guide is available in 12 languages, and can be streamed from all over the world.
The Walt Disney Family Museum
104 Montgomery Street in the Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94129