Results 1 to 14 of 14
  1. #1

    • MiceChat News Team
    • Thanking the Academy
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cartoon Wasteland
    Posts
    4,828
    Blog Entries
    68

    Disneytim Talks with Richard Benefield with the Walt Disney Family Museum


    Walt Disney and many Mickey Mouses

    When it comes to Walt Disney, Richard Benefield could really do without the urban legends. "We don't really talk about the fact that some people think he's frozen," he says. "We just state the fact that he's buried in Forest Lawn Cemetary in Glendale."

    Not frozen after death, check. But, what about Walt's alleged anti-Semitism?

    "It's an absolutely preposterous notion. That one still baffles all of us."

    When you're the founding executive director of the Walt Disney Family Museum, there's more to your job than just preserving and showcasing the artifacts of one man's lifetime in entertainment. You're also tasked with protecting and defending his legacy.


    Richard Benefield

    "There are a few, weird, isolated rumors that no one seems to know exactly how they got started," says Benefield. "I met (Disney composer) Richard Sherman last December. I had lunch with him and with (retired Imagineer) Marty Sklar together in Los Angeles. Richard just looked at me from across the table and he said, 'Look, I just want to tell you something. This thing about Walt being an anti-Semite, look at us'--talking about him and Marty--'We're two of the biggest Jews in Hollywood! We loved him and we knew him, and he loved us and knew us, and we loved working with the man. So I don't know where that came from.'"

    As the Walt Disney Family Museum begins its third month of operation in San Francisco's Presidio, it continues fulfilling its mission of revealing the man behind the myth. To some, it even proves that--SURPRISE!--Walt Disney was an actual person. Benefield says, "(The Disney family) learned through some market research and surveys that there was a whole generation of people who thought 'Walt Disney' was a made up name and it was just part of the brand name of the company. I think that this museum makes it really clear that there was a person behind it through every step of it, and that he really was the mastermind behind all that he oversaw."


    Diane Disney Miller and Bruce Gordon

    With ten galleries chock full of Disney history and family memorabilia, the museum leaves no doubt that Walt was a real live boy, a creative, ambitious and complex person of many accomplishments. Benefield gives much of the credit for the look and overall flow of the galleries to the late Disney Imagineer Bruce Gordon, who was a consultant with the museum in its early development stages. "The ramp that takes you from the second floor down to the first floor through Gallery 9 was originally his idea," says Benefield. "Many, many of his ideas have just lived on through the project. It's a great testament to his imagination and his own storytelling ability, and Diane (Disney Miller, Walt's daughter) is always very careful to give him credit for that."

    As the former deputy director of Harvard University Art Museums, Benefield came to the Walt Disney Family Museum more as an art historian and curator than a Disney historian. Like most of us, though, he still grew up exposed to Disney films and entertainment. The first movie he remembers seeing as a child is "Old Yeller," and "Pinocchio" remains one of his all-time favorites. "I'm just astounded every time I watch it at how incredibly beautiful it is just to look at," he says.

    His artistic eye gives him a special appreciation of the museum's collection. "I came into this job from an art museum background in terms of how you care for original works of art and artifacts of all kinds, really, and how you manage the public aspect of the museum. But, I find some of the original animation art--things like the scene paintings, the concept drawings--are the things that I find absolutely the most fascinating."


    Mary Blair concept art for "Peter Pan"

    Benefield is reluctant to name an item in the collection that is his favorite--it's an unfair question, really--but press him on the matter and he'll concede to having a preference for the work of Mary Blair. "I tend to gravitate a little bit more towards the original works of art that are in the collection," he says. The artwork that stands out most for him is a concept piece Blair did for "Peter Pan" showing the children flying over moonlit London. "I just think that it's a glorious work of art."

    To mark the holidays, the museum will present in its theater "Christmas with Walt Disney," a film showing Walt at home and at work, celebrating the festive season. Narrated by Diane Disney Miller, it includes clips from Christmas-themed animated shorts and television programs. "The really great thing about the film," says Benefield, "is we have Walt's home movies from Christmas with his family. All of that has been artfully put together and culminates with an amazing reworking of 'The Nutcracker Suite' from 'Fantasia.'" "Christmas with Walt Disney" premieres at the museum on November 27th and will be shown six times daily most days through January 4th.

    "Christmas with Walt Disney" is the latest in a series of monthly film presentations at the museum. In January, the museum will screen "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" followed by February showings of "Lady and the Tramp." Apropos for St. Patrick's Day, "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" will be featured in March. Says Benefield, "We've got some really great public programming going on along with this great museum."

    Visit www.waltdisney.org for more information about the Walt Disney Family Museum and its many public events.

    (Click thumbnail images to see larger pictures.)
    Last edited by disneytim; 11-26-2009 at 02:15 PM.

  2. #2

    • Member
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    328

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    Great write-up! Richard introed Marty Sklar at the museum last Sunday, but I didn't get a chance to talk to him. I ran into Diane and Ron as well. I'm glad he addressed the anti-Semitism rumor as well; its one that baffled me as well but I'm glad theres no basis in it. And yes, Walt is buried at Forest Lawn (with Lilly and Sharon and her husband), I've been there.

  3. #3

    • Member
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Lake Tahoe, CA
    Posts
    78

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    Agreed on the Mary Blair pieces - they were a high point of the museum for us, really fantastic work!

  4. #4

    •   
    • Skeevy Ray Vaughan
    • Online

    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Fullerton
    Posts
    37,962

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    Great report DTim! I must admit, those rumors are pretty horrible.

  5. #5

    • MiceChat News Team
    • Thanking the Academy
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cartoon Wasteland
    Posts
    4,828
    Blog Entries
    68

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    Quote Originally Posted by aashee View Post
    Great report DTim! I must admit, those rumors are pretty horrible.
    And they won't go away. Just last week, one of my girlfriend's coworkers insisted that Walt had been frozen (she was totally embarrassed when I produced a ton of information to prove he wasn't ). The anti-Semite story seems to get traction with every "Family Guy" episode where Walt is a target.

    I posted this a few months ago in another anti-Semite thread: http://micechat.com/forums/disney-bu...post1055294866

    As far as the "was Walt a real person?" question, I blame the Walt Disney Company itself for how it's mishandled Walt's image in the forty-plus years since his death. By limiting access to the Disney Archives and continually overprotecting Walt, presenting him in the most iconic, whitewashed way, the company has created a character no more realistic than Mickey Mouse (the fact that Walt holds hands with him at the top of Main Street doesn't help either). It's really small wonder that younger audiences, who have no recollection of Walt appearing in movies or on television, think of him as a fictional creation. Only recently, with the efforts of D23 and the Walt Disney Family Museum, is Walt being presented realistically as the very gifted and flawed human being that he was. I hope this trend continues.

  6. #6

    • MiceChat Administrator
    • Man of mystery and
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Temple of the Forbidden Eye
    Posts
    13,759
    Blog Entries
    3

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    Fascinating. Thank you for this wonderful interview Tim!
    Find us on Facebook:

    .

    How do you support MiceChat? Join MiceChat GOLD!,



  7. #7

    • Disneylander in Arizona!
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    148

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    It is always depressing when rumors grow rampantly and people start to believe them as fact, glad there are people working to dispel them. Very cool stuff sir.
    "It matters not how strait the gate how charged with Punishments the scroll I am the master of my fate I am the captain of my soul" -- W.E. Henley
    ***Next trip to the Disneyland® Resort***
    ***May 9, 2012***

  8. #8

    • The Darkness to Light
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    2,557

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    Thanks for this. I wish I could see the exhibit itself. It sounds wonderful.
    WARNING: Any opinions expressed by this user are wrong.

  9. #9

    • Member
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    374

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    Sorry you felt the need to delete my previous response. In a nutshell, I said I fear the museum is in very bad hands with someone who seems to want to promote himself more than Walt, and who says the anti-Semitic rumor "baffles us." Even though there's a whole section on the strike in the museum, which is where these rumors got started. I think the museum is a fantastic place, but is being marketed with mediocrity. I read the Disney sites regularly and didn't even realize there were screenings until I got there. There may have been 10 people in the entire museum when I went. You can't even see it from the "street" and it's shoved into a distant, hard to access section of the Presidio. I saw Mr. Benefield when I was there, and when I tried to introduce myself he just dismissed me saying he was running late to something. The staff was lovely and cordial but the cafe was awful and the gift shop was a nightmare of overpriced, needless trinkets. But more importantly and to the point, why do they have someone running it who can't even address the issue of rumors and speculation? "We don't really talk about the fact that people think he's frozen" -- but there's a whole lot to say on the subject of the technology that fascinated Walt Disney, his investigation into the possibility of cryogenics, the idea that people couldn't accept that he was dead forever, etc, etc. But the museum just dismisses rumor and treats its visitors as childish when they ask such stupid questions. Ask a Disneyland cast member and he'll probably regale you for an hour about why people think the things they think, but apparently the museum can't stoop to such levels.

  10. #10

    • MiceChat News Team
    • Thanking the Academy
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Cartoon Wasteland
    Posts
    4,828
    Blog Entries
    68

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    Quote Originally Posted by EC82 View Post
    Sorry you felt the need to delete my previous response.
    Your response wasn't deleted, you just put it on my blog where I also posted the same article: http://micechat.com/forums/blogs/dis...ly-museum.html

    I'll let my response there speak for itself, except to add that perhaps Mr. Benefield told you he was running late because he actually was. His schedule is very full--I know this from experience as I had to reschedule my interview with him twice. He can be a hard man to pin down, but it's worth the effort. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation.
    Last edited by disneytim; 11-29-2009 at 09:37 PM.

  11. #11

    • Don't mess with the duck!
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Too far from Disneyland
    Posts
    1,414

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    Good read! Kudos!

  12. #12

    • Member
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Lake Tahoe, CA
    Posts
    78

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    I've got to address some of these comments, based on my recent visit I think they are way overstated.

    Quote Originally Posted by EC82 View Post
    I think the museum is a fantastic place, but is being marketed with mediocrity.

    You can't even see it from the "street" and it's shoved into a distant, hard to access section of the Presidio.

    The staff was lovely and cordial but the cafe was awful and the gift shop was a nightmare of overpriced, needless trinkets.
    Completely agree that the museum is awesome, not sure the marketing is that bad. We don't really know the strategy of the museum owners, do we? Perhaps they don't need or want the museum to be jammed with visitors a la DLR. Or, perhaps they are viewing these early days of operation is a chance to get everything right, before they start ramping the crowds.

    I did have a little trouble finding the museum, due to a lack of signage...but I would hardly call the area "hard to access". Heck, it's directly off of a major SF avenue (Lombard), and unlike most things in SF, it has a huge and free parking lot sitting in front of it. The Presidio area is absolutely gorgeous, and is now part of the National Park System, well worth a visit in its own right. The building the museum is "shoved into" has in fact been wonderfully converted from one of the historic structures in the park, and is nicely understated on the outside to perserve its historical integrity.

    Agree the museum staff is great. The cafe is undersized for the venue, and the menu is too limited for my tastes, but I didn't think the food was deserving of "awful", more like "just ok". Basically consists of made-to-order hot paninis of various types, and then a Starbucks-like assortment of snacks and desserts. The gift shop was like most gift shops...sure, I'd love to see more unusual "only here" type items, but comparing this store to other museum gift shops I'd say this one is pretty typical. Could be better, but "nightmare" is unfair.

  13. #13

    • Member
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    A few miles from where Disney's America should have been
    Posts
    536

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    Quote Originally Posted by disneytim View Post
    As far as the "was Walt a real person?" question, I blame the Walt Disney Company itself for how it's mishandled Walt's image in the forty-plus years since his death. By limiting access to the Disney Archives and continually overprotecting Walt, presenting him in the most iconic, whitewashed way, the company has created a character no more realistic than Mickey Mouse (the fact that Walt holds hands with him at the top of Main Street doesn't help either). It's really small wonder that younger audiences, who have no recollection of Walt appearing in movies or on television, think of him as a fictional creation. Only recently, with the efforts of D23 and the Walt Disney Family Museum, is Walt being presented realistically as the very gifted and flawed human being that he was. I hope this trend continues.
    Tim-

    Doesn't Walt himself also share some (perhaps most) of the blame for this? He certainly cultivated the "Uncle Walt" persona and recognized it as an important part of the brand. I don't think you can blame the post-Walt execs for basically continuing what the man himself established and put in motion. Thoughts?
    Last edited by Doopey1; 12-02-2009 at 08:30 AM.
    "I'm working on changing Hollywood...at the studio that fired me twice."
    --John Lasseter


  14. #14

    • New Member
    • Offline

    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    7

    Re: Disneytim Talks With Richard Benefield With the Walt Disney Family Museum

    Thanks for the great interview.

    FYI, the Presidio Trust, which oversees everything in the Presidio, has strict regulations about signage within the park, so the WDFM can't put up bigger signs at the museum. There are, however, banners all over San Francisco, and there was tons of press when the museum opened.

    There was also an article in the SF Chronicle recently about the current film being shown.

    Ann


Similar Threads

  1. The Walt Disney Family Museum: The Smithsonian of Walt
    By disneytim in forum Walt Disney Family Museum
    Replies: 19
    Last Post: 10-07-2009, 10:07 PM
  2. Walt Disney Family Museum
    By ALIASd in forum MiceChat News Archive
    Replies: 66
    Last Post: 10-01-2009, 09:18 PM
  3. Walt Disney Family Museum tickets now Available.
    By Melonballer in forum Walt Disney Family Museum
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 08-17-2009, 06:36 PM
  4. Replies: 5
    Last Post: 04-22-2007, 06:24 PM
  5. Replies: 18
    Last Post: 11-26-2006, 02:53 PM

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •