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Part one of this story is at this link. | Part two of this story is at this link.

Gallery 7 is an interesting gallery. It's dark inside but filled with splashes of color. All above you is a video "ribbon" of images from films of the mid-1940s to the early 50s, Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and Song of the South.

Yep, Song of the South, the Walt Disney Company may continue to ignore this film, but the Walt Disney Family Museum does not and it's nice to see it here.

As you transition out of Gallery 7 and into Gallery 8, there's a small room featuring some of the bits and pieces of Walt's everyday life from this time period … A display case with the Oscar charm bracelet Walt gave Lilly, some of her perfume bottles, a bowling ball bag, an elaborate clock, and some of Walt's extensive personal collection of miniatures.

But what really grabs your attention, or at least it did mine, is not all the fancy personal effects but a case filled with canned food and boxes of Jello along with a photo of a woman the family called Foo Foo. Foo Foo, or Thelma Howard, was the Disney family's housekeeper, cook, and sometime nanny. She went to work for the Disney family in 1951 and stayed for 30 years, and all the Disney grandkids loved her.

Walter Elias Disney Miller (Walt's grandson - pictured below), who was my group's guide through the museum, explained that his grandpa didn't care so much for all the fancy food Foo Foo was capable of producing. He liked chili and he liked Jello, and Foo Foo liked to make Walt happy so she cooked chili and made Jello for him. And as to why the family called Thelma Foo Foo … Well, Walter Miller said it's because his older brother Christopher, couldn't say Thelma, it came out Foo Foo, and so … Foo Foo she was.

Okay, we're almost at Gallery 9, so let's hop on into Gallery 8 real quick, shall we?

Gallery 8 is brilliant in its architecture. You might be too young to remember the Walt Disney True Life Adventures, but I'm not. We saw these films in school way back when I was a kiddy. If I'm not mistaken, I believe they are still shown in classrooms from time to time. Walt Disney had a love of nature and it was inevitable that he would venture into nature documentaries. The first of these was Seal Island, which won the 1949 Academy Award for best two-reel documentary.

I started the above paragraph with a comment about the brilliance of the architecture of Gallery 8 and then proceeded to say nothing about said brilliance. Well here goes … you step out of the room featuring those cans of chili and what you immediately see is a huge wall of glass with the most gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco bay. It's just spectacular. And it represents Walt's True Life Adventures. Nature, in all its glory.

If you can tear yourself away from that view (and I suggest you do), turn back around and have a look at the white undulating wall behind you with all the video screens showing True Life Adventure footage. Brilliant.

Okay. … now, we get to move into the gallery that just thrilled me to pieces. Because you see, it is in this gallery I found all the things I loved in my childhood. Gallery 9 moves on in time to the 1950s and 60s … The Mickey Mouse Club, Zorro, Davy Crocket, Mary Poppins, The Wonderful World of Color, and … Disneyland. I swear I got a little misty walking into this room and I was trying to contain myself and act all professional. But, you see, I was walking into my childhood.

As with Gallery 8, the architecture here is beautiful. A way to get from the upper floor of Gallery 8 to the lower floor of Galleries 9 and 10 was very cleverly thought out, you step into Gallery 9 and are immediately on sensory overload. Where to look? Everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, there is something to see, something to listen to.

Your journey through all this is the aforementioned cleverly-thought-out descent, a 164-foot floating spiral ramp coiling around the gallery, taking you past Walt's little Lilly Belle train (yes, the very train you've seen him riding on at his home in countless videos), the 1964-65 World's Fair, and into Disneyland.

Yep Disneyland. At the bottom of this ramp is one gigantic model of Disneyland. Not the Disneyland that is, or the Disneyland that was, but the Disneyland that Walt imagined. Some of the model was actually at Disneyland, some of the model was never there, but all of the model is grand. Along with listening to the audio that accompanies the display, I could have stared at it for quite a while and not have seen every detail. I was mesmerized.

Across from the Disneyland model are display cases filled with memorabilia from the old television shows, a Davy Crockett coonskin cap, a Davy Crockett "Ge Tar," a Zorro Halloween costume, magazines from the time period, a "Mousegetar."

Here you will also the Autopia car Walt gave to his first grandson Chris so that when Chris came to the Studio, he had something to toodle around in (can you imagine how fun that must have been). There's the optical printer that enabled live-action and animation to be combined (The Three Caballeros, 1945; Mary Poppins, 1964) and the Technicolor camera DF-7 (which enabled filming of actors to later be combined with different backgrounds).

There is also a sweet little case filled with grandfatherly things that I found just charming, little ‘nothings' that grandfathers tend to keep. What's in the case reminded me of both my own grandfather and father and it really brings forth a feeling of Walt, the man.

It's Walt's valet box that sits in this case and evokes that feeling. Walt's daughter Diane's words describe it perfectly, "This box was always on Dad's dresser. In it he just kept things – the little odds and ends that had some sentimental value to him – commemorative pins, a key chain, money clips, pencils and a drawing by his grandson, Christopher. Dad was a baseball fan, and Gene Autry had asked him to serve on the advisory board of the Los Angeles Angels. He was proud of that. Mother gave this box to Walter some years after Dad died."

At this point in the tour of the museum, I'm all misty-eyed and thinking of my grandpa and how we would all get in the car and go over to Grandpa and Grandma's house to watch Walt Disney on The Wonderful World of Color. I remember vividly Walt describing, with absolute glee, the new attraction coming to Disneyland, Pirates of the Caribbean. I watched, enthralled as Walt talked about the attraction and was amazed when he asked the audience how did we think the boats would get back up out of the ride? When he simply stated that, "You go back up the waterfall," I swear you could see a little twinkle of joy in that man's eye. To this, then-little kid, it sounded astounding, simply amazing ... "Your boat just goes back up the waterfall?"

These are the thoughts that were in my head as I walked into Gallery 10.

Gallery 10 is sad.

Gallery 10 is all about December 15, 1966.

The day Walt Disney died.

All around the walls are cartoons depicting a grieving Mickey Mouse, the accolades that poured from all over the world remembering the man who brought us Mickey Mouse are everywhere. A period-appropriate television set sits against the wall, continually playing a program with people Walt knew telling their stories about their reaction to hearing the news he had died.

It's a gallery that must be there, but even now, writing about it, I don't like it. It throws me instantly back to that day. He wasn't someone anyone in my family ever met, but just the same Walt Disney was part of my family. I'm sure I'm not the only person who walked through this room with those feelings. And I was awfully glad the museum didn't end on this note.

Instead of sadness, you are left with joy. Curving white walls filled with video screens constantly play changing footage of all the accomplishments, all the moments big and little, that the man who was Walt Disney brought to the world.

I suppose I am a gushing cheerleader for the Walt Disney Family Museum at this point, but really, I cannot sing enough praise for this lovely tribute to the man who was Walt Disney. That his family is kind enough to share with the world, all of their family's treasures is a very nice thing. A friend described her visit to the museum to me, as a place that is like stepping into a family's attic to look at all the treasures of their lives, albeit a very clean and well-organized attic. The Walt Disney Family Museum is a beautifully designed, well-thought out museum and it certainly is a must-see for not only Disney fans, but for everyone.


If you're planning a trip up to San Francisco to see the museum, The Walt Disney Family Museum's website has all the pertinent information including ticketing info, prices, how to get there, etc. and -- you can order your tickets for a visit: http://www.waltdisney.org You can also follow the Walt Disney Family Museum on Facebook and Twitter for the latest scoop, and of course discuss it all to your heart's content at MiceChat's forum for it.


November 2009 Walt Disney Family Museum Events Calendar

FILM

Film of the Month - Sleeping Beauty runs until November 20th

12:30pm, 3:30pm, 6:30pm, Theater - tickets online at www.waltdisney.com

The classic fairy tale of a princely kiss awaking a beautiful princess from a deep sleep is the subject of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.  Throughout the month of November, relive or discover for the first time the visually stunning animated feature, Sleeping Beauty as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this incredible film.

November 14 - International Animation Festival and the Screening of the Alice Comedies

Landmark Theatres Embarcadero Center Cinema - tickets on the SF Film Society website at www.sffs.org/content.aspx?pageid=1394

Walt Disney’s first successful series of films, the Alice Comedies, were built around a clever special-effects idea: a real little girl entering a cartoon world and interacting with the cartoon characters. The Walt Disney Family Museum will partner with the San Francisco International Animation Festival to present these charming films. A selection of the Alice Comedies can be seen during the Festival on Saturday, November 14 at the Embarcadero Cinema.

November 27 - Christmas with Walt Disney (Special Holiday Film Begins)

12:30pm, 3:30pm, 6:30pm, Theater - tickets online at www.waltdisney.com

Walt Disney’s Christmases past are remembered in this special holiday screening that includes Walt’s “Nutcracker Suite” from Fantasia (1940), Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952), scenes from the television Christmas specials, and rarely seen home movies of Walt at home with his family. See how Walt celebrated this beloved holiday at the Studio, at Disneyland, and at home.

LECTURES

November 21 - The Art of Sleeping Beauty with Lella Smith

3:00pm, Theater - tickets online at www.waltdisney.com

The rich tapestry appearance is the visual hallmark of Sleeping Beauty and the primary vision of animator Eyvind Earle. Lella Smith, Creative Director of Walt Disney Animation Studios Research Library, will discuss the unique art and design that brought Princess Aurora and her magical world to life 50 years ago.

November 22 - Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Beyond: The Designs and Art of Herb Ryman

3:00pm, Theater - tickets online at www.waltdisney.org

The first glimpse of the gleaming white towers of “Sleeping Beauty’s Castle” is a moment that few forget. But, who designed Disneyland’s most recognizable landmark and the dream home of many a prince and princess? Here is the opportunity to discover the creativity of an early Imagineer, Herb Ryman, from Marty Sklar, former International Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering. Mr. Sklar, who was with the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney Imagineering for 53 years, will talk about the extraordinary talent of Herb Ryman that went beyond his work at Disneyland by sharing his art and designs.

November 26 - Thanksgiving Day

Museum is closed

Sue Kruse may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind she may not be able to respond to each note personally.

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© 2009 Sue Kruse

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