Our entire family are Disney fans. For the older generation, Jim’s siblings, I think it’s because they grew up in California and going to Disneyland every year was a highlight for them. For our children, they grew up watching Disney movies like the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. They know all the songs, all the dialogue, and are always on the lookout for new Disney. Because of this, we make it a point to go to every Disney park. Yes, we’ve been to Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. Yes, we plan to go to Shanghai when that one opens, and yes, if and when one opens in Brazil, we’ll go there, too.
So, when we heard about the new Disney Family Museum in the Presidio of San Francisco, it was definitely on our list to do even though we were only in the city for a few days.
The Presidio itself is a great place to visit. It is well-groomed. The old military brick buildings evoke a sense of WWII or 1950’s-type of living. You can almost see the officer’s wives holding their tea parties on the porches.
Now that the Presidio is not a military base, it has been turned into a National Park, and many of the old buildings are being turned into offices, housing for teachers, and other non-profits. I think it’s the perfect place for a museum recounting the life of Walt Disney and his vision and company’s development.
The museum is a path through Walt Disney’s biography. The very beginning is an elevator ride to his family’s history and his birth. You follow his journey throughout his life, ups and down, innovations, triumphs, failures, and ends with a teary exit as you read about his death and the many letters that his family received. I was sitting on a bench waiting for my daughter and watched a number of people exit after me, and there was not one dry eye. Just like everything Disney does, it really appealed to your emotions the entire way.
Using every bit of technology throughout the last 100 years, the museum is interactive. You would expect films to be shown, and maybe some holographic displays, but I was surprised at the variety of experiences. One of my favorite displays was a game where how to make the sound tracks and make them match the cartoons. You put on headphones in front of an array of musical instruments, drums, symbols, etc. A film shows you how it’s done, leads you through an example, then has you try it. Very cool!
The museum doesn’t miss a thing that Walt Disney tried to be a part of, whether by choice or not, whether successful or not. For example, I never knew that the company had made so many natural wildlife videos or that the plant had to be shut down during the war, and taken over as a base of operations.
The museum also houses a theater in the basement where it shows Disney films. The tickets are not included in the price, and after spending over three hours there, we just didn’t have time to spend more. Next time.
I would suggest ordering your tickets online and plan to get there right around opening, so that you can spend the whole day there if you want to. There certainly is enough to keep you busy. There is a cafe on the premises, but you can also pack a bag lunch and go for a walk along the Golden Gate Promenade, find a spot to view the Golden Gate Bridge while enjoying your picnic, and then go back in to finish the visit.
We had a fantastic time there, and I have to say, maybe because of its brand new, or maybe because its Disney, but it is one of the best laid out, enjoyable, and information filled museum I’ve ever been in. Color me totally impressed!