June 17, 2009 / 9:37 PM / 11 years ago

Walt Disney museum to focus on man behind brand

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Walt Disney is a global brand with film studios and theme parks bearing his name, but now his family are unveiling a museum to tell the story of the animation pioneer they say has been lost behind the trademark.

The Walt Disney Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 1995 to promote education and writing about Disney as well as scholarships in his name, will open the Walt Disney Family Museum on October 1 in San Francisco.

“My father’s name is probably one of the most well-known names around the world, but as the ‘brand’ or trademark has spread, for many, the man has become lost,” Disney’s daughter and museum founder, Diane Disney Miller, said in a statement.

The museum will trace Disney’s life from his birth in Chicago and childhood in Missouri to his move to California in 1920s, where he married and his animation career took off with the creation of the “Mickey Mouse” character.

Among the exhibits on display will be early animation drawings, film clips, scripts, cameras and many of Disney’s numerous Academy Awards, including an honorary Oscar in 1939 for his first feature length animation film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

There will also be a model of the Disneyland theme park he first envisioned, quite different from the park that opened in California in 1955, and a model of the Lily Belle train that ran on half a mile of track around his Hollywood home.

“Visiting my grandpa was pretty fun,” Walter Miller, the foundation’s president, recalled at a launch of the museum in New York on Wednesday.


“Perhaps my grandfather’s greatest gift, without question his greatest pleasure, was to bring imagination to life,” he said. “He never lost that childhood sense of wonder and of curiosity.”

Disney, whose other movies included “Cinderella,” “Bambi” and “Mary Poppins,” which mixed live action and animation, died in 1966.

John Canemaker, an Academy Award winning animator and animation studies professor at New York University, said at the launch that Disney’s development of “personality animation,” beginning with Mickey Mouse, revolutionized the industry.

“Within a remarkably short period of time, a mere decade, Disney set the course for animation in the 20th century and beyond,” Canemaker said.

“There would be no ‘Toy Story’ and no Pixar (Walt Disney Co’s animation studio) without Disney personality animation, nor other studios that yield to the pantheon of stories and characters that fascinated throughout the years,” he said.

Richard Benefield, executive director of the museum, said the Walt Disney Co had made their resources and archives available to the foundation and loaned several exhibits to the museum.

“Walt Disney reached people because he was a magical story teller,” he said. “Now it’s our turn to tell his story, to narrate the life of someone whose name is often confused with a brand and to present him simply as a human being with an extraordinary vision.”

Editing by Paul Simao

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