I so want to have good things to say about the Walt Disney Family Museum. I’m sure the exhibits will be top notch and that the presentation of Walt Disney’s life will be the most fair and balanced yet.
See, I tried. There are, however, two major flaws in the project that are thrown clearly into the light by this recent NY Times article. The museum is located too far away from the central parts of Walt Disney’s life and its capacity is inappropriately low to achieve the museum’s goals. I believe the article shows that Diane Disney Miller is too close to the subject to objectively understand the legacy of her father and is selling it short with this museum.
The first issue is the location. In the article it’s implied that they chose the location of San Francisco to help make the distinction clear between the man and his company. Also part of the decision was the close location to Miller’s estate. This is like setting up a museum for Monet or Picasso in China and no where else. The primary work and exhibits for Monet and Picasso were in France and in both cases former residences were used to showcase their lives and work. You learn their stories by walking where they walked, seeing the same flowers and models they painted.
Walt Disney’s life story had almost no San Francisco in it. He certainly never worked or lived there. Although he was a man of the world, he is a key part of the story of Hollywood and Southern California being the first to open an animation studio there. When you divorce the man from his surroundings it is impossible to fully appreciate his place in them. You can’t help but tell a different story.
Locating the museum in San Francisco will have the drastic effect of limiting the number of people who get to learn about Walt Disney via the museum. But apparently that was part of the plan too. The Presidio location is small and attendance will be limited to just 240 people an hour. That’s much smaller hourly capacity than any Disney theme park attraction. If one of the goals of the museum is to change what family members consider to be wrong perceptions about Walt Disney’s life, wouldn’t it behoove them to choose a location that will reach the most people?
In the end, there is only one proper location for a Museum about Walt Disney – Southern California. It’s where Walt spent the bulk of his life, met his wife, opened his most successful endeavors, and changed the world. Alas it’s too late to change the course of the Walt Disney Family Museum. It’s set to open in October. I’m guessing I won’t be getting an invitation.