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Our Grandpa, Walt Disney

Image courtesy of the Walt Disney Family Foundation

Walt’s Grandchildren. Image courtesy of the Walt Disney Family Foundation

Editor Note: This article is republished in honor of Grandparents Day, September 7, 2014. It was originally written after a 2011 event at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

Family togetherness and memories of shared experiences to last a lifetime … those are at the heart of Walt Disney’s many creations — from cartoon characters and heart-warming movies that have entertained generations to Disneyland, which has delighted guests between the ages of 2 and 102 since opening in 1955.

Family meant a great deal to Disney, both personally and professionally. His daughter, Diane Disney Miller, told me that despite her father’s success, she and her sister, Sharon, lived a fairly typical family life. The girls had two loving, caring and protective parents. Her dad, she said, was a hugger who enjoyed family dinners at home, weekly outings with his girls, even time regularly spent driving his daughters to school on his way to the studio.

Walt was happy with his little family, even though Diane learned many years later from her aunt that he had wanted more children but that doctors had advised her mother, Lillian, not to attempt another pregnancy after a series of miscarriages.

It would have “only been me,” Diane said, if her parents hadn’t gone out and adopted her sister, Sharon. Walt and Lillian would later become “very loving” grandparents. And, making Walt a grandfather was the “best thing I ever did for him,” Diane said.

Diane and her husband, Ron Miller, parented seven children; six were born before Walt’s death on Dec. 15, 1966. Five of them — Chris, Joanna, Tammy, Jennifer and Walter Miller — shared memories of their maternal grandfather in a special program on Sept. 17, 2011, at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. Ron Jr., born in 1963, was too young when his grandfather died to participate with his siblings and Patrick Miller wasn’t born until 1967.

Image courtesy of the Walt Disney Family Foundation

Image courtesy of the Walt Disney Family Foundation

The program, arguably the best talk in the museum’s nearly five-year history, provided an intimate look at Walt’s family life from his adored grandchildren. Now adults, they had a unique relationship to one of the most creative and influential men of the 20th century. They said both their parents and grandparents did everything they could to give them a fairly typical family life.

The following offers highlights of the program. It’s been plussed and sprinkled throughout with material obtained during an exclusive interview after the event.

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Diane Disney Miller, passes away at age 79

Walt and Lillian’s daughter Diane died today after suffering complications from a fall she took at home in September. Like her mother, Diane Disney Miller choose not to operate from the boardroom, but rather preserved the legacy of her mom and dad by ensuring the… Read More »Diane Disney Miller, passes away at age 79

Walt Disney Family Museum Reexamines Alice in Wonderland with Contemporary Artist Camille Rose Garcia alongside works by Disney Legend Mary Blair

The Walt Disney Family Museum is pleased to present the exhibition Camille Rose Garcia: Down the Rabbit Hole. On view from May 9 to November 3, 2013, the exhibition features some 40 works by Garcia alongside seven Alice in Wonderlandconcept paintings by Disney artist Mary Blair from the Museum’s collection. Organized by guest curator Tere Romo, the exhibition celebrates not only Garcia and Blair’s artistry across decades and artistic styles, but also the power of art to draw us into magical worlds that spark engagement and inspiration.

Since its publication in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been re-interpreted visually in a wide-range of artistic styles and media, including as an animated Walt Disney film in 1951. Over half a century later, Garcia has updated the enduring classic with her distinctive illustrations that capture a young girl’s surreal adventures after following a rabbit down a hole. In this exhibition of Garcia’s book illustrations, Alice’s encounters with the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter and Red Queen are quirky renditions of the main characters set against colorful backdrops. With her conscious disregard for perspective or scale in her compositions, Garcia creates a fresh and contemporary depiction of the dreamlike story. Her illustrations not only draw from a Goth sensibility, but also the thriving “low-brow art” movement in Los Angeles and its references to classic cartoons, 60’s TV sitcoms, rock music, and comic books. However, in keeping with Lewis’s intended audience, the illustrations retain the animation quality of the Disney film that continues to appeal to all generations.Read More »Walt Disney Family Museum Reexamines Alice in Wonderland with Contemporary Artist Camille Rose Garcia alongside works by Disney Legend Mary Blair

Upcoming Talks and Screenings at Walt Disney Family Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco has lined up a great series of screenings and talks for the end of the year. The special Snow White and the Stop Motion exhibits also continue through the spring, including screenings and talks about Snow White. Don Hahn’s film “Christmas with Walt” is a historical look at how it was celebrated in film, at the parks, and by the Disney family. Legendary Disney Imagineer Bob Gurr will give a talk on how Walt was able to inspire his Imagineers to build Disneyland in less than a year. Finally, this Wednesday, head down to the museum to celebrate Walt’s Birthday.

Dates and details below the jump:

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Special Exhibits come to Walt Disney Family Museum

Recently The Disney Blog sent special reporter Joe Webb down to the Walt Disney Family Museum to cover the opening of a special exhibition entitled “Between Frames: The Magic Behind Stop Motion Animation”. The WDFM has also announced details for a new special exhibit “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic” which we have below the jump. But first Joe’s report:

Just down the road from the revolutionary Industrial Light & Magic, an effects house using the latest in computer animation technology, the Walt Disney Family Museum is presenting an exhibition dedicated to a different type of animation technology more than 100 years old. Between Frames: The Magic Behind Stop Motion Animation (on display from September 27, 2012 to April 28, 2013) explores the history and evolution of stop motion animation in the United States as “part of a new exhibition program showcasing artists and art forms that inspired and influenced Walt Disney and his animators,” WDFM CEO Gabriella Calicchio said.

For animation fans, learning the history of stop motion is a worthwhile endeavor. Exhibition curator Anel Muller states, “I’m very excited about this exhibition, obviously… One of the most interesting things I uncovered is the people behind stop motion animation.” People like Ray Harryhausen, Phil Tippett, Henry Selick and Tim Burton who helped bring this art form to new generations of moviegoers and Saturday morning television viewers. Muller obtained numerous drawings, models, puppets, interactive armatures and replicas used in various films, television shows and commercials including Gumby, King Kong, Star Wars, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Visitors will see everything from a replica of King Kong from the 1930s to models of Coraline and Robot Chicken from the first decade of 21st century.

One of the main goals at the Walt Disney Family Museum is inspiration through education. While one may not immediately connect stop motion with Walt Disney himself, the Museum notes that Walt began his animation career in Kansas City using this type of animation for advertisements. The galleries exist to educate visitors on Walt Disney’s history and accomplishments which will hopefully inspire them to follow their own passion. This goal is not lost on Muller. “I hope that when visitors leave this exhibit that they feel a surge of inspiration, that they will find creativity in their own lives,” she said.

Read More »Special Exhibits come to Walt Disney Family Museum

Walt Disney Family Museum Amasses Unique Collection

An interview with The Walt Disney Family Museum’s director of collections, Michael Labrie, was recently published. It provides some interesting background to the museum and its growing collection. Says Labrie: “Diane just acquired this wonderful collection of small thumbnail paintings of scenes from ‘Lady and… Read More »Walt Disney Family Museum Amasses Unique Collection