We were established in October 2009 by Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and her son, Walter Elias Disney Miller. Diane and Walter wanted to create a space that would be a legacy to Walt—where guests could learn about the young man from small-town Missouri, the caring father and grandfather they knew, and the legendary animation and theme park mogul. Diane referred to the museum as her “book”—it houses the Disney family history and their personal keepsakes, a huge collection of archival material from the earliest days of The Walt Disney Studios, a scale model of Disneyland, and much more.
Walt was an innovator and a visionary. I think the greatest lesson we can learn from him is to think outside the box and not be discouraged by failure. Walt was on the brink of financial collapse when he came up with the idea for Mickey Mouse. That one small character changed his entire life, and today, nearly a century later, Mickey is one of the most iconic characters in the world. It just takes one unique idea to change your whole life, and you never know how powerful your ideas might be until it’s out in the world.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to be flexible in an ever-changing world. Moving virtually has provided much more opportunity for flexibility than we had prior to the pandemic. Now, if there’s a spike in COVID–19 cases, a guest speaker suddenly can’t travel, or any number of unexpected circumstances that can negatively impact an in-person event, we’re able to quickly and efficiently pivot to a virtual setting and our audience is able to pivot with us with minimal friction. A big pro for us is being able to access speakers and audiences in remote locations that we couldn’t previously given our location in the San Francisco Bay Area. We can now provide much more diversity within our programming and we’re not so tied to budget constraints, travel hiccups, and the understandably busy schedules of our speakers. The biggest drawback of course is a lack of face-to-face connection for both our speakers and our audience, a unique and popular experience that we were able to provide pre-pandemic. For the most part however, our audience has really embraced our move to a virtual setting and love the opportunity to feel connected to such a range of Disney and Disney-adjacent talent.
Climate change affects us all and we see its effects more and more every year. For example, a few years ago we had some outdoor activities scheduled for The Big Draw that needed to be moved inside because Bay Area wildfires were so heavily impacting the air quality. Since then, this has seemingly become an annual occurrence. There are many factors at play influencing climate change and we all must take part and work together in reversing it. As a business, it is more important than ever that we make strides in operating sustainably and encouraging our patrons to do their part. The Big Draw is a fun, creative way to spread the word and get our audience involved in thinking about sustainability, both while creating art and in our daily lives.
I’m an artist and a very visual learner, so visual literacy has a big impact on how I relate to and perceive the world around me. Drawing has always been a huge part of my life. I used to get in trouble in school for doodling all over my notebooks, but doodling actually helps me concentrate better.
We ran four fun and free virtual events on October 23rd.
Our first event was a Storytime reading of the book I am a Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movementin Cameroon. Credited with bringing clean water and sustainable farming practices to his community, Cameroonian farmer Tantoh Nforbah will read the book to our audience and discuss his life-changing work in a Q&A session.
Next, we had a virtual workshop, Build Your Own Vision Tree, presented by the WDFM Studio Team. Growing up on a farm in Marceline, Missouri, Walt Disney was surrounded by animals and nature and believed that stories can be told simply by observing the reality of nature. In this workshop, participants created a three-dimensional "vision" tree, inspired by the changing seasons throughout the year.
Then we had a program centered on the animated short Humanity Has Not Failed with Animator and Co-Director Norma Toraya a.k.a. Crankbunny. In recognition of Greta Thunberg’s inspiring message about climate change, Norma lead a screening of Humanity Has Not Failed and a brief talk on how Thunberg’s activism and persistence motivated her to create the powerful short film.
Our last event of the day was another virtual workshop, Create Your Own Sustainable Superhero Shield with Cardboard Superheroes. Connor and Bauer Lee are co-founders of the non-profit Cardboard Superheroes, an organization providing free programming to promote the use of sustainable materials in the arts. The talented teen brothers discussed their story of building a non-profit business while still in high school and demonstrated how to build a personalized superhero shield out of recycled household materials.
Inspiration. The museum walks you through Walt Disney’s life and career beginning with his childhood and shows guests how despite his very modest upbringing, he was able to create one of the most successful and influential creative companies in the world through imagination, perseverance, and determination. We display art from Walt’s high school days contributing cartoons to his school magazine through the creation of Disneyland Park and development of Walt Disney World Resort, demonstrating the creative and technical progression of him and his artists. His stories of failures leading to greater successes should inspire any creative person needing a little dose of inspiration.