Disney Family Museum shows off Oscars

March 3, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The Academy Awards are Sunday on ABC Channel 7 and the largest single collection of Oscars outside Hollywood is right here in a Bay Area museum. They were all won by one man.

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was the first animated feature film and the first in Technicolor, released in 1938. Walt Disney won an honorary academy award for innovation for it presented to him by Shirley Temple. The unique statue has one full size and seven miniature statuettes.

"A lot of people are wowed when they come in and see the Academy Awards here. And it's really a special thing to see the Snow White Oscar," says executive director Richard Benefield.

Nobody has more Academy Awards than Walt Disney and most of them are at the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio. There are 26 of them that showcase Disney's animated films and his advances in technology.

The awards used to be in Walt's house, then they were wrapped in newspapers in storage boxes, but Walt's granddaughter told her mom she wanted them shown.

"'Mom, we have to get these things out of the newspaper and get them out so people can see them,'" says Benefield.

So here they are.

"It really lets you know a little bit about how important and what an achievement, what an accomplishment Walt managed to pull off," says Benefield.

And there is the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award given to producers for quality work. At age 42 Disney was the youngest ever to win it, but this is not the original version. Thalberg's widow, actress Norma Shearer, didn't like the face.

"So she personally paid to have a new bust made and she traded the new one in for the four old ones," says Benefield.

Those originals disappeared.

The San Francisco museum is a project of Walt Disney's family. There is no connection to ABC7, owned by the Walt Disney Company. This is about Disney the man and it features things like his original vision of Disneyland and the watch he wore for years. They also have a bracelet of Oscars he designed for his wife. The museum has also become a place of research.

"We have great friendships with the animators in the area. They love to come here and use the museum not only for research, but just as inspiration," says Benefield.

This is about a legacy. For some it's nostalgic.

"People of our generation think of him as Uncle Walter because we saw him on TV every week," says Benefield.

And for a new generation, this shows that he was not a made up name or a brand.


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