Walt Disney Family Museum features fascinating replica of Disneyland

ByJason Beal Localish logo
Monday, November 13, 2023
Walt Disney Family Museum features fascinating replica of Disneyland
This exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum took over 9 months to build and features past and present forms of Disneyland.

SAN FRANCISCO -- At the Walt Disney Family Museum, nestled in the Presidio of San Francisco, one of the most recognizable exhibits is the "Disneyland of Walt's Imagination."

This large, not-to-scale replica of the past and present forms of Disneyland took over 9 months to build and cost over $1 million.

"This model of Disneyland doesn't correspond with any one time period but is roughly Walt's lifetime," says Chris Mullen, Storyteller Tour Guide at the Walt Disney Family Museum, "showing the attractions that Walt either saw put into the parks or had approved concepts of, prior to his passing in 1966."

The designers wanted to incorporate an element of the "fun maps" that you would receive when you walk through the gates at Disneyland.

"The scale of the buildings are played with, the roofs of the attractions are removed, so that you can see what's going on inside," adds Mullen. "All to make it a little bit more fun and visually appealing for people to look at and remember their fond memories of Disneyland."

The Walt Disney Family Museum presents a magical journey through the life and career of Walt Disney.

The museum was co-founded by Walt and Lillian Disney's oldest daughter, Diane Disney Miller. The model was designed by a practical effects firm in the Bay Area that works often with Lucasfilm.

"Folks who have been to Disneyland will recognize several landmarks, including Sleeping Beauty Castle, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Jungle Cruise," says Mullen.

There are many elements of the model that no longer exist at Disneyland, such as attractions, shops, and restaurants that were open in the 50's and 60's.

"Some attractions on the model were approved during Walt's lifetime and then opened at Disneyland after he passed away, so we didn't actually get to see them open to the public," says Mullen. "These include Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain."

There are even some fun Easter eggs hidden within the model.

"There are actually two appearances of Walt and his daughter, Diane, who is our co founder," explains Mullen. "One of those is if you're looking down Main Street through the castle archway, you can see Walt holding his daughter Diane's hand. Also on the red Autopia car on top of the Autopia track, you'll see a father and daughter there as well. That's also meant to be Walt and Diane."

Designers of the model also included some nods to the land that Disneyland was built on, by including rows of orange trees. They also included a replica of Walt's barn, where Walt was known to come up with many of his ideas, including the original plan that would become Disneyland.

"One of the cool little Easter eggs that was put in our Disneyland model is the light in the window at Walt's apartment on Main Street USA," adds Mullen. "As the legend goes, when Walt was in the park, the light in the window would be on, which served as kind of a signal to cast members for them to be on their best behavior because the boss was around. After Walt passed away, the decision was made to keep the light on at all times so that people still knew that Walt's spirit would always be in the park. And so that effect was recreated for our model. If you look closely at Walt's apartment over the firehouse, the light in the window is on and flickering, showing that Walt's spirit is also in our model."

The Walt Disney Family Museum's goal is to inform present and future generations about Walt Disney the person, and through his story, to inspire them to follow their imagination and pursue their goals.

For more information about visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum, visit here.