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Peek Through the Doors of the Walt Disney Family Museum

Ray Chung, Project Architect of the Walt Disney Family MuseumDisney fans around the world have been waiting on tenterhooks for the Walt Disney Family Museum to expand from its virtual home on Disney.com to a physical presence on San Francisco's Presidio. The Insider recently got a chance to chat with Ray Chung, Project Architect and Manager with the Rockwell Group, which is handling the design of the "bricks and mortar" Museum. Although it will be months before the Museum is open to visitors, Ray was able to give us a look at what it will be like. Here's what he told us:
The Insider:

Please tell us a little bit about what a Museum visit will be like.

We have a lot of different audiences. We have a portion of the day meant for schoolchildren. So a school group will come in and a teacher or a guide will walk them through the different exhibits one by one and give them a chronology of Walt's life, hitting the high points and showing off the great artifacts and the fun interactives. Then later in the day we'll have it open to the tourists and other visitors who just want to come in. It should be pretty lively, I think.

What kind of research have you done to make the exhibits exciting and accurate?

I've been reading a lot of the Disney blogs from the beginning and there's a wealth of Disneyphile information out there. We've read as many biographies and Disney histories as we could. As the whole team developed the storyline for the Museum, we tried to find the stories that helped create a story arc of Walt's risks and their rewards for each gallery. Each gallery represents a period of his life so it was a long process of collecting anecdotes and then weeding through them to try to find the ones that really sing.

Is there an overarching theme or concept that ties the exhibits together?

The idea from the beginning was to let people know about Walt Disney, the man. A lot of histories, biographies, even exhibits at Disney World tell the story of the Disney Company and it's hard to get at Walt, the man. So, what we've done -- with a lot of help from the family, obviously -- is take Walt's own words and let people see what he said, see the work he did firsthand, use a lot of primary sources and hear the voices of collaborators to let people get a feeling for the man.

What exhibit are you most excited about?

There are several. From a technological point of view, my favorite will be these interactive tables that we have where we use video projection and monitors and touch sensitive surfaces in a very new way.

They're set in a gallery that covers the postwar period leading up to the creation of Disneyland. For these exhibits, we're drawing heavily on the collaborators' comments and what they saw. We made these booths where you can approach and actually manipulate images and faces and sound and watch film clips come up. All of this is held together with a circular video ribbon over your head.

Are there things specifically for children?

Yes. We have targeted certain areas in each gallery for children of a certain height. Things are a little lower, much more hands-on, noisemaking, and moving drawers, and surprises. We're incorporating a lot of surprises, things that you don't necessarily know are coming.

What about Disneyphiles? Is there something specifically for them?

Disneyphiles definitely. There's a lot of footage that has never before been used of "behind-the-scenes" Disneyland, for example. The "making of" certain movies. Very rare artifacts will be on exhibit. And then just the mass of collaborator input, their voices and their work, all in one place. This is going to be pretty great for a Disneyphile.

Could you give us an example of a rare artifact that you have?

We have, as I understand, the earliest known drawing of Mickey Mouse, and that will be our Mona Lisa for the Museum.

How interactive will the Museum be?

Very interactive. The Museum will be maybe a 50-50 balance between sort of a "look-see" experience and an interactive, hands-on treatment. We've tried to balance it so that people who just want to walk with their hands behind their back and see the things will have something to look at, and the people who want to get their hands in there and control -- for example, will have an area where they can dial up scenes from "Snow White" at any speed you like and watch every little detail in the making of a film.

Will there be exhibits that rotate?

Yes. A lot of the artifacts are very delicate. The most delicate kind of artifacts that a museum can have are celluloid. They degrade rapidly. So, we should rotate on a schedule of three months or six months. With animations, there are a whole stack of drawings which look very similar, so we can swap those out without much effect or noticeable effect.

Tell a little bit about working with the Disney Family.

The Family has been great. That's one of the great, pleasant surprises about this project is that they really are as nice as they seem. And the whole Disney attitude and everything about it is not fake. And that's something, I think, in this era that people don't believe is possible. Every one of them is so ... nice. They just believe in the simpler, better thing.

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Specializing in Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney Vacations
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