Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Snow White, the Walt Disney Family Museum and Diane Disney Miller in The Mouse Castle Lounge

© Disney. Courtesy Walt Disney Animation Research Library
I took The Mouse Castle Lounge on the road last week to San Francisco for my visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum and their new Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs exhibition. I came back impressed, educated and enlightened. And a little geeked out.

The day was full of win just to be able to talk about the Museum's mission with CEO Gabriella Calicchio, animation art preservation with curator Lella Smith, and old movies (not to mention Snow White) with historian J.B. Kaufman. The icing on the cake, however, was spending a few minutes with Walt Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller.

In the seven years or so I've been writing and reporting about my obsession, I've been very fortunate to meet a number of well known and well regarded people in and around the world of Disney. Only twice have these encounters ever rendered me speechless, or worse, stupid. First, was my first visit to the Walt Disney Archives. Overwhelmed by the amazing art and memorabilia that surrounded me, items that my childhood was built upon, the only semi-intelligent thing I could manage to say to archivist Robert Tieman was, "Gee, it must be great to work here!" I've been back to the Archives since. I'm a lot less wound up there now.

The second time I found myself at a loss was last week when I met Diane.

I suspect over the years she's become accustomed to fans of her father becoming starstruck in her presence. As more than one friend of mine pointed out, "She's got Walt Disney's DNA in her!" It's not fair, really. For all the work Diane has done over the years to preserve her dad's legacy, it's not the only thing that defines her. She's a wife and mother and, with her husband of over 50 years, Ron Miller (himself former president and CEO of Walt Disney Productions), is co-owner of the Silverado Vineyards Winery in the Napa Valley.

Diane worked tirelessly to make the Walt Disney Family Museum a reality, and now, three years after its opening, there she was, strolling through the Museum's first big expansion, an exhibition dedicated to one of her dad's greatest triumphs. As I was introduced to her, I tried to put my game face on, that of a serious blogger/podcaster working on a story. But then, fan geekery started assaulting my professional instincts. My heart raced. Butterflies invaded my stomach. My mind reeled. "I just shook hands with Walt's daughter!"

Inwardly, I was all nerves. Outwardly, I'm sure I gushed to Diane way too much about what an honor it was to meet her. This is perhaps common when meeting her for the first time, but I didn't want to be that guy. I struggled to get through the interview, trying to find the right words, trying to be too clever. Diane was patient and gracious through it all and shared a great story about the first time she saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs when she was three and the Queen's transformation terrified her. When we were done, we shook hands again and parted ways. Of course, that's when my brain finally unlocked and I thought of the hundred different things I should've said to her instead.

Later on, Andi, my contact at the Museum who does a fantastic job in communications and PR, confessed that she acted the same way I did the first time she met Diane. That helped. Disney dorks understand.

One day, I hope to sit down with Diane again when I'm not such a bundle of nerves. Maybe we'll chat over a glass of Silverado wine and I'll run down the list of things I should've said to her the first time around. That would be nice. I think I deserve a do-over. Stay tuned.

My Diane fixation aside, this week's episode of The Mouse Castle Lounge is jammed with Snow White history. You're going to love my conversations with Gabriella Calicchio, Lella Smith and J.B. Kaufman as they talk at length about the Walt Disney Family Museum and the lasting legacy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Enjoy!

The Mouse Castle Lounge is also available via iTunes and Stitcher.

Related Story:
75 Years of Snow White on Display at the Walt Disney Family Museum


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