Photos: Disney around the World

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  1. Feast for a Beast

    The Beast welcomes guests to his castle in the Magic Kingdom, where Be Our Guest Restaurant will serve French-inspired cuisine for quick-service lunch and table-service dinner. Part of the newly-revamped Fantasyland, the stylish restaurant will have its grand opening on Dec. 6, 2012 at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Matt Stroshane / Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Dumbo's pre-flight deck

    Waiting in line for Dumbo the Flying Elephant is as much of an event as the ride itself. As guests arrive, they'll receive a circus ticket pager that will virtually hold their place in line and notify them when it's their turn to board the attraction, leaving them free to explore the interactive wonders inside the big top while they wait to take to the skies. Dumbo the Flying Elephant is part of the expansion project which nearly doubles the size of Fantasyland, a multiyear project that will have its grand opening on Dec. 6, 2012 at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Ali Nasser / Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Luxurious cuisine

    French-inspired cuisine will be highlighted when Be Our Guest Restaurant opens in the New Fantasyland. Furthermore, select wines and beers will be offered to complement the elegantly-themed meals. (Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Fit for a princess

    Visitors to Disneyland can walk through Sleeping Beauty Castle and see 3-D scenes from the classic film, originally released in 1959. (Paul Hiffmeyer / Disneyland) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Birthday girl

    Singer Miley Cyrus performs at the "Miley's Sweet 16 Share the Celebration" party at Disneyland in October 2008. (Mario Anzuoni / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Boo!

    The Haunted Mansion, a New Orleans Square attraction, opened Aug. 9, 1969, and is the home of 999 happy haunts. As Disney's website suggests, "Enter...if you dare!" (Disneyland) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Time for supper

    Ghosts dine inside Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. Disney classifies the ride as gentle but warns that younger children could be frightened by its special effects. (Disneyland) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 50 and fabulous

    Fireworks explode over The Sleeping Beauty Castle as part of "Remember ... Dreams Come True," the biggest fireworks display in Disneyland's history. The display took place during the Disneyland 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2005. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Shiver me timbers!

    Villainous pirate Barbossa is hot on the trail of the eccentric Captain Jack Sparrow in Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The classic attraction re-opened following an extensive three-month enhancement and featuring new characters and elements from Walt Disney Pictures' "Pirates of the Caribbean" films. (Scott Brinegar / Disneyland) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Around the world

    Walt Disney World's It's a Small World ride is a great option for youngsters. Visitors can sing along to the famous tune while visiting countries around the world. Hong Kong Disneyland opened the classic boat ride in 2008 in an attempt to boost sluggish attendance at the theme park. (Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. My, what big ears you have

    Dumbo the Flying Elephant takes riders over Fantasyland, and lever controls let them fly at their desired altitude. (Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Eating under the sea

    Larger-than-life replicas of prehistoric sea creatures combine with giant aquariums of exotic fish in the lounge area of T-Rex: A Prehistoric Family Adventure, at the Downtown Disney area in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 600-seat restaurant, operated by Landry's Restaurants, combines table-service dining and retail in an interactive prehistoric environment built around water, fire and ice. (Gene Duncan / Disneyland) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Mickey hops the pond

    Roy E. Disney, nephew of Walt Disney, poses with Mickey, Minnie and Pluto, in front of the Sleeping Beauty castle during a press preview of Euro Disneyland, now called Disneyland Paris, in Marne La Vallee, France. The site opened in 1992. (Eric Feferberg / AFP - Getty Images file) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Dive! Dive!

    The original submarines from the Disneyland Submarine Voyage, a popular attraction for many years at the California theme park, have been extensively refitted for the 21st Century adventure of Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. The attraction now takes explorers on an undersea voyage where they'll have close encounters with the fish characters from the Disney-Pixar movie, "Finding Nemo." (Paul Hiffmeyer / Disneyland) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Fun after dark

    Downtown Disney is a promenade that offers shopping, dining and other activities. The avenue shown here leads to both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. (Disneyland) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Should've seen it in color

    Crowds are seen walking around the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, Calif., circa 1955. (Archive Photos / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A visionary's vision

    Walt Disney unveils his plans for Disneyland to a national television audience during the premiere of "Disneyland," the television show, on October 27, 1954. (Disneyland) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Blank canvas

    Walt Disney purchased 160 acres in Anaheim, originally covered with orange groves, to build his dream of a place where parents and children could have fun -- together. (Disneyland) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 6/22/2009 12:07:46 PM ET 2009-06-22T16:07:46

He's the reason adults of a certain age can't stop themselves from finishing the song line beginning "M-I-C-K-E-Y," the force causing untold legions to see marching mops when they hear the rousing strains of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."

But the story of Walt Disney the man sometimes gets forgotten in the telling of his legend. Descendants of the 20th-century innovator hope to fix that disconnect with The Walt Disney Family Museum, opening this fall in San Francisco.

"My dad's story is an inspirational story," Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, said. "I want people to understand his character and how he pursued his career."

And have fun.

"Our museum will be entertaining," she said. "That's what dad was all about."

Since Disney's death at 65 in 1966, some of the coverage of the man behind the mouse hasn't been the happiest thing on Earth, starting with the oddly persistent falsehood that his body was cryogenically frozen. He was cremated and buried.

Meanwhile, the icon has become so distinct from the person that some younger people think "Walt Disney" is a made-up corporate character, said Richard Benefield, founding executive director of the new museum.

Even for those who know, the story can get confused.

"People remember very specific things about Walt and it's bits and pieces and you don't necessarily remember them in a collective way," Benefield said.

Seeing Disney's work in one place — the cutting-edge animation, the theme parks, the technological advancements — "the order of magnitude is pretty outstanding," he said.

Still under construction, with an opening date of Oct. 1, the museum will feature 10 galleries, starting with Disney's beginnings on a Missouri farm. Among the artifacts is the form on which a 16-year-old Disney lied about his age (changing his birth date from 1901 to 1900) to train as a Red Cross ambulance driver in World War I France; he arrived as the war ended. Exhibits include listening stations and more than 200 video monitors as well as interactive displays.

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The museum consists of three historic buildings that have been redesigned and upgraded by Page & Turnbull of San Francisco, with interior architecture and installations by the Rockwell Group. It is set in the Presidio, a former Army base with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge. That puts it, said Benefield, "in the center of the animation universe right now" with Lucasfilm Ltd. to the north and Pixar to the east.

Across the San Francisco Bay, Pixar co-founder John Lasseter is delighted about the new venture.

"Not only will it be a great illustration of Walt's life and career, but also his impact on entertainment and the medium of animation," said Lasseter, who studied under former Disney artists at the California Institute for the Arts, where he earned a film degree, and worked as a Disney animator early in his career. "I really think it will become one of the must-see places in San Francisco."

Exhibits highlight Disney innovations from synchronizing sound to a cartoon to fully capitalizing on the marvels of Technicolor to developing the multiplane camera to add depth to "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," which was dubbed "Disney's folly" until it opened to wild acclaim.

The Oscar statuettes — one full size and seven little ones — awarded to that film will be on display. In all, Disney won a record 32 Academy Awards.

Image: Disney Museum
Eric Risberg  /  AP

"His ideas were way beyond what was being done in Hollywood. He kept pushing the technology of animation and that is something that at Pixar we've always been doing as well," notes Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios.

(The Walt Disney Co. bought Pixar in 2006. The Disney Co. is collaborating on the project, but the $110 million museum, co-founded by Miller and her son Walter E.D. Miller, is an independent project fully funded by the Walt Disney Family Foundation.)

The story of Walt Disney is one of lows as well as highs and Benefield said the museum won't shy away from the former. "We're just putting it out there," he said.

After the success of "Snow White," the movie "Fantasia" (1940) got mixed reviews — years later it would become a success — and nearly bankrupted the studio. Then came a strike at Disney Studios followed by the war years when the company was essentially taken over by the military. The museum will deal with the strike, which was bitter, and includes Disney's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Although it's not finished yet, what looks to be a visually arresting feature of the museum deals with Disney's fascination with trains, a hobby that eventually led him to create Disneyland. Visitors walking down a spiral ramp will pass a track suspended from the roof holding the "Lilly Belle," the 1/8 scale-model train Disney ran on a half-mile track around his home.

Disneyland would become the model of a modern theme park. It was also the place where a young Lasseter learned comic timing, telling "wonderful bad jokes" as a captain of the Jungle Cruise ride.

"What is so great about this museum is really teaching people about the man behind the name, the man behind all this great work," Lasseter says. "What I'm so excited about is for people to learn how creative this guy was and what an innovator he was."

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