In the summer of 2012, my mom gave me the idea to write a letter to Diane Disney Miller, Walt Disney’s daughter, to tell her what a huge impact Disney has had on my life. I wrote about how my brother and sister have worked at Walt Disney World, how it is my dream to be able to work for the Walt Disney Company someday, and just simply what an amazing legacy and impact her father has left behind. It took a few rough drafts to get the wording perfect, but when everything was just right I carefully copied it onto homemade stationary. After a little internet sleuthing, I discovered that she and her husband owned a winery in California, so I decided to send the letter there, in care of Diane. I never expected an answer.
A few weeks later, I received a bulky package in the mail. Inside there were two books about Walt and a brochure for the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The first book, Walt Disney: His Life in Pictures said on the inside, “July 16, 2012. Dear Emma- Thank you for your letter! I think that you would enjoy this book. Sincere regards, Diane Disney Miller.” The second book, The Walt Disney Family Museum, had inscribed, “To Emma, with the hope that I’ll meet you here at the museum some day. Diane Disney Miller. P.S. Your elegant printing puts my scrawl to shame!” I was completely overwhelmed and grateful – I had never in my wildest dreams hoped for such an amazing response! My parents decided right then and there that the next summer, we would take a road trip out West. It was something that we had always wanted to do, and Disneyland in Anaheim and the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco seemed like perfect stops for a trip! I quickly composed a thank-you letter for Diane and sent it off.
All throughout that winter and the next spring, we planned our trip. We decided that the round trip would take about two weeks, and by the beginning of the next summer we had every day outlined. When July finally rolled around, I wrote another letter to Diane telling her about our upcoming trip and our plans to visit the museum and Disneyland. I left my phone number and email address for her to contact me if she wished and hoped for the best.
Our departure date was set for July 25, and after months and months of anticipation, the day finally arrived. We left bright and early that morning, driving every day and making lots of stops all along the country. We saw the Wall Drug Store in South Dakota, wild donkeys and buffalo at Custer State Park, and spent two days at Yellowstone National Park. From the rugged landscape of the Badlands to the carved mountainside of Mt. Rushmore, we experienced it all. A few days into the trip, I received an email from Diane. She said she was so sorry to miss us, but she would be gone for a week in Colorado while we were there. However, she said that she had alerted the executive director of the museum of our visit and that she would be looking out for us. She also mentioned that if we knew when we would be at Disneyland, she could call in passes for us. I was disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to meet, but still anticipated the museum visit and Disneyland.
We arrived in San Francisco on July 31 and spent the evening exploring Chinatown and the Pier. The next day, we arrived at The Walt Disney Family Museum and walked in as soon as it opened. We were surprised to find tickets for us waiting at the desk, and the Facilities Coordinator came to greet us. She said that they had originally planned on having a guide take us around the museum, but Diane had insisted that we tour it on our own time. She also mentioned that Kirsten Komoroske, the Executive Director, and Michael Labrie, the Director of Collections, would be meeting up with us sometime. We thanked her and began our journey through Walt’s life.