Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Diane Disney Miller


On December 18, 1933, Walt and Lillian Disney were blessed with the birth of Diane, the first of two lovely daughters who like many children would give plenty of inspiration to their parents. In this case, the inspiration eventually included not only giving honest feedback from a child to her famous father as whether she liked the latest Disney animated feature but also introducing Walt to stories she and her sister Sharon enjoyed such as "Mary Poppins" and begging him to make them into films. Thank goodness for the rest of us!

Ron and Diane
Lillian, Walt, Diane and Sharon
I first met Diane, Ron and her delightful mom Lillian at a CalArts event in the mid 1970s and never forgot their graciousness and charm with a rough around the edges boy from the south who someday hoped to work at her dad's dream factory. Diane and Ron had just recently purchased land in Napa Valley that they would develop over the years into a world class winery known as Silverado Vineyards in 1981. After Lillian's passing, Diane's leadership was also key to seeing her mom's dream of the Walt Disney Concert Hall become a reality and that architect Frank Gehry's original design would be implemented when it finally opened in 2004 instantly becoming a center for classical music and the arts in Los Angeles. There was a well documented exchange between Diane and a couple of local politicians over the final design but Diane fought to see her mom's vision and tribute to walt Disney completed. Her husband, former studio president Ron Miller, could have told the dignitaries not to mess with her. Apprised of the "housewives" description, he countered, with a laugh: "If you like your housewives tougher than hell." Seeing that project through to fruition gave her the courage to take on further endeavors. 

Diane and the girls
Perhaps one of her greatest achievements, besides her 7 children with Ron, was her creation and development of The Walt Disney Family Museum built within a former Army barracks in the beautiful Presidio of San Francisco which opened in October of 2009. One of the things many of us  share with Diane is that on most Sundays our dads used to take the family out for drives. Down south the Peraza family would end up at Dipper Dan's for Ice Cream after a day at Gulf Shores fishing and swimming while on the West coast the Disney family would often end up in Griffith Park at the beautiful carousel and while waiting for Diane and Sharon to grab the brass ring Walt began to dream of a place where entire families could truly enjoy time together. That place would someday be known of course as Disneyland. 

Today that bright light she had lit has dimmed if for only a moment as Diane Disney Miller passed away at the age of 79. I thank you Diane for not only sharing so much of the wonderful history of your family with all of us but for keeping alive the vast legacy of your dad. From the Concert Hall through to the Museum, Diane was composing a musical memorial of sorts to honor her remarkable parents. The song may be ended Diane, but your melody will linger forever. -MP

No comments:

Post a Comment