Much like her famous dad she wasn’t exactly thrilled to be on set. Yet, it was a job she felt needed to be done. Diane Disney Miller spent the entire day filming segments for the Walt Disney Family Museum as well as the bonus extras for the new release of Walt Disney’s “The Jungle Book.” After a long day of filming, Diane was ready to head for home in nearby Napa Valley. I stopped Diane as she headed down the stairs. “Wouldn’t you prefer we have someone drive you home?” I inquired. I knew she was probably exhausted after hours before the cameras. “No, I’m fine,” she said firmly. I knew there was little chance of changing her mind. She was Walt Disney’s daughter, after all.
I can’t tell you how amazing it was to have Diane Disney Miller as a friend. When I was a kid the idea of working at the Disney studio was like winning the lottery. Working with the Old Maestro on a movie seemed an impossible dream. Getting to know the Disney and Miller family seemed unimaginable. Yet, all these things became reality. For some reason these incredible things continued to happen to me. I never actively sought a story job on “The Jungle Book,” and I never dared make contact with the Disney or Miller family. If Walt Disney was the king of animation, that certainly made his daughters princesses. Yes, I know it sounds rather goofy, but I regarded the Disney family as royalty. In the animation sense, at least.
You can imagine my surprise when I eventually met Walt Disney’s daughter some years ago. Down to earth and unassuming, she was the total opposite of what I expected. The children of Hollywood big shots are usually spoiled and pampered. Some are even jaded by the continual exposure to the craziness of Hollywood’s movie business. Diane Disney Miller remained totally unaffected by her father’s show business affiliation. Much like her dad, she could easily have grown up in a small midwestern town. Initially, Diane was my boss as we began the daunting task of creating the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. In time, she and her husband, Ron Miller became our pals and we had the opportunity to meet their kids. Diane was gracious and generous, but I’ll leave those stories for another time.
Though time has passed, we’re all dealing with the loss of Diane Disney Miller. Yet, I am truly grateful for our friendship and the fact that she allowed me to be a part of creating something special. I’ll never forget our conversations on quiet weekends in Napa Valley and the dinners in San Francisco. I’m grateful she decided to be part of our last interview session at the museum because now we’ll be able to share her with the world. Thank you, Diane for all you’ve given us. It’s a continual reminder that dreams do indeed come true.