At the new Walt Disney Family Museum, opening in San Francisco on October 1, you can catch a glimpse of Walt Disney, the man, before there was an empire. Before his animation career took off, Walt spent his childhood in rural Missouri and Kansas City, and worked a newspaper route and drove an ambulance in World War I.

In the ten galleries that trace his work from its beginnings (Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, 1937) to his last creations (Mary Poppins, 1964) you’ll discover some intriguing little-known facts:

+ In 1949, Disney sent a team of naturalists to Alaska for a year to “film anything they might find interesting.” The result was "Seal Island," a nature documentary that won an Academy Award.

+ The movie Fantasia, which opened to mixed reviews in 1940, nearly sent his studio flailing into bankruptcy.

+ In 1942, Disney Studios released Saludos Amigos, a series of animated shorts ("Lake Titicaca,” “Aquarela do Brasil,” "Pedro," about a baby airplane, and “El Gaucho Goofy," in which the floppy-eared character moonlights as a cowboy in Argentina)—woven together by footage of Walt and his team touring Latin America.

+ EPCOT means Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow—an idea that preceded New Urbanism by some 30 years.

The museum houses the first sketches of Mickey Mouse; scribbled ideas about Disneyland, even home movies, and its bones are equally striking—a former barracks in San Francisco’s Presidio, with interiors by the Rockwell Group.

Guest blogger Alison Goran is a freelance contributor to