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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Diane Disney Miller - dead at 79 - the last direct family tie to Walt Disney

Why does Diane Disney Miller matter? 

Because she was the last direct tie to Walt. She was one of two daughters (Sharon, who was adopted, died in 1993), and Diane was the final person of the intimate family of four (Walt, Lilly, Diane, and Sharon) to make it this far.

Diane was there for the Walt Disney Family Museum, a somewhat new creation in San Francisco, and she was intimately involved.

It's been Diane who guided so much inquiry into Walt's life in the past twenty years since her sister passed, and almost as long as her mother's death.

Lilly Disney was occasionally a visitor at Disneyland, but a few months before she passed away, what turned out to be her final visit to Disneyland was one characterized by sadness and grief. She was supposed to come address the crowds, but she couldn't leave the Disney apartment above the firehouse. Reportedly, she shed quiet tears and said simply, "I miss my Walt." She couldn't go onstage, and that was that.

I have long been fascinated by this extremely human (and extraordinarily personal) moment. Lilly managed to avoid any descent into caricature with this statement. In the end, it was the family that mattered, not the "show", and Walt Disney would have approved.

Diane is the last part of that family, and now the final member of that inner circle of Disney relatives has finally slipped the surrey bonds of Earth. She mattered because she was Walt's daughter, and that was enough.

The Disney "product" and the Disney "brand" have always been about family. Diane was Walt's family, and the last of Walt's family (there are second-generation relatives, but they have been less directly involved). That logic makes Diane integral to Disney. What we think of as "Disney" was defined by family, and she was it.

We will miss Diane. Life goes on, but we are the poorer for this loss.

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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.