Diane Disney Miller: Daughter of Walt Disney who spent much of her life tirelessly preserving the film mogul's legacy


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The Independent Online

Diane Disney Miller was the daughter of Walt Disney and one of his inspirations for Disneyland. "He'd take me and my sister to the merry-go-round at Griffith Park and stand there all day until we were ready to go," she recalled. "As he stood there, he kept thinking there should be more for parents and children to do together, and the idea for Disneyland was born."

She also played a key role in the completion of the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, a project that started with a $50m gift from her mother. In 1997 she fought project leaders who said Gehry's firm lacked the experience to execute the plans for the building's unusual curved polished steel design.

At a crucial point, she threatened to withhold the $20m remaining of her mother's gift if Gehry was not kept on. "She was the turning point," Gehry said. She also founded the Walt Disney Family Museum, which opened in 2009 in San Francisco. One of her concerns was that her father's name had become associated more with a corporate identity than with the man himself. "I wanted something that would bear my father's name, that would come from his wealth but not be commercial," she said.

In 2007 she sent a fax to Disney executives denouncing Neal Gabler's book, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, as "a monstrous piece of libellous junk. My parents were not the people he creates in this book, and I cannot understand why all of you who aided and abetted Gabler in writing this book, and who praise it and promote it, can do so without suffering serious qualms."

Eric Law

Diane Disney, philanthropist: born Los Angeles 18 December 1933; married 1954 Ron Miller (four sons, three daughters); died Napa, California 19 November 2013.