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Kickstarter Results

The Walt Disney Birthplace
Preservation Project

On December 5, 2013, I attended an event in Chicago kicking off The Walt Disney Birthplace Preservation Project. Here’s my article: Restoring the Walt Disney Birthplace.

A few weeks later, I wrote about the Kickstarter project seeking financial backers for the restoration: Kickstarting Walt Disney’s Birthplace.

The Kickstarter campaign ended yesterday, January 6, 2014, at 4:56 p.m. CST.

Today I have a report on whether the campaign met its financial goal—and what this means to the project.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, January 7, 2014.


Renovating an old house and restoring an old house are two different things. The former means fixing it up; the latter means bringing it back to how it once was. The former tends to be expensive. The latter tends to be much more expensive.

The world is lucky that a particular 121-year-old house on Tripp Ave. in Chicago is still standing. It’s the house that Walt Disney’s father built in 1893, where Walt Disney was born in 1901, and where Walt lived and played as a young child. Over the years, the house became an apartment two-flat with significant interior and exterior changes.

The house has been largely ignored by the press and public over the past century, except during a brief, unsuccessful attempt to bestow official landmark status on it in 1997.

Over the past five weeks, the house has probably received more media attention than during its entire existence before then because Dina Benadon and Brent Young, design and production professionals in themed entertainment industry, bought it and launched The Walt Disney Birthplace Historical Preservation [opens new window]. Suddenly, the house, the plans to restore it, and the Kickstarter campaign to fund it were featured in newspapers and on television, radio, podcasts, blogs, and websites.

On December 7, 2013, the Chicago Tribune published an excellent article, Walt Disney’s Tripp Ave. home an exhibit in the land of politics [opens new window], written by Chris Jones, who usually writes theater reviews. Here’s a brief excerpt, beginning with the sixth paragraph:

Certainly, the history and politics of the Tripp house are very interesting. Much of the tortured history surrounding whether Chicago should or should not care about the house on Tripp has been unearthed by a man named Werner Weiss, who has no official connection with Disney but who maintains a website called Yesterland, dedicated to defunct attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World and, as a sideline, Disney history in general. Weiss knows Chicago well.

In 2008, he wrote the story of the Tripp house in far more detail than any newspaper yet has managed.

(Sorry, I just had to quote that Chicago Tribune article.) In case you’re interested, here’s my 2008 Yesterland article: Walt Disney in Chicago.

This brings us to The Walt Disney Birthplace Preservation Project’s Kickstarter goal: $500,000. That’s a lot of money.

The way Kickstarter works, if a project collects pledges that meet or exceed the goal, the project is funded. If not, nobody’s credit card is charged; the project gets zero.

I’ve been watching the Kickstarter page of The Walt Disney Birthplace Preservation Project [opens new window]. After an initial burst of activity, the number of backers and the pledged amount kept growing, but the spread between the pledged amount at the goal remained vast. I hoped that a few large backers might be waiting until the end.

Kickstarter for Walt Disney Birthplace in Chicago

Screen capture Monday, January 6, 2014, at 4:52 p.m. CST

With just four minutes to go

I clicked on Refresh a few times during the final minutes.

In a Hollywood movie, just when it would appear hopeless, there would suddenly be one more backer with $400,000. But that’s not what happened in real life. There were actually three last-minute backers. Alas, the pledged total only grew by $105.

Kickstarter for Walt Disney Birthplace in Chicago

Screen capture Monday, January 6, 2014, at almost 4:56 p.m. CST

With just two seconds to go

Shortly after the counter reached zero seconds, new text appeared on the page: “Funding Unsuccessful  This project’s funding goal was not reached on January 6, 2014.” Despite that, I am in awe that 838 backers pledged $111,138. Dina and Brent did a phenomenal job in getting the word out.

It’s just unfortunate that a restoration such as this one can’t be done with a $100,000 budget and thus a $100,000 Kickstarter goal. As I wrote in my two other articles about the Walt Disney Birthplace project, I’m glad Dina and Brent are approaching the restoration with a highly qualified team and a commitment to doing things right.

From Kickstarter’s perspective, the outcome was “Unsuccessful.” But the project succeeded in many other ways. People now know about the Walt Disney Birthplace, care about it, want to see it become a reality, and want to support it.

The Walt Disney Birthplace restoration project is alive and well. Dina and Brent will see the project through.

Walt Disney Birthplace in Chicago

Fulldome photography by Dome3D from the Walt Disney Birthplace website

Dome3D shot of the Walt Disney Birthplace with the original facade revealed

Around the time when the Kickstarter timer ran out, Dina and Brent posted a project update, “This Isn’t The End. This Is Just the Beginning.” [opens new window]. Here’s how it begins:

There are a lot of possible reasons why our Kickstarter campaign did not reach its goal, and while we will look back and learn from the experience, we are also moving forward. What we know and appreciate is the incredible amount of support we have received in the past 33 days. We are so optimistic about this project that we are going full steam ahead with the restoration. Next week, weather permitting, the meticulous work will reveal even more of the home’s original exterior and more clues to the home’s original state, inside and out.

I won’t post the whole project update here. Please follow the link to learn more about what Dina and Brent are planning.

I want to close with the update’s “Stay Tuned!” points:

Again, this adventure is just getting started. We will continue to broadcast the project’s news and updates through Kickstarter and our website, and our Twitter feed, and more.

We will be adding a Paypal “Donate” button to the site very soon.

We will be opening an online “Gift Shop” very soon.

And we will be continuing to develop our exciting post-restoration plans for the home.

Keep those tuxes and ball gowns at the ready: our Gala Grand Re-Opening Ceremony is going to be epic.

All our best!


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Updated October 17, 2014.