If you follow us on Facebook, or have been reading this blog for any length of time, you are probably under the impression I am "Disney Obsessed", which usually leads to a lot of links on my Facebook wall titled, "Disney Princesses Reimagined as _______". The truth is, I haven't seen at least half of the Princess movies, and Francis had to make me watch Cars before we went to Disneyland, and both Monsters Inc and Monsters University before our last trip to Walt Disney World. I am WALT Disney obsessed. I love Walt Disney the person - the entertainer and original Imagineer. I love being at Disney parks and watching children have a magical time. One of my favorite things ever is seeing a dad who probably says "You can't wear the band's tshirt to their concert," go Full Mickey at WDW with an ear hat and a tshirt that is probably a Disney-themed bad dad joke. I am a sucker for the magic, and there is no one else in history like Walt Disney.
"If you can dream it, you can do it," Walt famously said, and those are words to live by. Any Disneyphile knows how much of Walt's inspiration for Disney parks came from Marceline, and knows about the Dreaming Tree and barn on the family farm that he had recreated for his studio in California, which became the birthplace of Disney Imagineering.
Inside the barn, you can leave your name and messages to Walt. Bring a marker with you! Walt's first live show was in this barn, a "barn circus" with a few animals dressed up in his sister's clothes. He charged 10c admission, and the kids in attendance grumbled when they saw the "performers" were a cat, dog, pig, and goat. His mom made him return the money, and said, "Always give people more than they expect, and they'll never be disappointed." Obviously, he carried that advice with him for his entire life.
The Dreaming Tree is where Walt first learned to draw, and spent many hours observing nature, which inspired future cartoons like Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony. Even on his visits to Mareline when he was an adult, Walt spent time under the Dreaming Tree. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the tree is a National Historic Tree. Unfortunately, the original Dreaming Tree died a few years back, and it had to be trimmed back for safety, but Son of Dreaming Tree is nearby. I love that it was planted by Cast Members, using soil brought from Disneyland and water from the Rivers of America.
You can see Walt's inspiration from nature in this advertisement for the brand new Missouri Department of Conservation in 1937.
Now, knowing how much Walt loved Marceline, and how much credit he gives the town for his happy childhood, imagination, and inspiration, how long do you think the Disney family lived there? Before I visited Marceline myself, I figured he lived there all his life, until he moved to Kansas City as a young man.
Nope! The Disneys moved to Marceline when Walt was 4, and moved to Kansas City when he was 8. Amazing that this town had such an impact on him. But then, think about when you were 4-8 years old. I know I had some of my best adventures at that age! Walt himself wrote a letter for the Marceline News that details all the reasons he thought of Marceline as his home town. You can read it here.
The Walt Disney Hometown Museum is located in an old railroad depot, which is perfect because Walt loved trains. If you read the letter linked above, he talks about his uncle who was an engineer, and says that having a relative who is an engineer is the next best thing to being one yourself. All the Disney parks feature a train, and I remember reading that the conductors in the early days of Disneyland were special favorites of Walt's.
When he would return to visit Marceline as an adult, he would always fly into Kansas City and then take the train to Marceline so he could recreate the experience of arriving by train like he did when he was a child. Of course, the railroad depot is the first thing you see when you arrive at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and it acts as a stage curtain that goes up on Main Street U.S.A as you enter the park.
The Museum has Walt's desk from Park School, which he pointed out when he visited as an adult. It has his initials carved on the top.
Marceline also had the only Disneyland ride ever to be moved elsewhere. Walt donated the track, wiring, lighting, and 10 cars for this Midget Autopia, which was installed at the town park in 1966.
The Walt Disney stamp was issued in 1968, just two years after Walt died. There was a special ceremony in Marceline to dedicate the stamp. Today you can have your mail canceled at the Walt Disney Post Office, a fact that I only just learned and hope to take advantage of in the future!
In 1998, Disney premiered the movie Spirit of Mickey, which is an anthology of Mickey Mouse cartoons from the 1930s and 1940s, at the Uptown Theater in Marceline. A crowd of 18,000 (including Mickey & Minnie) attended the premiere! Walt also premiered The Great Locomotive Chase in Marceline, and there is a whole room of the museum dedicated to that movie.
And now you know why Walt Disney and Missouri go hand in hand! It is quite a trek from St Louis (about 3 hours), but if you are a Disney (or Walt Disney) fan, it is a must! If you are a fan of cartooning in general, I recommend checking out their yearly convention, Toonfest. Next week I will show you the scale model of Disneyland that was donated to the museum and is on display on the second floor.