Sunday, July 17, 2016

Day 1294: Marceline

When you mention Disney, most think instantly of Walt Disney World or Disneyland, frequently mixing the two up if we're being honest. Beyond that, they may think of a favorite animated film, character, or song, maybe a priceless family memory, or launch instantly into a rant about how expensive everything is becoming or how terrible it is that Disney now owns Star Wars (because believe it or not...those people do still exist). Whatever they think of, I can almost guarantee that a little town in central Missouri is far from their first thought, if it occurs to them at all. 

For fans of the man behind the company, Marceline is a familiar name. It's a period of Walt's life that many disregard, when in reality a little town in Missouri provided us with so much more than we realize. From 1906 to 1911, a young Walter Elias Disney called Marceline, Missouri home, and he would return more than a few times to visit the closest thing he ever had to a childhood home. Born in 1901, Walt spent the first years of his life in the bustling city of Chicago, which his parents later decided was no place to raise a family. With relatives in the area, the Disney family, with all five children in tow, moved to Marceline, where they'd stay until moving to Kansas City five years later. 

Learning many of the lessons he would take with him throughout life, Walt loved the little town. He returned in 1946 to refresh his memory for an upcoming project, which we'd later realize to be Disneyland. Marceline also inspired the 1948 film So Dear to My Heart, featuring a barn drawn up by Walt from memories of the barn that was on the family farm in Marceline. In 1956, Walt and Roy, along with their wives, would return to Marceline again, this time to help dedicate the Walt Disney Swimming Pool and Park. It was during the same trip that they held the Midwest premiere of The Great Locomotive Chase at the Uptown Theatre in town, where Walt would individually greet every child through the door. Four years later, in 1960, Walt would return once more to dedicate the Walt Disney Elementary School and provide the town with a flag pole from the Squaw Valley Olympics and an artist to decorate the interior of the school. 

While Walt died in 1966 and never again returned to Missouri, he still relocated the Midget Autopia Ride from Disneyland to Marceline just months before his death, making it the only Disney Attraction to ever run outside of a Disney Park. Following his death, Marceline is chosen out of four cities to issue a commemorative stamp in honor of Walt, and the Santa Fe railroad brings the Disney family to Marceline for the celebration of his life. 

The history of this little town goes on from there, and for its size, you'd never realize just how much has happened there. A museum dedicated to Walt opened in 2001 as a memorial of his 100th Birthday, bringing 13 members of the Disney family on a special train right to the depot where the museum is located. In addition, a recreation of Walt's barn is built as a memorial near the old Cottonwood Tree Walt referred to as his "dreaming tree." The tree, sadly, died a number of years ago after being struck by lightning, but a direct descendant of the tree still sits in Marceline today, growing from the soil of Magic Kingdom and water of the Rivers of America. 

I could go on forever about this little town, but I'll try to keep the rest of this short. There's so much history in Marceline, and if you're a fan of Walt Disney, I can't stress enough how wonderful of a place it is to visit. The museum staff were amazing, especially our tour guide Inez, who hosted Walt in her home when he came to Missouri in 1956. The town, which we visited on a Sunday, is quiet and quaint, but the original Main Street U.S.A. really allows you a glimpse into Walt's life, and into what he envisioned in the Disney parks we know and love. The museum itself is stunning, especially for such a small town, and it took us more than a few hours to barely scratch the surface of Walt's legacy in the Midwest. Other than that, all I can say is that I can't believe it took me 21 years to visit Marceline, because I should have done this a long, long, time ago.

To learn more about Marceline and the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, take a look at the official website and have a magical day!