Monday, October 19, 2015

Walt Disney's Boyhood Home

Marceline, Missouri is the small town where Walt Disney spent his boyhood. I stop to sketch a farm at the edge of town near the Disney family's place. 

Walt watched his first movie at the Uptown Theatre. He came back in 1956 to premiere "The Great Locomotive Chase." Today a stuffed Goofy slumps and grins in the box office admission window. They still give free Friday night family movie screenings here.

Marceline was the inspiration for the "Main Street America" in Disneyland. Today, Marceline is not quite the town it once was when Walt was a kid. There's a small Disney museum and an annual event called Toonfest that attracts animators and cartoonists. There's a hardware store and a cafe. 

But a lot of the other stores are closed, and the rest struggle to attract regular customers. Most of the traffic goes to the franchise businesses near the highway. 

Like most small towns in the Midwest, Marceline bravely clings to memories of its past glories. Walt Disney's gift to the world was to encourage average Americans to wish upon a star. But the reality sometimes has a hard time keeping up with the dream.

The Marceline Walt Disney Knew (recollections from Walt)


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing, it's all such great inspiration. I was wondering, as you travel do you build in an hour or two painting/sketching time? or just wing it get to your destination later?

Jessica Kirby said...

They also have a plein air competition every year. I went this year and had a great time. That hardware store saved my butt when my easel broke first thing of the day.

James Gurney said...

Joe, yes, on the long driving trips we try to stop to walk around a small town every few hours, and we try to allow an hour or two a day for painting.

Jessica, yes, the town seems to like having artists and cartoonists. The library has a framed drawing by a cartoonist who visited during Toonfest.

Laura G. Young said...

Interesting! Growing up in Fort Collins, Colorado, I was often told that it was OUR architecture that served as inspiration for Disney's Main Street. Turns out it was both towns:

Robyn said...

Im going to enjoy your documentation of your trip! Small town USA is really my kind of subject matter.

Tom Hart said...

I love this delightful post, including your painting. Somehow the colors you've chosen read "Disney" to me, in some sort of home-y way.

I also like and am struck by your observation (re: Disney) that "the reality sometimes has a hard time keeping up with the dream." I agree. Disney was flawed (as we all are!) and surely criticism is correctly leveled at him. Pesonally, I cringe at the accounts of his vilification of unions and union supporters and especially his McCarthy hearing testimony. But those were different times - which is not at all to excuse his actions. History will, and has rightfully judged. Those faults are best remembered. But all the same, I am so grateful for what he created and inspired.

J. Anthony Stubblefield said...

As a child I used to go to Marceline with my dad. There was an antique dealer there that he used to by from. I will have to see how far it is from my hometown in Mid-MO. We took many a trip after school (Dad was a teacher) going around to small towns buying antiques from pickers, this was a good 35 years ago. I remember many a night doing my homework by the dome light in the cab of his pickup truck.