I have always been fascinated by Walt Disney and how he got started, so when D23 announced their tour to Marceline, MO, where Walt spent his childhood, I signed up as soon as I could. The trip was an amazing experience for Colorado Dad and I and I want to share a bit of our experience with you, so my next few posts will be dedicated to a trip report of our Journey to Marceline.
The experience began at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City so we had to get up bright and early to be ready to go. When we got there, a local television crew was busy interviewing Becky Cline, one of the Walt Disney Archive staff who would be joining the tour, so we joined the rest of the D23 fans who were standing in the background. After Becky’s interview was over, we checked in, got our breakfast to-go box and got on the bus, ready for our 2ish hour drive to Marceline.
Each of the buses was hosted by a Walt Disney Archives staff member as well as a D23 staff member and we were lucky enough to have the best (no, I’m not biased at ALL ) - Justin from the Archives and D23 staffer Jeffery (aka The Disney Geek) on our bus. During the trip, we were treated to some Disney shorts starting with the Laugh-O-Gram Studios “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Alice’s Wild West Show” through to the more recent “Runaway Brain” and one of my favorites, “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater”. After the cartoons, Justin asked us some trivia questions and gave away some cool prizes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough to raise my hand among all the other Disney fans, so didn’t win anything
A few miles out of town, we saw the Marceline sign and the level of excitement on the bus raised up a couple notches. We rounded a bend in the road and were met with this
The entire elementary school had come out to welcome us, along with several other Marceline residents. Wow, this was totally unexpected and I’ll admit I got a little emotional. I could tell this was going to be a special day indeed.
After a quick restroom break, we all gathered in front of the local post office, aptly named the Walt Disney Post Office, where the Mayor of Marceline read a proclamation naming March 14th as D23 Day in Marceline! It was also announced that the post office of Marceline had just been awarded a special postmark by the postal service and it was going to be available for use for the first time that day. One lucky member of our D23 group was chosen to be the first person to get the stamp, but again, luck was not on my side, and I was not the chosen one.
After the speeches, our group was divided into two smaller groups, known as the “Engineers” and the Conductors” (a nod to Marceline’s long railroad history) and half of us went off toward the Walt Disney Hometown Museum while the rest of us stayed at the post office to get our special postmark.
After our group finished up at the post office, we walked across the town square toward the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. As we went, our tour guide Edna gave us a little bit of the history of the town. Marceline was founded as a railroad town, a stop for the Santa Fe railroad between Kansas City and Chicago. Although the trains no longer stop at the Marceline train depot, trains are still a huge part of the town’s culture and there are up to 70 trains that pass through town each day. We saw several of them pass through that day and it made it easy to see where Walt Disney’s love of trains may have started!
The building that houses the museum began it’s life as the city’s train depot but is now used 100% for the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. The museum started back in 2001 after Ruth Disney Beecher, Walt’s younger sister, passed away and her estate donated a large number of artifacts to the town of Marceline. Kaye Malin, who runs the museum, welcomed us and gave us a bit of an orientation before letting us explore on our own. During our orientation, we found out that Kaye has a very personal link to Walt Disney, whom she met as a young girl when he and Mrs. Disney stayed at her family’s home during his visit to dedicate Marceline’s town swimming pool in 1956. You can tell that meeting Walt had a big impact on Kaye and it was neat to hear all her stories about that time. I’ll leave her stories untold here as I hope you’re able to visit Marceline and speak with Kaye in person some day!
Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed in the museum itself, but we saw some really cool things including Walt’s school desk where he carved his initials, an original Midget Autopia car from Disneyland as well as a myriad of photos, letters, etc. that gave us an inside view into the Disney family. I was amazed to learn that Walt and his family only lived in Marceline for four years before moving to Kansas City, but his time there left a deep and lasting impression.
After our visit to the museum, we headed to the local Masonic temple for lunch, catered by Marceline resident, Debbie Foster. Lunch was simple yet delicious and included sandwiches, a vegetable beef stew that was the best I’ve ever had, and ice cream. While we ate, we were treated to a showing of “Marceline”, a documentary filmed by Andy and Sara Neitzert (who were there with us!). The film includes a series of interviews with several citizens of Marceline (many of whom we met in person) and gives us a glimpse into the town, the amazing people who live there and of course, it’s ties to Walt Disney. It was a great film and I really hope Andy and Sara find wider distribution for it.
In part two of my trip report, I’ll cover the Uptown theater, our visit to Walt’s Happy Place and the Dreaming Tree and why I love D23 events