As a homeschooling family we take frequent field trips to enhance our children’s education.
After completing a unit of study on Missouri’s capitol, Jefferson City, we decided to travel and take a tour. While there, on the third floor, we discovered the Hall Of Famous Missourians. This was interesting enough until we rounded the corner and saw Walt Disney! As Disney fanatics, my children and I were immediately drawn to the bust. It was a great likeness of Walt Disney and it gave a brief description of why he was a famous Missourian. The plaque stated:
Walter Elias Disney
Born in Chicago, Illinois
Childhood Home – Marceline (1906-1910)
Film Animation Pioneer and Innovator
Creator of Mickey Mouse and Disneyland
The most important thing that came from this Disney discovery was that my children wanted to find out more about Walt Disney’s ties to Missouri!
Our next field trip brought us to the wonderful little town of Marceline, Missouri. With a population of just over 2,000 people, it had a great home-town atmosphere that made us feel like we were not tourists, but family coming home. I can completely see why Walt Disney fell in love with this place.
The first stop was the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. This museum was small but amazing and packed full of Disney memorabilia. It is the first museum dedicated to the lives of Walt and Roy Disney. As we entered the museum we were greeted by our guide, Kaye. Through her, we were able to hear wonderful first-hand accounts about the Disney family and their time in Marceline. Kaye guided us through the main floor of the museum, making sure to highlight all the special one-of-a-kind pieces on display. The remaining backrooms and upstairs galleries we were free to explore at our leisure. It was hard to take it all in. Displayed were pictures and stories of the Disney family members, personal family items and letters, a Muppet area, and a huge miniature model of Disneyland. Of all the things I saw that day, my favorite by far, was Walt Disney’s wooden elementary school desk that he carved his initials in … twice! Seeing this made me feel a very personal connection to Disney the man and not just the icon we think about today! I took hundreds of pictures at Walt Disney Hometown Museum, but that was just stop one.
Next we headed to the original Main Street USA to see what had inspired Walt Disney at Disneyland and Disney World. Again, it was charming. There was a City Hall, the Uptown Theater (where Mr Disney visited on a return trip to Marceline), and a variety of speciality shops.
After a short drive we arrived at the home/farm where the Disney family lived from 1906-1910. It is still a private residence, but the family allows pictures and there is even a sign in the side yard giving a bit more history about the site. The home is beautiful and immaculately maintained.
Behind the home there is a portion of land that has been manicured and dedicated to the viewing of Dreaming Tree, Son Of Dreaming Tree, and The Happy Place.
Walt Disney’s Dreaming Tree is a large cottonwood tree that stands on the property and was the place where Walt and his sister Ruth would play and daydream as children. Here Walt Disney would lay on the ground and study nature all around him, “belly botany,” he would later call it. As an adult, Mr Disney would use these memories of nature in the drawings for his cartoons. Sadly, the tree was struck by lightening leaving only a large section of the trunk standing today.
In 2004 a conservation group came in, knowing how special the tree was, and planted a sapling that had been taken from Dreaming Tree. It was called Son Of Dreaming Tree. At the planting ceremony for this sapling, soil from the Magic Kingdom and waters from the Rivers of America were brought in to be added to the soil at the Disney farm.
The final destination of our Marceline trip was the Disney barn, The Happy Place. This barn was recreated in Marceline in September of 2001 to celebrate Walt Disney’s 100th birthday. Visitors to the barn are invited to stroll down a path lined with signs sharing historical tid-bits about the structure. Once inside, there is a book to read. This book shares information about Walt Disney’s childhood in Marceline and gives more detail on the barn’s history and importance in Walt Disney’s life. The original barn on the property was where Walt Disney learned about farm life and animals and where he put on his very first show, a barn circus! Once inside the barn, guests are encouraged to write on the walls sharing well-wishes or special Disney memories. Don’t forget a sharpie!
Walt Disney loved this barn so much that he had one constructed at his home in California in 1950. That building was set up as an office and it inspired such creativity that it was actually the birthplace of “Disney Imagineering!”
To conclude Walt Disney’s Missouri connection we headed to Kansas City. We first visited the home where the Disney family lived from 1910-1917. It was during these years that Walt Disney started working a paper route at age 9 and then at age 15 worked on a train that traveled between Kansas City and Oklahoma.
Next we drove to the Laugh-O-Gram Studio. It was here that from 1922-1923 Walt Disney produced animated cartoons called “Laugh-O-Grams” for local movie theaters. Although he was only at this location a short time, it was the very spot where he was inspired with ideas for future movies and, most importantly, where the idea of Mickey Mouse was born!!
After Walt Disney left the Laugh-O-Gram Studio in 1923, he went on to Los Angles and the rest is magical history!
We thoroughly enjoyed traveling through the great state of Missouri to find all the hidden Walt Disney connections. I highly encourage any Disney fan to take a couple of days to explore these treasures for themselves. Seeing the origins of Disney’s magic and imagination was very inspirational. I know that on our next visit to the parks we will have a greater appreciation of our surroundings now that we know the back story behind the magic!