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Marceline, 3 miles south of US 36 on SR 5, was the boyhood home of beloved film producer, animator, theme park innovator and philanthropist Walter Elias Disney. Disney was born in Chicago, but the family moved to a farm near Marceline when Walt was 5, and he later recalled those formative years as the best of his life. When Disney was developing his first theme park in California he had the fictitious Main Street modeled after his hometown; today the two-story brick buildings and cast-iron street lamps along Main Street USA (formerly Kansas Avenue) are reminiscent of the idealized American streetscape Disney incorporated into his parks.
Reminders of one of the 20th century's most influential individuals are scattered throughout town. E.P. Ripley Park is named after Santa Fe Railroad president E.P. Ripley. Disney—whose fondness for trains began as a child in Marceline, where he put his ear to the tracks to listen for their approach—named the first train to operate at Disneyland for Ripley. An original Santa Fe steam locomotive stands in the park, along with a replica of an 1898 gazebo.
Walt's Barn, on the site of the Disney family farm, is a reconstruction of the barn Disney and his younger sister Ruth used to play in; today visitors are encouraged to sign their names and add a message to the walls of “Walt's Happy Place.” Also on the site is the Dreaming Tree, a large cottonwood under which the young Disney spent time observing nature (a practice he referred to as “belly botany”). The tree was struck by lightning many years ago and not much of it remains. However, in 2004 a sapling from the original tree was planted a few yards away.
Disney film premieres “The Great Locomotive Chase” and “The Spirit of Mickey” were unveiled at the Uptown Theatre, 104. N. Main St. USA. The Walt Disney Post Office, 120 E. Ritchie Ave., a branch of the U.S. Post Office officially renamed in 2004, is the only federal building named after Disney. A special permanent hand cancellation is available.
Disney often returned to Marceline not only for personal renewal but to soak up the pastoral setting, which he incorporated into many of his films. Walt Disney's Hometown Toonfest, held on the third weekend in September, brings internationally known cartoonists and animators to town. The festivities include a parade down Main Street USA, a Princess Tea Party for girls and a Pirate Adventure for boys, an apple pie-eating contest, art and craft booths and speaker presentations at the Uptown Theatre.
Visitor Info
Marceline Area Chamber of Commerce: 209 N. Main St. USA MARCELINE, MO 64658. Phone:(660)376-3347
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Current Location: Marceline, Missouri