Walt Disney’s Hometown
Walt Disney’s Hometown
MARCELINE, MO | COMPLETED 2001
Walt Disney created characters beloved by billions worldwide and built an empire, but he claimed his happiest moments were spent in a small town in north central Missouri, Marceline, a town he used as the model for Disneyland’s Main Street USA.
Disney Land uses entertainment techniques to showcase what Walt Disney loved about his hometown. Now, that showcase has come back to Marceline.
Community leaders, with help from Eisterhold Associates, have built out a series of exhibits and events to highlight those aspects of life in Marceline that Disney found so worthwhile and valuable, while also as celebrating the life and work of one of America’s most beloved and creative artists.
Walt’s 100th Birthday Party
Working with the community, we developed a three-day celebration of Disney’s 100th birthday. People came from all over the world—from Japan to Brazil and Italy—for the birthday celebration.
The party also provided us with an opportunity to test audience response to the project and its activities.
Souvenir pins were used to track the popularity of everything from cow milking to rural Olympics. This real-world data informed the project as we moved forward.
Train Depot Museum
Disney first arrived in Marceline by train at age 5, and now that very Santa Fe train depot has been restored and will serve as a visitor’s center for adventures to 22 Disney sites in the area.
The Disney family allowed us unique access to their never-before-published collections.
The Depot houses nearly 3,000 family artifacts.
Every year, on the third weekend in September, Marceline becomes the epicenter of the cartooning world.
Toonfest is a celebration of cartoonists, illustrators, and Disney historians that offers the general public unique access to the most creative professionals in the industry.
Toonfest brings presentations to the historic Uptown Theater, parades, hayrides, barbecues, and more fun with top creative talents from Disney & Pixar—as well as the creative minds behind comics like Ziggy, Archie, Zits, The Muppets, Dennis the Menace, and Mad Magazine.
The Happy Place
Walt called the barn on his family farm his “happy place.” So he built a replica on his Los Angeles estate, and it became a cauldron of creativity, from the miniature railroad he built to the birthplace of Imagineering—the design and development arm of his empire.
In 2001, volunteers in Marceline rebuilt the barn, with help from the original design drawings and a central beam. Walt’s barn had come home.
The barn now features thousands of messages and memories left by visitors.
The next phase will center on the Walt’s boyhood home and family farm. He once told a friend there will come a time when a child will not know what happens when you put a seed in the ground. So his boyhood home will offer visitors the opportunity to experience the farm skills and learn of the values that Walt thought they imbued.
Visitors can spend time in a replica of his family’s barn, and experience scenes from Walt’s boyhood that found their way into his work.
As a boy, Walt spent hours under his “Dreaming Tree,” hatching schemes and plans, and observing nature in a game he called “Belly Botany.”
As an adult, Walt often returned to the tree, alone, and spent hours drawing inspiration from this uniquely personal spot.
Eisterhold Associates developed and helped disseminate this tale as a reminder of Walt’s ongoing connection to his childhood—of imagination, dreaming, and play.
The Dreaming Tree has since become memorialized in song, books, and comic strips.
In telling the story of Walt Disney’s upbringing in Marceline, we have worked to inspire others to pursue their dreams as relentlessly as Walt did.