"I'm glad I'm a small town boy and I'm glad Marceline was my
-- Walt Disney, Sept. 2, 1938.
What made Marceline, Missouri,
so important in the life of Walt Disney? Born Dec. 5, 1901 in the family's home in Chicago,
Walt was a few months shy of his fifth birthday when his family moved to a farm
near Marceline. The family only spent about five years in the small town, but
they were formative years for the future entertainment icon and world traveler.
The Walt Disney
is hosting a special screening of the 2011 documentary "Marceline," by Andy and
Sara Neitzert, who traveled there to trace the story of Walt's early years and
his continued ties to the city.
A panel discussion with the filmmakers will follow with
special guests Kaye Johnson Malins, Marceline historian and director of the
Walt Disney Hometown Museum; and Scott Zone, film conservator for The Walt Disney
Scott Zone, film conservator for the WaltDisney Family Foundation
Walt and Lillian Disney slept in 8-year-old Kaye's bedroom
when they visited Marceline in 1956 and her family became friends with the
Disneys. Scott will show some footage of Marceline filmed by Walt Disney.
The screening and discussion will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23. Tickets are $15
youth, $18 museum members; and $20 general. To purchase tickets or obtain more
information, visit www.waltdisney.org/lectures-discussions#sthash.WEk9PvwK.dpuf.
"To tell the truth, more things of importance happened to me
in Marceline than have ever happened since - or are likely to in the future. Things
... like seeing my first circus parade, attending my first school, seeing my
first motion picture. I know you'll agree with me that such childhood 'firsts' as
those are of utmost importance in any human being's life," Walt Disney writing
for The Marceline News, Sept. 2, 1938.
Just think about it. For young Walt, Marceline was a
wonderful new world waiting to be explored. The farm had 5 acres of orchards,
which provided the family with fresh apples, plums and peaches. The family also
grew corn and wheat and raised livestock.
"Everything connected with Marceline was a thrill to us,
coming as we did from Chicago," Walt
wrote. "The cows, pigs, chickens gave me a big thrill, and perhaps that's the
reason we use so many barnyard animals in the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony
pictures today - who knows. You know what the psychologists say about the
importance of childhood impressions."
Walt remembered that the Taylors
lived on one side of the Disneys' Marceline property and Doc Sherwood on the
other. Sherwood encouraged Walt's drawing and became his first customer. "He (Sherwood)
gave me little presents for my efforts. One time I think he must have held a
horse of his nearly all day so that I could draw it. Needless to say, the
drawing wasn't so hot, but Doc made me think it was tops."
Walt made two official visits during his life, for the
opening of a community swimming pool in 1956 and for the dedication of Walt
Disney Elementary School
in 1960. His brother Roy also visited twice, with Walt in 1956 and with other
family members in 1968 for the unveiling of the first commemorative Walt Disney
For more about the Walt
Disney Hometown Museum
in Marceline, visit www.waltdisneymuseum.org.
The following is an interview with Sara Neitzert about the
Q: Please tell me how the idea for "Marceline" came about?
A: Andy and I were visiting his family in Columbia,
Missouri, for Christmas in 2006. Since we
are huge Walt fans, we knew we had to see Marceline! We drove to Marceline on
the day after Christmas and, of course, everything was closed. We drove around
the town and visited Walt's dreaming tree and barn. We fell in love instantly! We
wanted to share the story of this amazing little town and Walt's connection to
it to as many people as possible.
Q: The film is chock full of interesting characters, sharing
memories and stories of Walt's visits. As editor, how difficult was it for you
to pick what stories to use in the film?
A: It was extremely difficult to choose between what made it
in to the film and what got left on the cutting room floor. Some of my favorite
stories didn't make it in because ... they
didn't really help move the film along. Editing was a very long process, as it
is with any documentary. At the time I had a full-time day job, so when I
finished with that each day, I would head over to the studio to edit until
around 1 or 2in the morning. I did that every day for several months.
Q: What's something you learned about Walt Disney from the
people of Marceline?
A: One thing I learned about Walt from the people of
Marceline is how ordinary Walt was. I mean when he was in his hometown, he just
wanted to be treated like a regular guy. He refused security detail on visits. One
of my favorite stories is how the Johnson family, who hosted the Disneys in
Marceline, borrowed all their furniture and china from friends and neighbors for
the Disneys first visit because they worried their things weren't nice enough. They
all had a good laugh about it when the Disneys arrived and everyone realized
that Walt and Lillian were just ordinary people like them!
Q: How important was Kaye Johnson Malins, her mother Inez
Johnson, and Disney historian/author Dan Viets in crafting the film?
A: Dan Veits' book, "Walt Disney's Missouri
was one of the inspirations for our film. We first discovered his book on a
trip to Disneyland. Dan has so much knowledge of Walt
and his time in Missouri. I mean,
he literally wrote the book on the topic! Kaye and Inez were also very
important to the film and we have become very good friends over the last
several years. They knew Walt. Their family put the Disneys up in their home
during visits and they've lived in Marceline for nearly their entire lives.
Q: Kaye Malins mentions that the Walt Disney Studios filmed
Walt and Roy's visit in 1956. Was
there an attempt to review that footage? Did you seek permission to include any
of the Studios' footage in your documentary? Did you try to find other sources
for historic footage or to interview Disney family members about their visits
to Marceline for the Disney stamp unveiling in 1968?
A: You have no idea how much we searched for additional
footage to use in the film! We tried contacting everyone and anyone that has
ever had any connection with Walt or Marceline, but often times we didn't get a
response. We were persistent, but I think a few of these sources are bombarded
with similar requests on a daily basis. Some of the footage used in the film
was found in an old film tin in someone's garage in Marceline while Andy was
filming there. He took it to the University
of Missouri where they had the
proper equipment to convert the footage into a format we could use for the film.
Q: How long did it take to make the film, from prep to
shooting to premiere?
A: The film began as an independent film school project in
early 2007 when we were living in Ventura, California.
Andy and I made many trips to Marceline during this time before moving to Missouri
after we graduated. Over the course of filming and editing, Andy and I got
engaged, made the big move to Missouri,
got married, and had our daughter Lilly Belle. We finally finished the film in
fall of 2011 and premiered it shortly after that in Marceline during the Annual
Toonfest celebration. So the process took about 4 1/2 years. You can see the
difference in some of the quality of the footage we shot as technology and our
skill levels improved over those four years.
Q: Tell me about the premier. What was the response? Did it
screen at various film festivals?
A: The film premiered at the Uptown Theater in Marceline
during the annual Toonfest celebration in 2011. We were very nervous, but the
film was very well received. The film screened again during a D23 event in
Marceline, where it was also very well received.
Q: How can people purchase a copy of the film?
A: The DVD is $15 and the Blu-ray is $25, available for
order at www.marcelinefilm.blogspot.com. The trailer can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9njSMfnSv8
Q: How do you feel about screening your film at The Walt
Disney Family Museum?
A: Screening the film at the Museum has been a dream of ours! We are
very excited that this dream has become a reality!
The Neitzerts have been overwhelmed by the response to this story and are temporarily sold out of their DVD and Blu-ray copies of “Marceline.” More will be available for order soon.