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Walt Disney Family Museum to host special screening of Andy & Sara Neitzert's "Marceline" documentary

Walt Disney Family Museum to host special screening of Andy & Sara Neitzert's "Marceline" documentary

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"I'm glad I'm a small town boy and I'm glad Marceline was my town"

                                                                                                      -- 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 Family Museum 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 Family Foundation.

Scott Zone, film conservator for the Walt
Disney 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 postal stamp.

For more about the Walt Disney Hometown Museum in Marceline, visit www.waltdisneymuseum.org.

The following is an interview with Sara Neitzert about the documentary film:

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.

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