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Uncle Walt

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Disney historian Jim Korkis saw the recent post about Marceline and send a long a little more information.

I think it was David Mumford and Bruce Gordon in their book, “The Nickel Tour” that first pointed out that there was architecture on Disneyland’s Main Street like the City Hall that was actually similar to one in Fort Collins, Colorado where Harper Goff had lived. Harper, of course, did some design work for Main Street and I am sure when he brought his drawings to Walt, they evoked in Walt his feelings of what it was like in Marceline. I suspect that is why there was that bandstand that kept moving from Main Street up to near the castle and finally to Adventureland because there was a bandstand in Ripley Park in Marceline. The lampposts were from Baltimore, Maryland. Emile Kuri modeled the hitching post horse heads from an actual one he got working on a movie location.

So to say that Disneyland’s Main Street copied Marceline is misleading but it certainly copied Walt’s “ideal memory” as a kid of what he sort of remembered Marceline being.

Diane Disney Miller told me that when she was growing up, she thought her dad spent his entire childhood in Marceline because that is all he talked about when he talked about his childhood. She was later surprised to find he had only spent about five years there and that just as much of his childhood was spent in Chicago and Kansas City.

As much as I sincerely love and respect Kaye Malins, it seems to me that Marceline in an attempt to draw some tourist attention to the area sometimes “overstates” the influence of Marceline on Walt. I am still unconvinced that a slag heap in Marceline gave young Walt dreams of the Matterhorn. I am, however, very willing to believe that when he was filming “Third Man on the Mountain” that Walt fell in love with the Matterhorn and wondered how to duplicate it at Disneyland. Harriet Burns even remembers Walt sending postcards of the Matterhorn back to them at WED with the implication of “build this thing at Disneyland”. [ ed note: My Mom remembers her Dad, Victor Greene bringing home similar postcards of the Matterhorn ]

I think Main Street is amazing. It sets the tone for the guests. It sets the fact that you are going to walk. (There are no real attractions on Main Street and trying to use any of the transportation like the horse drawn trolleys or the cars or even the bus takes longer than actually walking the street when you take into account the wait). There are only four buildings on Main Street (although there are several different facades on each building and that inspired the first malls in America….with anchors at either end, a split in the middle and everything else jammed next to each other and color coded…..a real turn of the century Main Street would have gaps between the buildings and everything would have been painted a white or green to help against the weather and that is was the cheapest paint…) and yes, it is subtly designed (using vanishing points so that it seems longer walking it down it to the hub, giving you time to acclimate to the Disney tone, than it does walking back at night when you are tired and have screaming kids).

However, there is no denying that Walt had a great deal of affection for Marceline and he does look tremendously relaxed in pictures and film taken of him in Marceline.

I have even heard supposedly knowledgeable people try to tell me that the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street is based on Marceline. Of course, it isn’t. The train station is very similar to one in Saratoga Springs and the whole “feel” of the Main Street is of an East Coast turn of the century city, much more upscale than Marceline.

If you’d like even more info on Marceline and Walt Disney or a chance to ask Jim Korkis questions directly, make sure you’re in Orlando on February 21st for the NFFC World Chapter meeting. Korkis will be the guest speaker and his topic is Marceline.

Details below the cut: