I have always loved miniatures. As kids, my sister and I built our own houses and apartments for our Liddle Kiddles dolls–much smaller than Barbies. I’m fascinated by the Thorne rooms at the Chicago Art Institute. I love wandering into stores that sell miniatures, and I enjoyed my daughter’s dollhouses, too.
Part of the enjoyment is imagining what it’s like to live there—playing out situations through the doll families that inhabit these places.
Another part is considering all that goes into creating such small habitats. One example is my previous guest, Rita Trickel, and the whimsical, intricate fairy houses she creates.
In 1964, a young artist, Dale Varner, of Medford, Oregon, made a model of a portion of Disneyland and sent it to Walt Disney. Dale requested pictures of the park so he could make more models. Walt did more than that—he sent Dale a set of Disneyland blueprints so pieces could be made to scale. With basic household materials, Dale turned his model-making into a forty-year project.
Here’s a sampling of Dale’s Disneyland in miniature . . .
NOTE: Each area is surrounded by glass walls which sometimes caused glares and prevented taking pictures from better angles.
The above constructions are part of Adventureland, including the Enchanted Tiki Room.
The following piece was in progress when Dale passed away: Tom Sawyer Island and the Mark Twain Riverboat.
That gives you an idea of what Dale Varner accomplished during his forty-year hobby! He did more than I’ve shown—including the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square and others.
Until 2015 when it fell, you can actually see Walt’s inspirational Dreaming Tree on the old family farm. Today, you can still visit the site. One branch remains, preserved in the museum, where visitors may touch it.
This forty-foot tree lived over 120 years, far beyond the usual lifespan of cottonwood trees (70 – 100 years), and was struck by lightning in 2008.
One of the three saplings produced by this tree’s seeds is planted on Tom Sawyer’s Island in Disneyland.
Elias and Flora’s house on the farm still stands. It is privately owned, but you can view it from the road. I don’t know how later owners got the tar off the side of the house.
THE DISNEY FAMILY FARM
The old farm is privately owned but visitors are allowed to walk to the Dreaming Tree and the old barn where Walt and Ruth did chores and played.
When Walt Disney studios released the film So Dear to My Heart in 1949, the setting was early 1900s, coinciding with Walt’s early years. Walt had the movie’s barn built to resemble the barn of his childhood memory.
Walt’s first foray into show biz was producing a circus in this barn and inviting the neighbors—for a fee, of course. However, the kids protested when they saw nothing but a pig, a goat, and family pets dressed in Ruth’s doll clothes.
Flora insisted that Walt refund the admission. Her advice stuck with him:
“If you deliver more than your audience expects,
they will never be disappointed.”
–Flora Disney to her son Walt
Walt also modeled the workshop in his California home after this barn. In that workshop, Disney Imagineering was born.
Visitors are invited to write a note to Walt or sign their names—if they can find a spot! Every board and rafter is crammed with words. I searched awhile before finding an open spot.
So, as the saying goes—with a twist—you can take the boy out of Marceline, but you can’t take Marceline out of the boy.
Walt Disney revisited Marceline, farming, and small town life in person and in spirit whenever he created certain settings, stories, and characters that he served to the rest of us through movies and “the Happiest Place on Earth.”
“To tell the truth, more things of importance
happened to me in Marceline
than have happened to me since
or are likely to in the future.”
Besides Walt Disney’s Hometown Museum, if you ever go to Marceline, you’ll find a dozen-plus other museums going across the state on highway 36—taking you east all the way to Hannibal, Mark Twain’s hometown. Or go southwest from Marceline on 35/110 to Kansas City and see the Steamboat Museum and the National Toy and Miniature Museum, or take in a Royals’ baseball game. Then there’s the Ozarks . . .
There’s plenty to do in Missouri. And plenty to enjoy and contemplate in Marceline.
- Walt Disney Hometown Museum
- Timeline of Walt’s life (pdf)
- Another timeline of Walt’s life–includes company history
- More Disneyland info
- Disney World
- More Disney World info
Interested in a Disney trip?
Ron’s just mad about Disney travel! Travel specialist Ron Baxley, Jr. with Mad Hatter Adventures Travel Company sells and does planning for more than just Walt Disney World packages. He sells Disney vacation packages of all types. -Free Disney gift cards or other incentives with each booked, fully-paid-for vacation. -Payment plans for Walt Disney World packages. For more information, see his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RonMadHatterAdventuresCompany/ or email email@example.com.
In what ways have you been impacted by Walt Disney and his legacy? Or another celebrity?
I’d love to hear from you!