Disney: From Missouri to Movies

The film “Saving Mr. Banks” chronicles Walt Disney’s work – and struggles – to adapt the “Mary Poppins” books for the big screen.

Disney is an important figure in Missouri’s landscape of famous faces. He spent a formative part of his childhood in Marceline and later lived and worked in Kansas City.

Disney’s time in Missouri merits a quick shout-out in the new film, as Disney (played by Tom Hanks) says, “… I was just a kid from Missouri with a sketch of Mickey.” Watch the trailer here, the Missouri mention happens around the 14-second mark.

Disney Collage

It was in Marceline, a small community in northwest Missouri, where Disney learned to draw and became fascinated with trains (some 70 trains still pass through town each day).

Although he lived in Marceline for just four years, the city was etched in Disney’s memory. Marceline served as the model for Main Street USA at Disneyland, and to this day, sweet-seekers at the amusement park find their fill at a shop named Marceline’s Confectionery.


Disney also had a significant impact on Marceline. After his rise to fame, Disney returned on several occasions and Marceline embraced its favorite son. Disney’s life is commemorated at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum in Marceline, while the city’s post office and elementary school bear his name.

Disney also figures prominently for visitors who travel Missouri’s Highway 36, known as the Way of American Genius. The cross-state highway celebrates the inventions and innovators who called northern Missouri home; Disney and author Mark Twain are among those honored along the route.

If you’re interested in learning a little more about Disney, “Saving Mr. Banks” may be a good choice for your holiday-season viewing pleasure. Before that, be sure you check out some of Disney’s earlier works. It’s likely you’ll gain a greater appreciation for the man behind the mouse.

Need help narrowing it down? Here are five Disney films to consider; note these selections lean toward animated features and there’s nothing listed that was released after Disney’s death in 1966.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Check out the on-screen detail of the sequences when Snow White leans down to kiss each dwarf on the head and of the lightning storm that seals the Evil Queen’s fate. If you aren’t convinced Disney could do things with today’s technology that would make the folks at Pixar weep with envy … well, watch it again. And remember it was 1937!

Pinocchio (1940, re-released 1945)

This was the first animated film to win a competitive Academy Award; actually, it won two. One of those was in the “original song” category, which went to “When You Wish Upon A Star.” In the film, Jiminy Cricket sings the song; in real life, Jiminy Cricket was voiced by Hannibal, Mo., native Cliff Edwards, aka “Ukelele Ike.” Keep that one under your hat for the next family Trivial Pursuit game.

Cinderella (1950)

The classic fairytale is best summed up like this: bibidi-bobbidi-boo.

Old Yeller (1957)

This would be the perfect children’s movie, if it weren’t for (spoiler alert!) that pesky sequence where Old Yeller gets rabies and has to be put down. A coming-of-age story that deals with the emotions of both love and loss. If you watch this one and don’t have, at the very least, a pool of tears in your eyes … wow. Just … wow.

The Parent Trap (1961)

Take a deep breath and read this really quickly for best comedic effect: Hayley Mills plays the role of twin sisters who didn’t know they were sisters until they met up at camp and realize their now-single parents used to be married to one another and they decide to pull the old switcheroo in an attempt to bring their mom and dad back together so they can live the idyllic life for which they so desperately long. Phew!

So there’s a quick look at five Disney movies to consider before seeing “Saving Mr. Banks.” There are hundreds more from which to choose – each one worthy of celebrating Walt’s genius.

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