#48) Disneyland Dream (1956)


#48) Disneyland Dream (1956)

OR “When You Wish Upon Scotch Tape”

Directed & Written by Robbins Barstow

Class of 2008

Watch the whole thing below, and be sure to check out the film (as well as David Barstow’s channel) at archive.org.

Note: My viewing of this film was part of an amateur film festival night at The Exploratorium. Thanks Liz & Phae.

The Plot: The Barstow family of Connecticut enter a contest sponsored by Scotch Tape to win a family vacation to the all-new Disneyland Park in California. 4-year-old son Dan wins the contest and he and father Robbins, mother Meg, brother David and sister Mary are off for a week of adventure. Through Robbins’ unique style of home movie making, the Barstow’s trip through Hollywood and Disneyland is just as magical as anything Walt could have dreamed up. Robbins, recorded in 1995 on the occasion of Disneyland’s 40th anniversary, narrates the film.

Why It Matters: The NFR calls it a “fantastic historical snapshot” of all the places the Barstow family visits, and extolls on the importance of home movies. An essay by home movie preservationist/toaster collector Liz Coffey gives appreciation to Robbins Barstow.

But Does It Really?: Home movies, by and large, are tedious and poorly executed. But the Barstows somehow take a family vacation and spin it into art. As a document of 1950s America, it is a treat. As a look at Disneyland in its first year of operation, it is a treasure. And as a film it achieves the impossible; for “Disneyland Dream” is a home movie that commands repeat viewings.

Shout Outs: A trip through Fantasyland’s Storybook Land Canal Boats shows us the homes of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Pinocchio”, and “The Three Little Pigs”. Also, as previously mentioned, “The African Queen” inspired Adventureland’s Jungle Cruise attraction.

Everybody Gets One: In addition to his work as an amateur filmmaker, Robbins Barstow worked for the Connecticut Education Association and was a Civil Rights and “Save the Whales” advocate. He made many home movies in his life and several of them are uploaded onto archive.org for preservation.

Wow, That’s Dated: Even the Barstows of Connecticut gave in to the Davy Crockett craze that swept America in the ‘50s. This film also shows us that back then a razor was all you needed to cut a boy’s hair.

Other notes

  • Robbins typically performed the narration live when he presented this film at home or at local events. What you hear in the 1995 recording is a script that was polished over 40 years.
  • Bradley Field stills exists, only now it’s Bradley International Airport and you can get a non-stop flight to LAX from there. You also probably don’t need to stop in St. Louis to refuel.
  • The plane taking the family to (then) Idlewild Airport is filthy.
  • The only thing this family loves more than effects shots is making everyone in the family do one.
  • The Huntington-Sheraton Hotel (now The Langham Huntington, Pasadena) is featured in another Disney film; 2013’s “Saving Mr. Banks”.
  • Yes, even back then Knott’s Berry Farm was something you did as an afterthought while visiting Disneyland. Some things never change.
  • Is it just me or is that a long Hollywood bus tour? I feel like under modern traffic conditions it would take a few days to see all of that.
  • While the Barstows don’t see any current movie stars in Hollywood, they do see an 11-year-old Steve Martin selling guidebooks at Disneyland.
  • Of note to early Disneyland buffs: this was filmed before Autopia had guided rails. This is also before the Jungle Cruise skippers were funny.
  • Love the gardeners casually standing around and ruining the illusion of Storybook Land. Current Disneyland would not tolerate this at all.
  • Among the many rides the Barstows go on that are no longer at Disneyland are the Skyway, Rocket to the Moon, the Stagecoach, and the Pack Mules. They also visit the original Fantasyland before its 1983 remodel and Tomorrowland before its 1967 renovation.


Further Viewing: The Barstows weren’t the only ones documenting 1956 Disneyland. Disney Studios sent their own camera crew to record the Magic Kingdom in “Disneyland U.S.A.” Though lacking the simple charm of “Disneyland Dream”, this film is nonetheless a noteworthy look at Disneyland in its infancy. The film covers practically everything about the park the Barstows missed out on, and in widescreen no less!

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