by Steve Artley
I was honored to be a part of the annual ToonFest event in Walt Disney's hometown of Marceline, Missouri last week. The two-day celebration honors the memory of Walt Disney and the cartooning profession through activities including programs that feature guest cartoonists. Among the other headliners brought in to give presentations were Hilary Price, Bill Hinds, Eddie Pittman and the dynamic Guy Gilchrist.
On Friday, the team spoke to over 400 high school and college students, who were bused in from surrounding communities. Event organizers reported that this year's attendance was a record high.
One of the highlights, is a street parade complete with strolling performers and several bands. Guest artists are each featured as "Grand Marshal" and ride the parade route down the original Main Street USA (inspiration for the Disney parks' street of the same name) in the back of classic pickups. Following the parade, the team reprises their talks at the Marceline Community Center. Later, we were taken to Walt Disney's boyhood farm for a ceremony at the "Dreaming Tree," where youngsters Walt and his sister, Ruth reportedly spent many childhood hours gazing up through the branches, to wish upon their star. With much pomp and flair, each artist was re-introduced, brought before the assemblage and inducted into the "Order of Plantears" (each are crowned with a hardhat featuring Mickey ears). Young Mouseketeers led each of us to our respective spots to plant our own "dreaming tree." A grand BBQ picnic at the farmstead brought the event to a festive conclusion.
Throughout our entire visit, we artists were met with an abundance of genuine welcoming warmth and charity by the good folks of Marceline. Shortly after landing at the Washington airport on my return home, I walked through the crowded corridors of fast-paced indifference. I was shoved aside without apology from one of the self-absorbed pushing his way to the VIP lounge. It took every effort to restrain myself from boarding a return flight to Marceline with intent to seek asylum.
[Click on images for larger view]
|Friday night was a banquet and tour of the Disney Museum.|
|Hilary Price and Bill Hinds|
|A horse-drawn wagon full of cartoonists and friends|
|The door to Walt Disney's boyhood bedroom|
|Kaye Malins, who Walt called "Tinkerbelle," because she reminded him of the little sprite.|
|The brat and burger cooker brought in for the BBQ gala led me to go vegan for the evening|
|I even got to play the piano in Disney's boyhood home!|
|Disney Museum Curator and friend Kaye Malins|
|The signature barn, we scrawled our names on the walls|
|Waiting for parade start, I stuck a hayseed in my mouth to fit in.|
|(The above two photos taken by Hilary Price)|
ToonFest Parade: Awesome. Vehicle carrying Hilary Price along the parade route: Priceless.During the last leg of the parade route, the classic 1948 pickup carrying Hilary Price overheated and came to an abrupt Disneyesque halt, complete with gurgling sound FX and billowing steam. Disney animators and Foley artists couldn't have done it better. Not to be left knuckle biting and helpless at the roadside, the ever resourceful Hilary got out and pushed, with some assistance by a couple of onlookers.
(Pictured below) From my vantage point of the tailgate of the vehicle ahead of Hilary, I gleefully iPhone photographed the following sequence.
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Recent Toon: "The Grapes of Graft"